According to the Conference Board the global economy will slow in key markets such as Europe and Japan and U.S. companies will struggle with exports to China and mature economies around the world. Yet, for many, doing business globally remains a primary source of revenue and a major goal in 2019. Few are naive about the challenges involved in going global in today’s environment. But expanding the local-global connection will be a 2019 goal for many businesses, leaders, and employees. Here’s what they will need to consider.
The modern workplace brims with activity as people dart from meeting to meeting. Sometimes our communication is too brief. At times our messages are not well thought out. Even when the communication is crystal clear, the message can get lost in a wave of workload. But because our organizations tend to rely on best practices, people have a common frame-of-reference when there are misunderstandings. Best practices are a common denominator that allow us to understand and predict behavior, and serve as “true north” as we navigate the complexity of modern organizational life.
As organizations expand internationally and multi-cultural communications between employees, vendors, suppliers, and customers become more frequent, we are finding that the common denominator of best practices begins to unravel. And once we can no longer fall back on best practices, our inner compass can go haywire.
Here’s what teenage global leaders-in-training had to say when asked what a young global leader should know. The words of wisdom come from high school and middle school students participating in the American Diversity Report Youth Global Leadership Class. Enjoy their timeless advice and then read what leadership experts said about preparing the upcoming generation of leaders.
While President Trump reconsidered the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? Many American cities, like Chattanooga, have built their economies on international industries, their vendors, and outdoors sports competitions including Ironman. Before the halt to our participation in the TPP, there was a well-attended panel discussion on the controversial TPP at the Small Business Incubator with moderator Jim Frierson, who was Chief of Staff in the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) during the Reagan Administration. The cabinet agency is responsible for developing international trade policy for the President and negotiating with our trading partners. America’s first bilateral free trade agreements — with Israel and Canada — were initiated, negotiated, and implemented during his eight-year tenure. As intense competition from Japanese autos and semiconductors appeared to threaten the US and then receded, the seeds of an ambitious Pacific regional trade compact were planted in exploratory meetings by the USTR himself, Ambassador Bill Brock, a Chattanooga native.
The Year of the Dog begins this week which means, among other things, this is the season when western companies fall over themselves by slapping zodiac animals on their products in hopes of appealing to Chinese consumers. Gucci dog purse, anyone? At the same time, digital payments in China continue to accelerate. Last year, the Chinese New Year tradition of ‘hong bao’ – where cash-filled red envelopes are given as gifts – saw 46 billion electronic transfers. Yes, billion.
China’s transformation continues to play out in astounding ways both internally and globally. The country’s growing relevance on the world stage should not be underestimated. Globalization has never been so confusing as it is today thanks to the Middle Kingdom.
The mere mention of China triggers consumer brand executives to salivate over the growing army of shoppers and their wallets. Conversely. the same word causes western technology executives to back away with their tail between their legs.
The complex constellation of skills required for global leadership is continually morphing. The basic leadership competencies are only an axis around which revolve the specifics of local culture and the analytics of the target culture globally. Therefore, not only does the knowledge management evolve, but so does the audience for global leadership development. At one time, the audience was primarily executives involved in international relocation. Over time, that group widened to include those who work with them: Human Resource departments, Supply Chain groups, and professionals with frequent contact, particularly in the STEM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. To stay competitive in this environment, virtually every nation on the face of the planet is extending their global leadership training into new arenas.
Mary Moore’s personal story of entrepreneurship is an inspiration to all aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders who hope to make a difference for themselves and their communities. Her journey to success is admirable for its creativity and innovativeness. Her path has not been easy or simple. Yet, the difficulties and disappointments along the way have taught her how to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship. And now, she is teaching us.
The Federal Reserve and Chattanooga Discuss National & Global Economic Trends
A Federal Reserve Director of Regional Economic Information Network, Galina Alexeenko, recently spoke at the International Business Council (IBC) of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. Alexeenko is an international economist, headquartered in the Fed’s Atlanta office and connected to its five branches in the Southeast region. She participated in an interactive discussion with fellow international economist Anton Demenchuk, president of the IBC. The meeting was supported by the Office of International Programs and the College of Business /University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) and sponsored by AIM/Career Link. Alexeenko shared her personal perspective on a wide range of fiscal and economic topics with the audience of educators, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders.
Educating for Going Global
The International Business Council (IBC) of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a panel of educators who have much to teach us about globalization. IBC speakers often represent the international businesses that have flocked to this small Southern city. This month’s speakers spoke of how higher education is at the heart of our growing local-global connection. Their new initiatives, and in some cases, still emerging programs, aim to simultaneously bring greater numbers of international students to local campuses while globalizing Chattanooga’s students through study abroad.
The transformation of the South by international industry has picked up speed. In 1974, there were only 19 foreign-owned manufacturers in Tennessee. They were valued at $649 million. In 1995, the state had 400 foreign-owned firms with a value of $15 billion. By 2013, the number of foreign-owned firms had more than doubled to 864 with a value of $30 billion. According to the Global Location Trends Report by the IBM Institute, Tennessee led the nation in jobs created by foreign owned firms.
Five years ago, there was no International Business Council (IBC) of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Chattanooga. Today, IBC Past President Anjelika Riano, current President Anton Demenchuk, both immigrants from the Ukraine, and President-Elect Marty Lester took turns informing, amusing, and congratulating the multi-lingual audience on the transformation. The family-like atmosphere was continued by the Chamber’s Vice President of Economic Development, Charles Wood, who shared how he enjoyed bringing companies to town for the shock value. “For a community of our size, it’s very surprising and very metropolitan.”
As for the future, almost weekly there are announcements in The Chattanooga Times Free Press of companies planning to relocate to the area or expand existing factories and services. Wood reported that a billion dollars worth of projects are in the pipeline to Chattanooga, half of that coming from international companies. He praised Hamilton County and the City of Chattanooga for making the transformation possible, and thanked the event sponsors: Chattanooga Coca Cola and Bryan College.
The Chamber’s VP of Public Policy, Rob Bradham, introduced the topic, What International Companies Expect from Chattanooga’s Workforce. He also introduced the panel of HR executives from global companies with plants in the Chattanooga area.
Sebastian Patta from automobile manufacturer Volkswagen.
Dr. Erika Burk from polysilicon manufacturer Wacker.
Joe Fuqua from construction manufacturer Komatsu.
Tony Cates from automobile parts manufacturer Gestamp.
The panelists’ friendly competition was entertaining and light hearted, but they were serious about recruiting and training of a local workforce. Describing the uphill battle, Cates said, “Good folks are hard to find. I talk to groups helping people get jobs. I go into churches, talk to schools and teachers, explain the skill set the need. We bring the kids in for tours and develop partnerships, but it’s going to be tough…”
To encourage and educate promising Chattanoogans, the companies provide internships, apprenticeships, plant tours, and partnerships with schools and colleges. They anticipated the lack of high-tech skills. They did not expect either the substantial number failing drug tests of the lack of education basics. Burk explained that Wacker made a $3 million investment to develop a college program to meet the company’s needs. “It was surprising that early applicants couldn’t pass the reading and math literacy test. Remedial courses were necessary.”
Dedication should match the technical skills. Cates explained, “The best strategy is to find good people and train them up. We started internships with high school students, but how do you get kids to commit and have the patience to get degrees?” He added, “Program a robot and Gestamp will hire you.” Patta shared his perspective, “They have to stay for a 10-hour shift, be there on time, and follow Volkswagen’s policies. High school graduates have no idea of what goes on. They need more practical workplace experience.”
The panelists concluded by asking for referrals of local candidates to intern in their international companies. While they currently import their most specialized engineers, especially for the Research and Development departments now located here, they’re open to local referrals at that level, too. The transformation of a small Southern city into a global village progresses.