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Understanding global culture critical says Woods speaker

By Loyd Little
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2012

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Chapel Hill, NC - To manage a successful business today requires cultural understanding among business executives and entrepreneurs more than ever, the founder of a global consulting company told faculty and guests at Woods Charter School Tuesday night.

Speaking as part of the school’s Founders’ Day series of lectures, Lowell Hoffman said, “A global world requires strategy-based analysis, an understanding of how to use decision-making tools, and thinking in the long term.”

Hoffman began his own company – Global Sourcing Solutions – after working for 22 years as global vice president of purchasing and supply for National Can, Kraft Foods and Colgate Palmolive.

“Today, a business man or woman needs to be considerate of cultural taboos, to have an awareness of other cultures, and to have real respect of other business people in addition to the traditional advice to learn the language, history and geography of the counties in which they are working,” he said.

“It is critical to understand how business people in other countries make business decisions as well as understanding how they view our process,” said Hoffman. He cited these factors as significant in being successful in international business:

  • Who makes decisions?
  • Who likes changes?
  • What are their concepts of time?
  • What social rituals do they have?
  • How do they react to, say, group briefings?
  • Do they encourage individual initiatives?
  • How do personal relationships affect their group decisions?
  • How to they establish deadlines?
  • How can you demonstrate respect for their culture?
  • How do you find shared objectives?
Hoffman said American business people must learn the language of other counties, try their foods, understand their social structure, and know the geography of other counties as well as respecting their technology and their products. “It is important for us to learn the do’s and don’ts of their culture,” he said.

Such factors can make a dramatic difference in how easy or hard it is to establish good business relationships overseas, Hoffman said.

“Remember,” he said, “buy in your own language. Sell in their language.”

Hoffman is also an adjunct professor at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He has designed and taught training and development workshops in Asia, Europe, and North America for a variety of multinational corporations.

The Woods School Foundation sponsors the series of Founders Day speakers.

The Woods Charter School is located on Woodland Grove Road just off Andrews Store Road off U.S. 15-501 about half way between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro.

 
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Understanding global culture critical says Woods speaker
Lowell Hoffman spoke at Woods Charter School as part of the school’s Founders’ Day series of lectures.
photo by Gene Galin
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