International Business Overview
For years, we have been developing a global economy. As affiliations shift and currency values hopscotch, it has become ever-more important to diversify corporate interests and holdings. For a company looking toward expanding from the United States into areas including Asia, South America, and the Middle East, there are many considerations that must be carefully investigated. While it would be impossible to discuss specific considerations for any of these areas, as they are so broad to include several distinct cultures and nations, the generalities of doing business abroad can be discussed in a relatively forthright manner. The company will need to take time to review legal requirements of doing business in the selected areas, what local events might affect the success or failure of such a venture, and the necessary two-way communication and cooperation between offices located around the world.
Globalization Legal Concerns
If looking to business overseas, one of the first things the organization will need to do is communicate and work with the U.S. Department of State. This arm of government works toward supporting U.S. companies that wish to do business abroad, helping to insure that the company mission and practices are in line with official U.S. and foreign concerns (U.S. Department of State). Remember, when doing business in another country, your company is acting—at least in part—as an ambassador for your home country. Every country has its own laws. Many are similar, but many are also different. The company will need to work with legal experts from both the U.S. and the country they are looking to do business in. Requirements must be met, regulations must be followed, and there is certain consideration when dealing with cross-laws. While doing business in South America, for example, one business practice may be legal, but following that same practice—even outside of U.S. borders—could be illegal. Madagascar may allow you to export so much of a raw material, but transporting so much of that same material through Nigeria may be illegal, so a different route must be planned. These are the sorts of discoveries that must happen and discussions that must take place. There is an old saying that goes along the lines of: ignorance is not an acceptable defense in a court of law. The statement has proven true time and again for companies looking to do business in other countries. Furthermore, even though some laws may prove beneficial financially to a company deciding to do business overseas, the political fallout of taking advantage could be dangerous. So, not only must the company decide what they are allowed to do in a new country; they must also determine what they should do. Major U.S. retailer Sears Holdings has established and published several guidelines in reference to doing business overseas, many of which offer more favorable conditions to workers than they are required to by law (Sears). While still much lower than requirements in the U.S., they heightened moralistic support of their company by not taking full advantage of the overseas economy.
Current Affairs & Business
Among the reasons in deciding whether to do business in another country, chief should be the consideration of stability of the area. If the area is undergoing intense internal conflict or involved in warfare, for example, it would not be wise to place a company there. There is danger to employees and the value could quickly go up in smoke, literally. Just like lobbyists here in the U.S., the company that wants to do business overseas must consider what laws are being considered and revamped in a country they are looking to do business in. For example, if a country current has a minimum wage set, but is considering doubling that minimum wage within the next year or so, it makes a huge difference in determining the overall cost of doing business in that country. Recent reports have shown how investors in China and Japan are wearing down in patience when it comes to loans made to the U.S. Woosik and others (n.d.) show that Asian countries are considering a swap to a bucket currency, similar to the Euro, which will have a very unique effect on global currencies as the markets current stand.
Keeping In Tune with a Global Office
Once a company has made the decision on a stable nation in which to do business and familiarized themselves with all necessary laws, they must then also develop methods and strategies to keep offices in sync. The current state of technology has made instant communication around the world an easy and inexpensive reality. With multimedia chat programs, unlimited calls for nominal fees through Internet based phone services, and more, the major consideration when it comes to keeping offices in sync through tele-meetings is when to have them. Half-way around the world, it is already tomorrow. The time zones could prove to be problematic and each side needs to have dedicated points of communication that will be available during and after normal business hours. This is a relatively simple logistical concern. A larger concern is keeping in line with what is appropriate and acceptable across cultural boundaries. Stoller (2007) says “Globalization has made cross-border business deals more common than ever. But, every day, deals are jeopardized or lost when foreign associates are offended by Americans unaware of other countries' customs, culture or manners, etiquette experts say.” Furthermore, there needs to be a dedicated team of individuals monitoring the markets and legal developments on both the U.S. side and whatever additional countries the company does business in. This cannot be done from a single office, but requires people on the ground in each country. It requires contacts and open lines of communication to discover what changes have been made or will be made and adjust business practices as necessary.
Wherever a company decides to do business, there are important factors that must be taken into account. This include not just the simply supply, demand, and innovation rules of business, but also the moral, ethical, and legal requirements and ramifications of business and society. When a business decides to establish offices or plants outside of their home country, it magnifies the complexity, because the company must now learn the customs, laws, and practices that are not what they have worked with for most of their lives. They must learn how to do business elsewhere, keep updated on changes in these remote locales as well as their own, and learn how to speak, write, and act in different manners. It puts a great strain on the business and the individual. The rewards for the effort as usually ample enough to warrant it, but all of this requires careful investigation, testing, and decision making. Doing business is not an overnight decision. It takes months and years of planning and preparation.
Sears Holdings. (n.d.). Corporate governance: Global compliance for merchandise vendors and factories. Retrieved January 26, 2012 from http://www.searsholdings.com/govern/compliance.htm
Stoller, G. (2007). Doing business abroad? Simple faux pas can sink you. Retrieved January 26, 2012 from http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/travel/2007-08-23-faux-pas_N.htm
U.S. Department of State. (n.d.). Doing business in international markets. Retrieved January 26, 2012 from http://www.state.gov/e/eb/cba/
Woosik, M. (n.d.). Regional currency unit in Asia: Property and perspective. Retrieved January 26, 2012 from http://www.asean.org/20733.pdf