Working Internationally

I have been fortunate to live, work and play (rugby) around the world during my career and that international experience will help us seek out new markets overseas.

Schumann Consult’s global aspirations require us to travel extensively to build relationships internationally with people of different cultures and working practices all of which need to be understood, respected, adopted and embraced if we are to be successful.

My recent visit to Hong Kong brought once again this issue into focus so I thought it might be useful to share 10 key points with those of you embarking on similar activities, perhaps the first time:

  1. Always have in mind a clear purpose for the visit and identify specific and measurable outcomes that can be reviewed and analysed to determine if the time and expense was worth it.
  2. Remember that each visit is a financial investment and should produce a return of some kind. This is true whether the visit is project/opportunity specific or simply a marketing effort.
  3. Strike the right balance between the spending on air fares/hotels/living allowances so as to maximise effectiveness and get best value. This is equally important irrespective of whether the costs are being reimbursed by a client or coming out of your own pocket. Being in a fit state to work hard on arrival, having facilities on hand to work effectively, retaining flexibility to respond to requests and being seen as a serious “player” are all important factors. Only idiots waste money needlessly.
  4. Determine a set of rules to suit the length of the journey and what needs to be done while in the “alien” environment. Remember doing everything as cheap as humanly possible can be a false economy so I always maximise the use of hubs when flying more than 5 hours so as to get a better quality seat and stay at 4* hotels that are comfortable and have decent facilities to support your needs e.g. working (free) wi-fi, a business centre, central location, somewhere to eat etc.
  5. Plan your trip carefully such that you arrive in good time and are able to find where you are going. Don’t try and fill every hour of every day with meetings but leave gaps so as to be flexible enough when things change – because they will.
  6. Be familiar with local customs and rules of etiquette so as not to cause offence and blow your chances before you start.
  7. Get enough sleep and remember that jet lag can be a “bugger”.
  8. If you are serious about working in a new country long-term plan on setting up or linking with an existing, local office because the days of western consultants flying in and out to deliver services are long gone – local clients demand their consultants to be available when called and to be dealing with firms committed to that particular country, city or location.
  9. Travelling is tiring and don’t kill your self by working twice as many hours, eating and drinking too much. Leave some time to relax especially when you return. That is one very good reason to use a hub on very long flights where you can get a business class seat for the price of an economy ticket – it just means that your travel dates are fixed and will cost a few pounds to change the booking which is always best done after the outbound flight has been completed.
  10. Don’t be a hero. I have seen so many people burn themselves out or become seriously ill by trying to show how tough and important they are by working all day, grabbing an overnight flight, straight into the office for meetings and then flying back overnight after a few too many drinks. This the quickest way to an early grave and you are a long time dead. I found out the hard way and suffered a heart attack at 44 when I quickly realised that I was neither indestructible or indispensable!! The business and my effectiveness improved substantially after that when I decided to just take a little more time in everything I do.

Hope that helps – and saves lives!!!!!!!

Nick Schumann

Nick Schumann

Founder and Director at Schumann Consult Ltd
Having built the world’s largest specification consultancy and developed innovative methods for the implementation of new design management techniques Nick is considered to be one of the world’s leading authorities in his field writing, lecturing and providing advice to many industry leaders.
Nick Schumann

Posted on April 2, 2013 in #justsaying

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