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Cultural Translation Is Critical to Global Success

Before you even dust off the passport before your next trip abroad, it would in my opinion be great advice to buy and read Erin Meyer's latest work.

Having traveled extensively for most of my adult life, I have worked with literally hundreds of small to large American companies seeking to find new partners and markets abroad.

Inevitably, I find, we have an ingrown American trait to sell first, listen later, and quite frankly, many of us simplly don't have the time or don't want to spend the time and patience necessary to find success in overseas markets. Thus, we fly in (or parachute in to use more colloquial terms), ask for the sale and upon the least bit of resistence, many times come back and write off as too difficult what could have been a golden market.

In most, but not all cultures I have visited, they will put businessmen through a series of cultural tests, sometimes sequential, and involving family, before they truly decide whether or not they will trust you with their deal - and of course, their money (or profits). Althought often overlooked, understading the cultural translation is often as important, or more mportant, than the language translation.

Admittedly, of course, the cultural differences can be frustrating and indeed, sometimes overdone. Nevertheless, even though this is an oversimplication, the principle remains that ample investments of money, time, patience, and, in some cases, violations our own perceived cultural norms are all required to succeed.

Currently living in France, Ms. Meyer's work identifies the cross cultural boundaries in a wonderfully organized way the simple cultural differences and perceptions that divide much of American business with the rest of the world. It sounds too easy, but I have seen it happen over and over again. It is a lesson we must all learn if we are going to improve our ability to reach the emerging global market.

Given that a whopping 97 percent of today's consumers live outside the United States, it is no longer a laughing matter. The new jobs that consistently elude America are out there; not perhaps in large numbers, but somewhere hidden in the trillions of dollars in unrealized cross-border commerce.

To create them however, will require diligence, patience and cross cultural understanding made so clear in this new work. American small business has a 30 trillion market that, once realized, could easily double our current exports and create more than 1 million new jobs.

Despite the problems in the world, American business must quickly get more comfortable and educated about the perciptions that divide us and the bridges that connect us.

Even if you can not get a copy of her new book, "The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business," I have posted a quick interview from You Tube that requires no reading and will teach the basic idea. And, if you don't have the few minutes to listen, you probably are not a good candidate for the incredibly lucrative, yet much slower, pace of the global market.

Indeed, that would be a shame and truly a lost economic opportunity.

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