Culture is still crucial in cross-border business

This Wall Street Journal article reminds us that entrepreneurs who expand globally often fall victim to the old “you don’t know what you don’t know” trap. As little as one word can carry with it the wrong connotation, leading to emotional reactions. Small blunders due to cultural differences can cost a company millions. Literally.

This is no surprise to those working in the cross-cultural field. If anything, it is becoming more acute as small businesses continue to expand overseas despite the recession (in the US). India and China are the big growth markets, but let’s not kid ourselves. The tactics to use when entering countries with such long, rich and entrenched traditions is not self-evident. Business is business, but the way in which we conduct it varies dramatically across borders.

Kari Heistad, an American with links to Norway and the CEO of Culture Coach International, is quoted in the article. I was introduced to her through a T-bird friend when I was originally looking into changing careers into cross-cultural training.

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