Halfway Done!

Hello everyone! As of the writing of this blog, we are just about halfway through with our consulting project. On Wednesday, March 10th, we had our second client meeting. My group is working with Possehl Online Solutions which is an online solutions firm in Germany that specializes in B2B e-commerce. Specifically, Possehl Online Solutions has a focus in the mechanical engineering sector. While this was our second meeting with Possehl Online Solutions, we were still nervous because this time we were presenting our findings to the CEO, Alexander Wachter. In our first meeting, Mr. Wachter briefed us on Possehl Online Solutions as well as what he wanted our main focuses to be as we progressed with our project.

Fortunately, we had done our research on the business culture in Germany prior to our meeting and therefore came in very prepared. Something we learned was that Germany is a very low context society, while the United States is slightly higher context. In relation to our work, low context societies tend to be very straightforward and to the point. Very few, if any, assumptions are made regarding information during meetings or client relationships because every is laid out explicitly. While this is useful when relaying information, it can be a challenge in other facets. In very low context societies like Germany, words are generally taken at their literal meaning rather than regarding the context they are presented in. In addition to the already existing language barrier, it is extremely important for us to be very deliberate with our words. With these cultural differences noted, we decided to send an agenda prior to our second client meeting with Possehl Online Solutions. In our agenda, we detailed exactly what we would be covering in our meeting as well as in what order the information would be covered. Moreover, we sent the agenda two days early so our clients at Possehl Online Solutions could be fully prepared for our meeting. Overall, I would say our strategy was a success because we were able to cover everything we needed in the meeting and had ample time for questions.

Being online has also presented a challenge in an of itself. To start, the travel aspect of the program will no longer take place. Being able to make in-person connections with Possehl Online Solutions would have been invaluable, but now we’re tasked with making the most of what we have. Our past two client meetings have both been useful in a sense of understanding our project, as well as useful in getting to know each other. Making connections is harder over Zoom, but I think we have put our best effort forward so far. Since this is the third semester we have been online, the adjustment to working on the consulting project in an online environment has not been vast. However, we have had to learn to be more understanding with each other and leave extra flexibility as we work on completing our project. On the upside, our group meetings have been easier to schedule.

Even throughout the first month or so I’ve been participating in the International Consulting Projects: Germany program, I’ve learned a great deal about global business. I also came into this program with a good amount of global business experience to begin with. During the summer of 2019, I interned for two months in Tel Aviv, Israel for a logistics startup called Bringoz. During the spring of 2020, I took part in the Global Service Learning: Bolivia program and after that I did a virtual internship with a winery in Tuscany, Italy called Prodigio Divino. If anything, this program has taught me that there is always more to learn. Global business is global for a reason- it’s different everywhere. For example, during my virtual internship with Prodigio Divino, I did all my correspondences and live meetings through WhatsApp. It would have been easy to assume that all European business is structured in a similar fashion as my internship was, but I quickly learned it wasn’t. For this project, we choose to communicate with our client differently than I did previously. My group communicates with Possehl Online Solutions and Alexander Wachter through email and LinkedIn messages when we are not in a Zoom meeting. Something important that I have learned is to let the client lead. We let Mr. Wachter establish his preferred methods of communications and proceeded to use them. Since we are providing a service for our client, it only makes sense to follow their preferences so we can provide as best a service as possible.

            Another aspect of global business I am learning about is how involved clients like to be in their consulting work. For our current project with Possehl Online Solutions, Mr. Wachter and the rest of the team are very involved in our work. They have clear expectations for what we are supposed to provide, and they are aiding us with valuable insight along the way. Based off of my previous consulting experience, this level of involvement is new to me. I have had more flexibility with deliverables previously, but I really enjoy the guidance from Possehl Online Solutions. After all, our goal is to provide the services Possehl Online Solutions wants, so who better to hear our goals from than the client themselves.

            Overall, the first half of the International Consulting Projects program has been a great learning experience. We have made great progress so far, and we just gained new insights after our client meeting on Wednesday. I am extremely excited to continue working with Possehl Online Solutions as well as my group.