Hi again! It seems not too long ago I was writing my introductory blog post, communicating my excitement and curiosities for the project I was about to embark on. Now here we are, halfway done, and I am even more excited to be giving you a little insight into the work my group and I have done so far for the German startup, Possehl Online Solutions. With every project, especially, one that spans across cultures, there comes highs and lows, breakthroughs and hurdles, and this is something I’ve had to adapt to and overcome through the development of our consultation.
A major, perhaps obvious, aspect of this opportunity is the adjustment to working with international organizations. Our group has navigated this challenge by leveraging the ways in which our cultures between the U.S and Germany are similar, rather than putting high stress on the ways in which we differ. The biggest factor we have going for us, is our similar uses of low context communication, in other words, relying on the assumption that neither party has a large pool of information to gather from, thus everything that needs to be achieved must be explicitly laid out in the conversations between client and consultant. I, furthermore, think this is a really vital component of our ability to adjust to our work with Possehl, essentially because we have all of the expectations laid out in front of us and can tackle them accordingly, rather than throwing ideas at the wall until something sticks. We have made milestones in our project specifically from this communication strategy, by laying out a detailed agenda of our plans, comparing it to detailed expectations and resources from our clients, and put those together in order to create a cohesive solution.
While we have seen advantages from the similarities between our two cultures, that does not negate the need to adjust to those cultural norms that differ. In regard to variances, we have observed Germany to have a very niche sectors in their industries and businesses. In our first client meeting, we noted our client mentioning that there exist entire companies in Germany that focus on the manufacturing of an item required for something like a printing press. These extremely specified markets make the strategy in developing target competitors and entry strategies very different because we have to take into account more so the industry of the product than the industry of the company. To provide an analogy, think of the Pittsburgh marketing agency industry. There is intense competition, and the goal of several of these agencies is to be the biggest or most successful agency out of all the agencies. In Germany, the competition would be between marketing agencies that serve the same clients, so all marketing agencies that have pet food clients, or nonprofit clients. This is an entity we went about incorrectly the first round of research and had to reframe after our second client meeting.
What’s more is that even with these niche markets, the goal is not to expand or acquire more niche markets but become an expert in a few. We have learned that our client aims to be the lead competitor in their intended markets rather than wanting to widen their range amongst several markets. This could pose as a challenge in locating the specific opportunities that could be available to their market, especially because of our gap in knowledge within those markets. Nevertheless, we remain optimistic because of the high fixability of these issues through research and questions directed to our client.
Furthermore, this entire experience has both exposed me to and altered my perspective of what it means to conduct global business, due to the constant change as well as the universality of its presence. What I think is most interesting, that has changed my initial assumption in that, international business is not just some universal etiquette one can acquire in a single take. When you work internationally, you are diving into an already existing domestic business that has established customs. In order to become adequate in “international business,” you must become adequate in adapting and excelling in different individual domestic businesses. This feeds into the other perspective I’m learning about international business, in that it acquires constant adaptability and flexibility. I think that’s important to remember when growing accustomed, because if you don’t understand a concept the first time, it’s okay. You don’t have to be an expert by the first meeting. But what is more crucial is being open to mistakes and taking the right pathways to correct them.
The reason I feel more comfortable in asking for clarifications and questions is because of the change in my previous assumption that “international business,” is an unspoken phenomenon that is one-sided, responsibility of the outsider country. Rather, your clients are, above anything else, your partners, there to work with you and aid you in getting to where you need to be. Once I understood that, I found myself much more confident in the route of our project, and better communicated with our clients. Of course, every culture is different, and there are different ways to get to this comfortability, but by doing the research and trying your best to correct mistakes, you will always be in a better position to produce more satisfactory results.