In North America, doing business is fairly basic -- even for a beginner.
You wear a suit, arrive early, and present your ideas. Both of you agree on
the specifics by 5 p.m.
You and your client may grab a bite to eat while talking about the
deal. Usually, you finish in time to catch your favorite TV show.
But if you do business the same way overseas, you could offend your
hosts. Corporations know that good communication requires planning and understanding.
They look for problems caused by cultural differences.
Global companies used to rely on an intermediary to help staff with their
foreign clients. Today, corporations are turning to cultural tutors. These
tutors train staff on how to do business overseas.
Diana Rowland, president of Rowland and Associates, Inc., says this type
of service is overdue. "I spent 10 years traveling and living overseas. After
I returned, I worked for a Japanese trading company. It was clear to me that
many North Americans trying to do business with this firm were have a difficult
time because of the differences in styles," she says.
"I kept wishing that I could recommend a book on doing business with the
Japanese, but there was nothing on the market at the time."
Rowland went on to write a best-seller in the early '80s -- Japanese Business
Etiquette: A Practical Guide to Success With the Japanese. It led her to start
her own business.
"I started my company in 1985, and it has continued to grow both in clients
and services. We now provide training on doing business with countries all
over the world," she says.
Many cultural tutors start as foreign exchange students. They spend a lot
of time in the country they specialize in. When they come home, their skills
are in demand by corporations with large foreign markets.
Some tutors begin by working as freelancers. Getting started was fairly
simple for Hans Fisher, president of Fisher International Services. "The cost
of setting up a home business was minimal -- primarily computer equipment,"
If you want to be a tutor, you can take a foreign language and culture
program at a community college or university.
Cultural tutors need certain skills before they enter this profession:
- A knowledge of the theory of cross-cultural communication
- Experience working and living in at least one foreign country
- Fluency in a foreign language
"As for substantial growth potential for our industry, it's a matter of
keeping ahead of the game," says Marti Teems, general manager for Japan Services,
"More and more clients are requesting web-related work, so we're constantly
striving to master and offer new web-related services. If you can't offer
all of the services your competitors are offering, you're out of the game."
You can't master all the programs you may need before working in a foreign
country. That's why most tutors specialize.
You can specialize in several areas, including:
- Country-specific labor laws
- Interpretation services -- helping people understand what others are saying
- Translating services -- taking the written word from one language to another
- Cultural training for those working or traveling in the tutor's home country
- Negotiating across cultures
- Marketing products abroad
- Conducting programs for travelers and tourists
Dong Fang Yuan, a Chinese interpreter and translator, charges $0.20 per
word for translating a document. For interpreting services, he bills an average
of $30 per hour, including travel expenses.
McKellar Newsome owns the home-based Carolina Educational Services. She
made $30,000 a year as a part-time cultural tutor. She increased that to $130,000
by running the business full time.
Once a company goes international, it usually creates programs to understand
its diverse customer base. Cross-cultural training not only improves business
-- it better prepares employees for what they may encounter when working in
a foreign land.
A study in Fortune Magazine shows that the big problem with globalization
is adapting to local cultures. For example, one U.S. company sent some professionals
and their families to Mexico. Over 50 percent of them returned to the U.S.
within one year.
The Business Council for International Understanding estimates that 33
to 66 percent of people who do business abroad without cultural training fail.
Less than two percent of those who did have the training failed.
"I think the steepest growth curve is already behind us," says Rowland.
"But the field is still growing as companies continue to become international,
multinational, and global."
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