Mitte des Semesters (Middle of the Semester)

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As every one of us gets further along into our second, fully virtual semester, life as it is has begun to feel normal; it is hard to remember the last time we all sat down in a classroom and listened to a lecture or took an in-person written test. While virtual communications are still growing and simply become a way of life for many, it is fascinating to think that Zoom has just become a way of life. It is often a challenge to sit in front of a screen for hours on end every day but the one logistical interference that Zoom has solved is the ability to communicate with anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world.

Zoom and telecommunications have simplified the way our team can communicate with our German clients at Possehl Online Solutions. Overall, communication and forming foundational relationships with the client have been easy and streamlined. Since our first formal introduction of the project and the client a few weeks back, our team has put substantial effort into better understanding the German ways of business while also learning what our client expects from us Americans before, during, and after a meeting.

As we began our research in preparation for our midpoint meeting with the client, we needed to take a deep dive into understanding how German’s conduct business and familiarize ourselves with the traditional business processes in Germany and the European Union. In German business, formalities are an important first step towards a successful international business relationship. In both our initial and midterm meetings, our team made sure to formally introduce ourselves, providing background information about ourselves. Additionally, our team always makes sure to refer to our clients formally with the preface Mister. Aside from introductions and the formalities that coincide, our team made sure to establish structure and punctuality with our client. We achieved success by always arriving early to virtual meetings and sending structured meeting agendas to our clients a few days in advance of our check-ins. Agendas ensure that our client can prepare for our topics of discussion and are also used to guide both our team and our client’s team throughout the meeting as well.

Another key difference between American and German business is the usage of time. In American culture, we tend to be a little more relaxed in the sense that we can chat and digress off a topic during group work. However, in German culture, workers tend to be far more focused on the task at hand and do not waste time on social interaction during the workday. With this difference in mind, our team made sure to stay on topic and ensure that we did not digress from the meeting agenda provided to our clients.

In typical American fashion, workers, and people, in general, tend to prefer to be independent by nature. However, Germans tend to collaborate as a team more often than not and place a strong emphasis on a group effort to get the job done. While this may be something we are not used to as students, our group made it a priority to ensure we work together in the most efficient way possible, both internally with one another and externally with our clients.

A challenge that was presented to our team was the difficulty to understand how business typically operates not only within Germany but how business is typically conducted in the manufacturing industry. Since Possehl Online Solutions main area of expertise is transforming the old and outdated business of manufacturing into a reformed and digitalized operation, we had to first understand what those traditions are and what we need to transform for a business to digitally transform. After research and investigation, we learned that parts and machines have been traditionally purchased by phone and physical invoice during an in-person meeting. Considering both the pandemic and the nature of businesses transforming to operate in a fully digital capacity, digitalization of the manufacturing industry has become more pressing and essential than ever before. Our team learned that sales of manufacturing parts and equipment are often challenging in the sense that parts are extremely specific and often custom-made for the task at hand. Due to this, our client needs to utilize their expertise and also their rich knowledge of the manufacturing industry to optimize business for their own clients. An important advantage that we found to be particularly strong against the potential competition is Possehl’s ability to construct interactive, 3D models of the part or machine being sold online. Due to the specificity of these parts and equipment, these models are essential to exploit and use to Possehl’s advantage to gain business and optimize digitalization for clients.

As promised to our client, our goal during the semester was to provide three main deliverables via research and gained knowledge to advance their business operations and strategies for the future. Our main objectives that lead into our deliverables are as follows: 1) Identify criteria for choosing target countries and markets and provide target countries and markets for expansion, 2) Identify Possehl Online Solution’s key competitors and provide marketing differentiation strategies, 3) Develop market-entry and timing recommendations for Possehl Online Solutions. With these tasks at hand to be achieved within the semester, we provide both our team and our client a pathway towards our deliverables and main project objectives. Similar to how German’s prefer to have a set structure for their work and meetings, our team wanted to make sure we also had an internal structure with our statement of work outlining our project processes and timelines to meet throughout the project lifespan.

As a part of the International Consulting Projects in Germany, my perspective on global business has expanded my knowledge and understanding of how business is often practiced in the United States, Germany, and around the globe. The presentation during the lecture about global business and the ways that international countries tend to conduct business was extremely helpful in advancing my perspectives on global business. I find it extremely interesting and eye-opening to learn about what we as American’s think are standard business practices and observe how they differ from those in other countries. During the remainder of the semester, I am eager to continue learning more about how global business is conducted to establish a solid foundation for future projects and opportunities down the line. Being a part of this project has been nothing but an amazing experience. I am extremely excited to continue learning and expanding my understanding of international business throughout the remainder of the semester.