How to Develop Relationship Advantage as a Global Manager

A vital challenge for the global manager is to build good working relationships across geographical and cultural borders. Recognize that strong, trusting relationships are the foundation of successful collaborations in a diverse business network.

Identifying Advantages
You can gain advantage over your competitors in three main ways. The first is in intellectual capital, such as knowledge and copyrights. The second is in operational systems, including best processes and systems. The third is in relationships – the ability to develop strong personal and group links across geographical, business, and cultural borders. Be aware that relationship advantage is very difficult for a competitor to replicate. Good feeling across the global network cannot be manufactured.

Developing Partnerships
Global businesses are dependent on their ability to forge international joint ventures and alliances. Most partnerships fail because of cultural neglect. Too many managers assume that if the economics look good, success is guaranteed. Beyond studying the spreadsheets, be prepared to develop cultural understanding. Let go of “there is only one way” thinking and alter from “either/or” to “both/and” working methods, to create business methods that give the best results for all parties. Encourage others on your team to do the same.

Things to do
1. Think about your global relationships – customers, partners, and colleagues.
2. Identify their needs.
3. Implement initiatives to meet these needs.
4. Review these relationships regularly to make sure that they are working well.

Focusing on Colleagues
Global organizations aim to draw on the talent and expertise within their worldwide networks. New initiatives in product development, marketing, and delivery are often dependent on cross-border collaboration. Many businesses also expect fresh perspectives to be generated through their diverse employees. Make sure that employees around the world are able to share ideas.

Connecting with the Customer
It is vital to understand your customers in their cultural context. Only by learning what factors influence their diverse perceptions of value, quality, and service is your business able to develop products that will meet their needs. For example, cost is a key concern to customers in northern Europe, but not to such an extent in Latin America, where people are more interested in value. In southern Europe and Asia, high levels of service will encourage repeat purchases, but will not have the same effect in northern Europe. Standardization must be balanced with responsiveness to local conditions. For example, a global beefburger chain opened a kosher restaurant in Jerusalem, and used lamb instead of beef in India.

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