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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Does International Business still exist in the states?

June, 2012-Anonymous Contributor (Japan) 
Graduating with a degree in International Business, and from taking courses regarding International Business. I was always fascinated with doing business abroad and I hoped that I would be able to be an expat too in the future. But from taking International Management courses and International Marketing courses, the expats that were able to go to different countries to do business overseas seem to be arrogant middle age men with a wife and kids. To make matters worse, the wife usually seemed to be least supportive and made fun of the different cultures.

This is coming from a standpoint of a typical American expat. From taking courses regarding International Business, we learned the basic components which are the 3 components polycentric, ethnocentric, and geocentric. Geocentric meaning you're open to hire anyone and to take all perspectives of both the host and home countries and other country's ideas. Polycentric is when you feel the host country does the business the best way, and ethnocentric is when you feel that your way is the best way. It seemed that the stereotypical American expat had an ethnocentric attitude and felt that his way was always and indeed the best way.  In these textbooks, they also discussed various ways on how to hire the right people for these missions.

They even suggested hiring single women because they had no baggage and women tend to be more emotionally in tuned. From paying attention in my courses, I felt that maybe there was a chance for me to do International Business especially with that degree. Well, after graduating in the year 2011 reality finally hit me. Doing international business is indeed hard and it is because even more non existent to be sent by an American company to do international business. How is this so?! Well these days, more and more companies are hiring consultants in their host country that they're doing business with because it's cheaper.

In reality, many companies take the poly centric method and really feel that the host country knows best which can take away the uniqueness of the product or the service that the American company is trying to sell. Also what they don't tell you in books is that in order to be considered to do International Business is you have to work at the company for several years and sometimes with a managerial position in that company. With the economy these days in America and more companies wanting to be cheap, it's hard to put in years of work when you're not even sure if you'll be able to be with that same company in years due to frequent layoffs.

In other words, it's hard to have that trust with the company with rampant corporate politics and instability. In addition, how can you expect for a company to be able to give you an international business position if the position may be here today but not here the next day. In other words, a lot of American companies care about profit instead of trying to establish a global relationship that will help in the long run. (No, exporting cheap factory jobs to China does not count.)

Even with a foreign language, the foreign language that you have varies from state to state in order to see how useful it is. For example, would the use of knowing Japanese would be useful in Montana. But with learning foreign languages, it's all about timing in order to benefit from the opportunities. Right now, Chinese is one of the most useful languages to learn because not only are doing more business with them but their economy is becoming more stronger. In the 1980's learning Japanese was one biggest languages to learn.

Overall, the learning a foreign language at the right time plays a huge factor on doing international business. These days in order to do international business it's all about timing and meeting the right person at the right time. If the timing is off so are your chances especially these days. These days the best way to do International Business in another country is to literally go to the country you want to work in and apply and find an American subsidiary. Also constantly networking and meeting the right people as well in that country that you're in. Overall, doing International Business isn't as easy as they claim in the books!

 I'd love to here your views, please leave comments.


  1. Since you studied business you should know a thing or two about competitive advantage. Learning a language is just another element that may set you apart from the packs of other students from around the world hungry to land a plum role in a global company. So in a way you need to treat yourself like your own business or your own brand. If you were in the position of the hiring manager for a job you want, would you hire you? Why or why not? Language is one thing, but if you go abroad without knowing yourself really well and without having done your homework on the culture, you will set yourself up for some hard lessons learned the hard way. But at least you will learn, which eventually becomes another advantage.

    I am a bit perplexed by your definition (or lack thereof) of international business. As you very well know, the purpose of a business is to create profit to maximize shareholder value. You can make an argument for the triple bottom line (People Profit Planet), but essentially if you don't have a profit, you don't have a business. This is why US companies take their manufacturing overseas. I don't understand why you dismiss this. Work needs to get done in these places to US standards and they often send managers from the US to oversee it. Why should you dismiss outsourcing as a potential avenue for doing international business?

    I don't think you've done a really good job at articulating what you want to do. Saying you want to do international business can mean almost anything or nothing at all. My advice is to get good at something, preferably something you enjoy. Examples? Project management. IT or information systems. Marketing ESPECIALLY as it relates to social media (so much room to grow there and so few people with true know how) and measuring it's impact on the bottom line.

    Companies don't like risk. If they hire you, they want to know you are a sure thing. Either that or you're the CEO's daughter. If you don't have connections, you have no choice but to be the best at what you do. They don't really tell you that in the textbooks because selling textbooks and education is a business as well. Know your value to a company and work to increase that value. Note that there may also be tons of opportunites with smaller companies that may be leveraging technology to globalize. Put the books down and start talking to people actually doing business. Pick up the phone and do an informational interview. Do some research and find a mentor that's doing what you think you might like to be doing in 10-15 years. Take him or her to lunch. And finally my last piece of advice to you is to be open to advice but learn to keep your own counsel. And when everybody else zigs, you be sure to zag.

    Best wishes.

  2. Thank you for your comnents and for reading the blog. This blog was written by an anonymous contributor. So I'll forward it to them for feedback.