Vitalise Your Multinational Business

On Earth, there are 195 countries and over 7,000 languages spoken, including more than 80 languages that have at least 10 million first-language speakers. This being the case, imagine how much diversity and how many different identities we could be dealing with when working in a multinational environment!

Even though most global companies operate subsidiaries under several regional offices, one regional office can contain people of countless countries and languages. Then, outside of the obvious factors like great products, investments, mindful leadership and so on.

what is the subtle art of leading multinational businesses to success?  

I’d like to point out the top 3 areas in your approach that could be re-visited and re-designed.

  • Cultural background
  • Organisational Ecosystem
  • Key Player Interface

How can those factors be an accelerator for your business success?

Cultural background

is important because it is a root where your colleagues, counterparts, and clients come from. Yes, in a virtual world you can connect with anyone in any part of the world within a second. However, we all experience the unique energy and vibe coming from each culture in their behaviours, expressions, practices, and so on. This is where you can cultivate a fundamental ground of connection.

Take planning a series of roadshows across your subsidiaries around the world for example. You must be sensitive enough to plan around meaningful events respective to each region, for instance, Ramadan in the Middle East, Aug&Dec. in Europe, and Thanksgiving in North America. Analyse and understand the reason people behave as they behave. For example, an Asian communication style may appear passive in the western world and some western communication style may come across as overly confident to Asians. Learn effective ways to connect with your counterparts. Being straight forward and punctual when working in German society would give you a higher chance of being trusted. Your Asian colleagues may be more open to sharing their opinion in small group situations than when they are in a large audience.

Once you are able to interpret your international teams, you will achieve great advantages in enabling your plan to execute.Design your business framework with cultural factors into consideration. Match the role with cultural fit. For example, if a project needs speed, I would team up with a small country that values execution over debates. If a focus is on scalability, consider countries that have large geographic settings and speak one language countywide, and for projects that need fire-up energy, you might want to work with countries with Latin spirit.

Organisational Ecosystem

Have an understanding of the mechanism of how the organisation operates where your counterparts are in. In general, once the business goes multinational, conflict and complication will follow as a sign that your business is on a larger scale. So, congrats for reaching a level of sizable business and having the typical signs of growing businesses.

However, from now on, you need the ability to read the most effective pathway within the layers of stakeholders. A good starting point to get insights is an organisational chart. Ask for an organisational chart of your counterpart’s team on the topic you are working together with. You will find quite a good clue: What are the interlinks between departments, how does information flow, what is the decision-making process, and who has which veto rights, and so on. 

Key Player Interface

When HQ sees the need to drive company-wide projects or some kind of standardisation of certain processes, it may come across as a threat of losing freedom, control, or power for subsidiaries' perspective. It is a typical conflict of “what’s in it for me” between headquarter and subsidiaries.

In many cases, this conflict comes from missing a common goal and structural interfaces.

A goal is a picture that you want to see when it is done, and a common goal can only be set based on a clear vision. If you face any conflicts like this, ask if you have a common end picture whether it is a company vision, a department vision, or a project vision. If the answer is yes, you can easily align the individual’s role within a roadmap to get there. If the answer is no, start with drawing a common picture derived from a vision. 

An interface amongst key players is essential for all these processes of setting up and aligning how and what to work together. Create an interface structure considering the organisational ecosystem where your counterparts can see themselves in the game and feel heard. A framework of communication, roadmap, and co-creation are indispensable within the interface.

Key Takeaways

Many of the common-sense and practice that work well in a domestic business need to be re-evaluated and re-designed in the multinational business world. If you are in a leading position of multinational business,

  • Learn about the unique character of different groups of people around you and leverage the power of each culture in your business framework
  • Design your pathway through the understanding of an eco-system hidden behind the organisational chart
  • Create a structural interface amongst key player to discuss, debate, and win together. Everyone wants to be part of success.

A warm welcome to connect with me to discuss any questions and thoughts you have.