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Getting Excited About the Big Picture

Written for MultiLingual Computing by Adam Asnes, President, Lingoport

Internationalization Tools and Software Localization Support by LingoportIn our industry there’s a great deal of well deserved tactical focus on technologies and processes. But remember, new concepts and ideas that evoke emotion move people, numerical evidence of efficiencies and incremental savings are usually, less persuasive. Chances are if you are reading this magazine, you are well informed about the importance of globalizing products. The people who we work with and make major decisions that affect globalization may not be, or they may suffer a narrow short-term view. This column is an invitation to be a globalization leader in your company. Get fired up! What’s happening in our world is way cooler than the introduction of the latest iPhone.

As recently as late last year, a person of considerable position in the Colorado software community said to me that she figured opportunities were over in China as it was all over the newspapers and magazines, and that always means you’re too late on a trend. I had to explain that this is not a fashionable trend we’re talking about. She understood right away, and she quickly saw the error of her comment. The point is that not everyone understands the sea change we’re having in international market power. On a Macro level, there has really been some shake up in the rankings of economies by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For 2007 the EU (counting all members) sits at number one, the US is number two, PRC is three, Japan is four, Union of South American Nations is five, India is six and Germany is 7 and the list goes on (sources: International Monetary Fund and CIA World Factbook – 2007). How do you think that would compare with ten or even five years ago? Now what does that exciting trend mean for your company?

There are unprecedented new global business opportunities arising, with easier global reach possible, and more market maturity pertaining to everything from legal agreements to distribution channels.
To gain a foothold and grow worldwide in increasingly competitive and worldly markets, you’d better not just be there, you’re going to have to be there and be good at it.

These growing economies represent real people buying goods and services. With that comes a competitiveness that has also been unprecedented. Emerging companies are not just going to be content with being cheap labor or assembly production sources. They are going to compete with products and services of their own, or copy successes and add their own refinements. And keep in mind the barriers to entry are falling, such that even smaller companies that historically wouldn’t venture out of their communities and certainly not their countries, are doing so.

I recently wrote, with some glee, in our Lingoport newsletter about a local ice cream shop, Glacier, which was embarking on a joint venture to create an upscale ice cream brand in China. The sheer audaciousness of this kind of global reach potential from a small company, in something as low tech and yummy as ice cream just delights me. Glacier is the sort of place that makes a great product, has a fun community atmosphere, and always has a line – even in the winter when it can get pretty cold here in Colorado. They have a total of 4 locations in Colorado and one in California. Mark Mallen, the owner is still scooping out ice cream and runs from store to store. So, purely in the name of research, my daughter and I went for a couple of scoops and to talk to him about it.

I asked Mark, “How did you get it in your mind to do business in China.” And he gave me a pretty forthright account of what happened.

An executive from Barony Hotels and Resorts visited one of his stores in Boulder and liked the ice cream and the presentation, and drove the whole transaction. Barony Hotels are in major business centers across China and they look to add character and create new brands through partnerships. They created an arrangement with Mark so that he will help set up the ice cream shops, train personnel and regularly visit locations in China to assist management.

Mark did not think at first that the project would go through, but he said that every step of the way, Barony executives were professional, got to the point and created a good deal of potential for him. Even the legal agreements were not difficult. Actually he reported that there were few contractual adjustments and zero “nibbling” on terms and last minute changes. Mark calls the business so far “a very honorable experience.” Mark also talked about how they clearly have a long term view of building brands combining the best of East and West.

Remember, this sort of opportunity has little to do with currency valuations, which get the majority of attention in the news as a dominant incentive for active support of US exports these days. But currencies can switch over time. The long term view points to worldliness as a tremendous business driver, just by the sheer rising of global prosperities.

So again, ask yourself what this means for your company? Here are a few bullet points to start with for your next meeting or elevator pitch.

• There are tremendous changes in purchasing power among the world’s populations

• New opportunities, also foster increased competitiveness, which will focus on high quality expectations for products and services

• If you’re going global, do it well with a long term view, rather than doing an under-educated minimum. You won’t sell well with a poorly adapted product.

• Take the time and focus to internationalize and localize. (Those exact terms are even emphasized on the Barony Hotels web site – have you ever seen reference to this on any other hotel chain’s site? And we’re talking hotels here, not software!). Internationalize first, so that your product can robustly support localized requirements.

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