The six mistakes CEOs make in global business and how to avoid them

01/09/2015

Mistakes CEOs make in global business

Mistakes CEOs make in global businessThis article is for you, CEO…it’s a wake-up call. It’s for CFOs and COOs too, and anyone on an executive team of a business with global growth potential. Today we’re talking about mistakes made in nearly every business, to hopefully avoid them in yours.

These mistakes show up over and over, and they’re usually the same ones!

Don’t take my word for it: we’ve heard it from hundreds of top executives who are members of Global Chamber® and who have spoken at our events. The story changes slightly each time, but it basically goes:

Yes, we’ve been successful with international business, but we waited too long to start. And then we made multiple mistakes, accomplishing in 10 years what could have been done in 5.

If you’re reading this, then chances are you’re doing global business. You’ll likely have had some hard knocks yourself, and so you’ll be open to doing things in a better way.

On average, exporting companies are more profitable than those that don’t export, so you’re likely presiding over plenty of good efforts. The thing is, your results almost certainly could be better.

The common mistakes made by almost everyone? There are 6!

1) Companies delay diving in.

In the beginning global business seems risky, requiring a level of sophistication that’s higher than just doing business with people nearby.

It is more complicated, like going from a lemonade stand to shelf space at Costco! And so, companies are understandably cautious about going global.

But in the end, many times they’re too cautious. If experienced global business leaders were all around you, you’d feel more confident. But there are still too few of those experienced people in small and mid-sized companies, and the global leap with limited experience seems too risky.

However, if you solve #2 through #6 below, chances are you’ll feel more comfortable taking that initial dive earlier.

2) The team doesn’t use the right resources.

How can you surround yourself with the right business resources if you don’t know who they are?

Only one in a hundred executives has their finger on all the best resources they need. That stacks the deck against the other 99, creating issues and problems along the way that can derail global expansion.

Beyond knowing the best resources, working with them in real time is essential, which is why we created Export Circles℠, surrounding top executives with peers who assist as they go. When those of us in the global tribe support each other, then all of us going through global expansion win.

3) Organizations lack a global bias.

In my corporate days working within a multinational, I honestly felt alone at times, because few people at the U.S. headquarters truly understood global business. I had to hang out with fellow expats within the company in other business units, or with other companies, to share ideas and frustrations.

Since then, most multinationals have become much better – with many more people who understand global business. But the gaps still exist in a big way with most small and medium sized businesses. Those gaps lead to global mistakes, and organizational momentum leaning towards local vs. global.

Yet, gaining a true global bias is essential for companies to improve productivity and truly succeed globally.

4) The team hires the wrong people.

Since most people within nearly all companies tend not to be globally fluent, and we hire people like ourselves, we tend to hire fewer truly global team members.

People with a global mindset can be under-valued at many companies and less likely to be hired.

That’s not the same everywhere. One business I worked for based in Geneva assembled a team full of people with a multi-cultural and multi-national mindset. But if you’re based on Main Street, USA, chances are you’ll need to go out of your way to hire leaders in the global tribe.

If you’re one of us, you know who a ‘globie’ is. If you don’t know, reach out to someone who can help bring these people into your team, and not just one token.

5) Companies lack global commitment.

We’re all extremely busy these days, and so it’s clear to our Global Chamber® Executive Directors around the world that too few companies are ‘all in’ on global. Is your company doing global training? Is your team doing the right hiring and interacting with the right global people? Are more than one or two people in your organization truly global business executives?

Sadly, the answer to one or more of these in the vast majority of businesses is usually ‘no’.

Global business is not an individual sport. It takes collective knowledge and teamwork to make the best success happen.

Get committed and have a half dozen of your people (at least) learn more about effective global business practices. It will only happen on its own very slowly. Accelerate global change by having global people.

6) There aren’t enough good customer prospects, or there are too many.

There are often either not enough good prospects – or too many, because it’s difficult to prioritize from a distance, across the border.

The latter problem of having too many prospects can be just as troubling as not enough because margins are impacted. And that can break an organization when it’s stretched too thin.

A key value of connecting with your fellow global business leaders is learning how to prioritize the best prospects, and help others work with people they know, like and trust across the globe, reducing risk in the process.

That’s why the Global Chamber® is growing in 500 metro areas, so that our members can go and grow anywhere more easily.

Lower risk and accelerate success by being a global change agent that addresses these issues head on! If you dive in and synchronize with your team, better results will follow.

Which of these mistakes could be most crippling to a company? How can learning from the experience of others help companies avoid that mistake?

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributing author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forum for International Trade Training.

About the author

Doug Bruhnke

Author: Doug Bruhnke

Doug Bruhnke is CEO/founder of Global Chamber®, helping members in 500 metro areas bridge to new regional and global opportunities so that they grow more rapidly and with less risk. Global Chamber is the only organization in the world dedicated to helping companies grow across every border while collaborating with every organization that has a global touch. It takes a village to support the global tribe.

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