Are You Ready To Take On the World? The Twelve Keys to the Global Mindset
by Laurel J. Delaney
In celebration of a 20-year anniversary to writing my first exporting book, “Start & Run a Profitable Exporting Business,” I’ll be sharing excerpts from that book here over the coming months. This chapter still rings true because it covers the essential characteristics you need to do well in the international marketplace. Do you have what it takes to global? Read on …
When I began my exporting company, I didn’t think I had a particularly unique perspective on the business world. I felt sure I could make all kinds of things happen if I just kept at it. I started the company because I needed to do something on my own. I wanted personal freedom, more opportunity for creative expression, and the excitement of encountering diverse cultures. I had been trained in the basics of exporting at my former job, and I wanted to put this know-how to work on a larger scale that would offer daily challenges and boundless potential for growth. Now, after running the company for over ten  years, I remember the remarks people used to make when I would tell them how I built my business. They would exclaim, “I can’t believe you did that!” Or, “And then what happened?”
I must tell you quite frankly that I’ve never been lacking in guts, and I’ve always been eager to take on the world. My temperament and my early export experience gave me a habit of thinking about the global marketplace in a big, broad way that continues to shape my operations today. I have never been intimidated by flying alone to conduct business in distant places, nor am I afraid to call up presidents of major companies to talk to them about what I do. I remember sending a fax to the founder of Sony Corporation to see if I could meet with him during my next trip to Japan to introduce myself and talk to him about sourcing American products for Sony. I thought it was important that he knew me. It was just an idea, and my attitude was and still is “Why not?”
All of these ways of being and acting have always seemed natural to me. It is always most satisfying to live according to the rules you create for yourself. Do these ways of being come naturally to you? Perhaps not yet. But I invite you to take stock of yourself and decide if you are ready to develop the dynamic outlook that will enable you to take on the world.
Entering the global market requires a special way of understanding the world and an ability to see things that others don’t. It’s not a lifestyle; it’s a mindstyle. The following are twelve key aspects of this powerful worldview — your prerequisites to taking on the world, and your foundation for starting and running a profitable exporting business.
1. A global marketer must be comfortable with change.
He knows that the world is rapidly changing, and that change always includes the potential for positive developments. International sellers learn to enjoy the challenges of the unknown and to watch for emerging opportunities.
Let’s face it, every nanosecond something new is happening in the world. We must take that into account in our global dealings because it affects the outcome of all our efforts. The more connections you create with other human beings worldwide, the more acute the need to be comfortable with change.
2. A global marketer must continuously welcome new experiences, even crises, for they bring about a positive confrontation between different perspectives.
These challenges to your perspective should be used to map out new directions for your creative energies. As a global marketer, you must always seek to improve yourself, your product, your business, and your world.
A global marketer is never content with the obvious explanation when she suspects there’s more to it than that, never satisfied with one task when she can manage a project, never happy with a project when she can manage an organization. Similarly, global marketers are constantly scanning the geographical horizon to learn more about potential markets and competitors, new technology, and new suppliers. Achieving excellence in any activity is always much, much more fun than doing just okay!
It’s good to expect surprises, but even better to seek them out. Even a relatively ordinary life will teach you that the world is full of surprises. When you welcome them, you are light-years ahead of those who have been trained to guard against them. In the business world, the fittest will survive and thrive. Evolve, and you will be one of them!
3. A global marketer must be adaptable, take risks and innovate.
She must be nimble-minded and take nothing for granted. He must do whatever he can to extend his global reach.
Did you know that Americans are generally viewed around the world as narrow-minded, parochial people who insist on having everything “the way we do it back home,” and always seem to be trying to recreate the world in America’s image? This is not only bad etiquette — it’s bad politics and bad business. If you want to take your place in the global market, you must rid yourself of this attitude immediately.
Your adaptability means that you know how different markets operate, and are sensitive to the cultural values of other countries. If things appear one way today and another tomorrow, you shift gears and work with conditions as you find them. Learn to create your strategy on your feet. That’s the only way to do global business.
The more you risk, the greater your chances for success or failure, but either way, you’re pushing your limits and extending your reach. Remember, you learn the most from failure, so take what chances you can afford. There always comes a point where you realize there are risks, acknowledge them and then move forward anyway.
Keeping the mind fresh, fertile, and open to new perspectives — the prerequisites of innovation — is a must if you want to conduct business effectively worldwide. You must not merely innovate, but transform the way you do business so boldly that you inspire everyone around you.
There are endless ways of opening your mind that you can get to work on right now. Visit your library [scour the Internet] and try some completely different reading. Take long walks in unfamiliar neighborhoods. Look out at a body of water. See foreign films. Meet people in other professions. Join social groups that attract members of other nationalities. Challenge your own preconceptions about what is and what can be. Don’t withdraw when confronted with cultural differences. Instead, hang in there and ask yourself why you feel the way you do. This is real learning. Give yourself a chance to discover your own unexamined values and assumptions, and you will find it a lot easier to accept others’ unfamiliar ways.
4. A global marketer must be willing to learn as much as possible about the culture in which he is about to do business.
She must pay attention to etiquette and protocol, and behave exactly as interpersonal situations dictate. One day you are a diplomat, the next a leader, sometimes both. When your every move is subject to interpretation, it’s best to come equipped with the knowledge that will put you ahead of the game.
You can start by thinking about what makes you different from your next door neighbor. Then form the habit of doing the same thing on a citywide, nationwide, and worldwide scale. Try to understand how and why people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds think and behave the way they do.
Then focus your investigations by reading all you can about the culture of a country you plan to visit. For a real jump-start, call up a local foreign consulate and set up a meeting. Explain that you want to know more about their national culture before visiting. You will be amazed at how receptive they are, and how impressed that you would take the time to learn about their ways. In addition, they may offer to assist with your trip in any way they can, and will probably have some excellent books on hand for you to read.
5. A global marketer must have enormous reserves of energy along with patience and stick-to-it-iveness.
It’s great to be an aggressive, energetic mover-and-shaker, but just as important to know when to slow down and let a negotiation take its own course.
You’ve got to be more than a garden-variety go-getter to face the world market. The work you must do is difficult and draining. Real business breakthroughs don’t come easily or quickly on the domestic front, and in the global market it’s a thousand times more difficult. You must deliver long-term value in terms of product quality and customer service while building and maintaining the alliances a global market demands, and you must expect it to take a lot of time. You won’t get far with a narrow focus on boosting next quarter’s sales figures, or with slick hard-sell tactics. The kind of short-term, bottom-line, quick-return thinking we tend to use in our domestic operations shows a basic lack of understanding about the demands of global business. It’s a slow process. It requires patience.
Stick-to-it-iveness is vital if you are going to maintain the committed effort needed to make things work. Don’t quit before you have to just because you lack the nerve to keep up your efforts when there’s no payoff in sight. You must get through the discouraging, nerve-racking times. Your perseverance will give you strength and confidence that carry you through even bolder efforts in the future.
6. A global marketer must be comfortable with himself before he can present himself well in the international arena.
You must know yourself well enough to anticipate how you will react in new and difficult circumstances. You must be able to exercise self-control. You must develop inner security by counting yourself as valuable apart from your successes or failures. When you know yourself well, you are able to build connections with others by listening, empathizing and understanding. The people skills that are so essential for cultivating relationships in the global marketplace start with the positive relationship you cultivate with yourself.
Sure, you will make mistakes now and then, but only one is always disastrous: global marketers must never take the position that they are always right and the other person is wrong. They must remain open-minded, thoughtful and sensitive. People who are personally secure and can allow others to be themselves have by far the best chance of creating the harmonious business relationships that global dealings demand.
7. A global marketer must have passion, enthusiasm, playfulness and curiosity.
You need to be alive, alert and exquisitely aware of the world around you.
Show your business associates that you value every negotiation as if it is a matter of life or death. Let your body language communicate how intensely you care. Whether standing or seated, keep your posture straight, but lean forward ever so slightly and gesture with your hands to convey urgency. Look your listener straight in the eye. Let them see something in you that they have never experienced in the course of a mundane business transaction and make them want more of it. Let them see that you are passionate about what you are building together.
Enthusiasm makes your passionate involvement friendly and accessible. Smile, let your eyes light up, let your energy flow through every gesture you make. Make your listener want to bottle up your energy and use it themselves — or make them want to put up a shield to ward it off! Enthusiasm is contagious and irresistible — it draws people to you no matter where in the world you are.
Want to fill yourself with passion and enthusiasm? Remember what it was like to be a kid? Spontaneous, free, not a care in the world? Let some of that powerful playfulness show. Use it carefully — there’s obviously a time for play and a time for seriousness. Bringing a judicious helping of childlike joy and high good humor to your business ventures can sometimes make or break an international deal.
Finally, show your eagerness to discover more, to do more, to push the limits of the known. You need curiosity to drive you in search of “more.” Your passion, enthusiasm and playfulness need somewhere to go. Take the next step, go the extra mile, and wonder what if, what’s next, what’s possible. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, and it won’t kill you, either. It can only give you a bigger and better life. Do what it takes to create change across borders.
8. A global marketer should have traveled to at least one foreign country and stayed for several weeks — preferably with a native family — and desired to return.
Get on a plane and head for a place you’ve never been before. When you get there, make yourself at home. If you can do that, you are on your way to becoming a global marketer.
If you haven’t exposed yourself to foreign travel, make yourself a promise to do it soon. And when you’ve landed yourself somewhere far from home, teach yourself to adjust. Interact with the locals. Cultivate friendships. Watch, listen and learn. Ask a lot of questions. Live and breathe the environment. Do as the natives do. This is the best possible training for becoming a global marketer. Many people are reluctant to try it because it’s expensive, they don’t want to take the time, they don’t know anybody in,other countries, they’re scared plain and simple. Get over it. By making a trip like this, you stand to gain invaluable international experience — and quite likely the most fun you’ve ever had in your life!
9. A global marketer must value the relationship more than the deal.
When cultivating a potential client, never forget that that individual is more important than closing the deal under discussion. You can only do so much to make it happen — then you have to let it happen. If a relationship is meant to be, it will — over time and at its own pace.
You must become a true insider wherever you decide to do business, and the only way to accomplish that is to get to know the person with whom you wish to have a relationship and forget about how much time it takes. To have a genuine relationship with anyone, you must develop a history together — or “grow up together,” as it were. You have to deal with someone from time to time over a period of years, and learn to see them clearly. Trust and respect your contact, because otherwise there’s no point in continuing the relationship next door, let alone across international borders. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll survive. And, who knows, you might even meet someone else with whom you can do your best and most inspired business!
10. A global marketer must have all-encompassing perspective.
He or she should be able to function well on both a small and large scale — to home in on details, yet always comprehend the big picture, and keep pace with that picture as it changes. One day you’ll be trying to pin down just why Japanese women like the color pink and the next day you’ll be sorting out how the drop in the peso will affect your latest acquisition in Mexico. You’ll need to take in information, see its significance, and act on it. Cultivate your perspective and it will keep you at the cutting edge of global business.
11. A global marketer must be an inspired — and inspiring — team builder and leader.
The old top-down, hierarchical, “my way or the highway” business style won’t cut it anymore. The challenges of the global economy are best met by a new organizational model: a team of highly gifted professionals brought together by a leader who knows how to act as “first among equals.” Such a leader must have an eye for talented people who can contribute something unique and irreplaceable to the group, and must know how to provide an environment in which each member feels recognized and valued for their contributions, project after project. The leader must provide direction, encouragement, vision and inspiration so that, together, the group becomes much more than the sum of its parts. If you can find the right people, trust them and help them grow to do great things, you’ll be on the surest possible ground — because the only resource your competitor can’t duplicate is the unique and winning chemistry of your talented team.
12. Above all else, a global marketer must have courage — because freedom in this world is born from courage.
You can page through a hundred community college catalogs and you won’t find any adult education courses in courage. Even if you did, you might enroll, read, do all your homework, participate in class discussions and complete the course with an “A+” without having gained a single iota of courage. To acquire courage, you must put yourself in challenging situations, either by choice or by accident, and get through them. The one thing to keep in mind is that, since few situations are truly life-or-death, you know you’ll survive!
Even so, going forward with anything about which you have even the smallest doubt takes courage. Taking the first step on a project which everyone else tells you will be difficult or impossible takes courage. Putting your reputation on the line and making up your mind to deal with the consequences takes courage. Staying true to your vision, and your mission, in the face of criticism and opposition takes courage. But if you can somehow call it up when you need it, your rewards will be extraordinary.
Courage crosses all boundaries and knows no barriers. In the complicated, ambiguous world of foreign business, it is essential for the aspiring exporter.
These are the attributes that the global marketer must cultivate and put to work in the international marketplace. To take on the world — a world in which only the fittest will survive — you must make yourself one of the fittest. This is hard work. It will test your motivation at every turn. Are you ready to take it on? If so, it’s time to get started!
Okay — maybe I didn’t have all twelve qualities of a global marketer when I first started my business. Some of them I developed along the way, just like you will. But what impressed itself upon me most vividly in my early days as an exporter was the constant stress of dealing with the unknown and wondering if I was going to make it. I remember being haunted by a sense of my own limitations, and tormented by my overactive imagination. Every day I wondered, “Will I ever make any money at this business?” But looking back, I’m convinced it was a mistake to give that terrifying thought so much of my mental energy. I should have been focusing instead on doing a great job on whatever I was tackling at the moment. Worrying about outcomes far in the future in the early stages of any enterprise will only impair your focus and drain your energy. Take the step that lies immediately before you, and the rest will fall into place.
©1998 and 2018 Laurel J. Delaney. All rights reserved.
For a look at Laurel’s most recent exporting book, visit here.
Photo credit: iStock/Athitat Shinagowin
Are you positioned for global success? Learn more at our upcoming Global Small Business Forum held in Chicago on Friday, October 19, 2018.