Succeeding in Africa

The African continent is a land of great opportunity. Knowledge, tremendous work ethic, positive attitude, self-confidence, a desire to succeed, goodwill, persistence, perseverance and determination will bring forth rewards for those doing business in this great continent.

Bottom line, International business success begins with an attitude of acceptance. Acceptance for a whole combination of things – both tangible and intangible; and Africa is no exception

As more and more companies go global, astute businesspeople are finding that knowledge about other countries’ cultures and customs can enhance their working relationships – and thereby affect their businesses’ bottom line.

A Spirit of Acceptance

The key to insuring smooth international relationships, lies in cultivating an open-minded spirit of acceptance towards other people and cultures. Acceptance and appreciation for other cultures requires willingness to explore and co-operate. There need not be loss of identity or compromised values.

Research and Training Pay Off

When the Thom McAn Company tried to sell footwear in Bangladesh, a riot ensued, injuring over 50 people. The company’s executives had not known that Thom McAn’s signature, printed inside the shoes resembled the Arabic script for “Allah.” Outraged Muslims concluded that shoe manufacturers were trying to get Bangladeshis to desecrate the name of God by walking on His name-a double insult because the foot is considered unclean in their country. (Read more).

Had Thom McAn executives expended the effort to learn more about the culture to which they were marketing their products, they could have saved the time and money required later to polish up their image and rebuild goodwill.

Executives in today’s global marketplace encounter many and varied cultural rules and protocols. Each has its own nuances, and the rules have many exceptions. In order to learn and stay current, some corporations benefit by keeping consultants on retainer who are natives of the countries with whom they do business. Such people prove to be valuable resources for instruction in values and customs, as well as the business etiquette specific to each country, such as gift-giving, handshaking, and table manners.

Cross-cultural training goes a long way in developing the sensitivity, knowledge and appreciation for other cultures that are so vital to business success.

When Hosting

Suppose you are preparing to entertain a distant aunt whom you have not seen since childhood. You would take steps to ensure her comfort, such as inquiring ahead of time about what she likes to eat and whether she follows any particular dietary guidelines. You would probably do some advance research to learn what special interests or hobbies she enjoys, and whether there are any conversational topics about which she is particularly sensitive or on which she holds strong feelings. As business host to your foreign counterparts, it behooves you to do your homework in much the same way on other cultures, their diets and customs. Suppose that you are picking up an international businessman at the airport and then taking him to dinner before dropping him off at his hotel. He enters your car and immediately lights a cigarette. Because you have studied up on his culture, you know that his country does not have laws regulating smoking, and that it is not considered rude to smoke without first asking a host’s permission. As you pull up to the restaurant, you might gently inform your guest that your city does not permit smoking in restaurants and in business offices, and that most people expect guests in their homes to ask permission.

The Key Components

Success in Africa and most of the other markets as an entrepreneur requires one to be:

Respectful – Respect for other people and cultures is critical if businesses are to flourish in the global marketplace. Anything less puts interactions at risk of seeming insincere, condescending and manipulatory. Executives who approach their international counterparts as equals and expend the effort to learn all they can about their cultures, will find the commitment pays off in more comfortable and profitable business relationships.

Visionary – An international vision will focus your efforts to be aimed at the highest levels of achievement. 2nd place just will not do for you.

Perceptive – the ability to identify the risk vs. reward in an undertaking and more importantly to maintain the proper balance between the two at all times

Decisive – The innate ability to thrive on decision making, clear and independent thought as well as extreme dedication to your livelihood

Master of the self – Transformation of your positive attitude into greater self-confidence, that translates into greater achievement in the business world, persistence and focused actions of a dedicated person ultimately lead to the highest levels of achievement in any area of pursuit

Passionate – With all the planning in the world, if you do not have passion, you will not have the enthusiasm or desire needed for your success across the borders. Enthusiasm is needed to keep going through the ups and downs that all businesses go through. You are more likely to fail in both productive ways and financially because if you do not have the enthusiasm and positive attitude necessary to get you through the slow seasons or even to make the good, better. On the other hand, you are more likely to achieve success faster and in better financial ways in both the short and long term.

Effective competitive strategy

Formulating an effective competitive strategy is another key success factor. A competitive strategy enables a company to project and position itself in a targeted manner in foreign markets

Thirst for Knowledge

Doing business at home may work for all of us in great ways and sometimes with eyes closed. But after saturating the local market and you need to cross a border or two, every entrepreneur needs to thirst and hunger for knowledge beyond the normal. Knowledge is power and continued education will always be vital for your business success

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