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.
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.
I’m surrounded by super-fit bodies in athletic gear as I drive over the Walnut Street Bridge for a local program on a global topic — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). For a third year, the Ironman endurance event transforms the Scenic City of Chattanooga, the smallest of the major cities in Tennessee. When I arrived here twenty years ago, it was inconceivable that elite athletes from around the country and the world would swim the Tennessee River, bike through rustic mountain coves, and run through our neighborhoods to a finish line at Ross’ Landing, named for the historic Cherokee leader. Chattanooga has become a global village, and the Ironman is one of many outdoors sports competitions attracted to Chattanooga as an ideal venue. Eagerly anticipating a fresh business-oriented look at the controversial TPP, I park at the Small Business Incubator and hurry inside.
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.
Guess what readers? It took me 25 hours to go from Dallas to Germany a while back.
But don’t feel sorry for me because that trip was one of my best ever. Now before telling me to get a checkup from the neck up, bear with me for a moment. I’ll get to the rest of the story further down. I first need to come clean with you on a revelation.
“We don’t have diversity problems here. It’s our neighbors south of the border who have those kinds of problems. Don’t forget, this is Canada, and remember, Toronto is the most diverse city in the world!” So said a group of Canadian professionals who were about to participate in a multi-day diversity workshop. These people may have been in denial, or perhaps they were just rationalizing. They were taking diversity to automatically mean a problem in the U.S., primarily with African Americans. After all, who hadn’t heard about the civil rights movement? So after a series of questions that allowed us to peel away the layers of reasoning proffered, these participants were able to acknowledge the issues, ultimately saying, “Yes, we do have diversity problems. It’s just that we are usually much too polite to talk about them, especially in mixed company.”
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.
Promoting women’s leadership in global organizations is really an economic and sustainability issue rather than a diversity issue. Companies must focus on successful outcomes and bottom lines. In this case, the bottom line is earning a profit, creating shareholder value and focusing on economic sustainability. CEO’s can’t afford to continue to conduct business as usual. Globalization has shifted into warp speed leading to limited resources, increasing costs and rising awareness of political and economic instability in certain areas of the world. And, corporate leaders must find innovative and creative ways to meet these challenges head-on.