Peter F. Drucker presciently said, "in about five years, there will be two types of CEOs: those who think globally and those who are unemployed." Given the rapid pace globalization has achieved, it seems Mr. Drucker was only half-right: it's not just those in the corner office that have to think globally - it's all of us.
Americans live an increasingly insular life – we rarely consume media, for example, that isn’t produced in the US specifically for the American audience. Too few of us travel internationally for work or pleasure – while estimates range, it is universally accepted that no more than 25% of American citizens hold passports. Few of us speak foreign languages: Americans have come to expect people across the globe to speak English – and in most business circles, English is the lingua franca.
Living in our bubble prevents most of us from recognizing how disconnected Americans are from much of the world. Today, the global center of gravity is – still – the US. In many areas, however, the US is being left beyond – and risks being left out altogether. It is time for us to collectively set aside some of the cultural biases that have been ingrained in many of us for far too long – in the not-too-distant future, other nations will eclipse the US, in terms of market strength and economic might.
Of course, this type of tectonic shift holds both threats and opportunities.
About a year ago, I made a new year’s prediction at the start of 2006 that was quoted in Bulldog Reporter, a leading trade publication for the PR industry: As the US market struggles, "some industries are finding that their only opportunity for growth exists overseas. Given the current climate toward US brands and US foreign policy, however, mining the global marketplace for revenue is increasingly difficult. Savvy global PR professionals can help tip the balance."
I was also only half-right: today’s business climate demands savvy global professionals in all fields, in all specialties, and across all industries – not just in public relations.
Given that this is the inaugural column for Going Global, I won’t make predictions for the upcoming year. I will, however, plead for one resolution for 2007: make this the year you go global.
Like it or not, the clichéd "global marketplace" is a reality. By ignoring or failing to understand the ramifications of this "global marketplace," many businesses – both large and small – are missing tremendous opportunities while leaving themselves vulnerable to fast-moving threats. More than likely, at this very moment, someone in China or India or Brazil – or anywhere with a Web connection – is building a business that could directly threaten virtually any US-based company. Or, this same person is looking for a US-based partner or consultant. Or they may be looking to become a lower-cost or higher-quality supplier. Or a distributor. Or an investor.
The global arena is unpredictable and fast-moving. New markets can emerge with little warning (consider Libya and Viet Nam); others could become increasingly resistant to your product or message. And, while most Americans view the "global marketplace" as having the US at one end of the equation as either buyer or seller, a great deal of global business takes place without regard to the American market – but third-party business opportunities still exist, if you know how to find them.
The global marketplace is far from static – there will always be more to learn and more to share. I hope Going Global readers will respond to what I write – ask questions – challenge my position – share experiences, insights, and learnings of your own. As my business takes me overseas, I will write from those locations – giving a firsthand view of globalization up close.
For those of us already in the global arena – and for anyone looking for access points to what globalization offers – these are exciting times. Booming international markets, the rise of offshore industries; the entry of non-American brands into the US market, the potential that foreign markets have (or might not have) for US brands, the birth of new competitors (not to mention the death of some long-standing ones), and an array of opportunities and threats created by the global marketplace, make 2007 an ideal time for all of us to broaden our horizons and take important steps toward Going Global.