Featured Post

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Everything Korea August 22 Episode Seoul Man, The Book

This is a special edition and for a change, I‘d like to share what I feel is a great Korea facing resource—my friend Frank Ahrens’ soon to be a best seller.

Frank's career prior to the 3 years as Hyundai Motor Company’s head of global PR was a journalist for the Washington Post. His vivid accounts of the years with HMC provide readers with a look behind the curtain—some cultural, some personal experiences. All a must read for anyone working for a Korean company.

Speaking with Frank last week, what stands out is his observations and early first hand impressions into the workings of Hyundai—something those of us long involved with Korea-facing business far too often overlook, or take for granted as norm.

I strongly recommend you get a copy. To facilitate, here’s the link.https://www.amazon.com/Seoul-Man-Unexpected-Hilarity-Corporate/dp/0062405241

As Always….

Have a Korea-facing situation that needs addressing? Need some insights into Korea-facing challenges? In many cases, we can provide solutions and workarounds. Questions@koreabcw.com

Monday, August 15, 2016

Everything Korea August 15 Solution-Based Korea Facing

To follow up on last week’s popular commentary, I’d like to also share another resource….my highly regarded book from 2013, Korea Facing: Secrets for Success in Korean Global Business. In particular, it provides solid hands-on solutions to the many challenges in the global workplace. Working with so many of you, I, too, see the issues…daily.

The book’s focus was an ever-growing number of people employed by a Korean-based company outside South Korea. We know the challenges and, in particular, business norms, practices, and the decision-making processes vary across cultures. Expecting teams to "get it" seldom works. Hoping new employees and management can recognize and grasp Korean corporate norms is like throwing someone into a pool and assuming they will swim, not sink.

Who else will benefit?

Likewise, if your firm provides services or products to a South Korean overseas subsidiary or operations the exclusive coaching and consulting service will be beneficial and offer tactics to strengthen and maintain the relationship.

Finally, if your company has significant business in Korea, but leadership and headquarters are located in the West, we offer key management with coaching on how best to deal with pressing issues and challenges that surface.

Frankly, in all three cases I have had extensive experience. In each case I have seen people and companies both fail and succeed. Our coaching service will provide a roadmap to avoid the pitfalls, navigate around the roadblocks, and thrive.

In many cases, Korean leadership and teams have openly shared their challenges and pressing concerns along with the inner workings of the company with hopes I would "assist" in educating their overseas teams in the firm's vision, values, procedures, and methods.

In sum, I have offered hundred of hours of coaching, consulting, and training to both leadership and team employed by Korean firms, and to firms providing key services to their Korean partners.

To Dig Deeper

Here’s a link to “solution-packed” Korea Facing in a Complimentary PDF copy: http://unbouncepages.com/korea-facing/
or you can request a PDF from my personal assistant Stacey at stacey@koreabcw.com.

As Always….

Have a Korea-facing situation that needs addressing? Need some insights into Korea-facing challenges? In many cases, we can provide solutions and workarounds. Questions@koreabcw.com

Monday, August 08, 2016

Everything Korea August 8 Hyundai and Kia-- The early years, Plus some

After a week of travel supporting clients, some new and some longtime, I am reminded how needs vary. In many cases its sharing lessons learned and resources I’ve developed.

One that comes to mind is my 2012, Hyundai and Kia Motors: The Early Years and Product Development. Beyond a comprehensive look of the rise of one of the world’s top carmakers as the brands entered the market, it provides some great insights into Korea’s economic growth. This model at first produced products for their domestic needs then for export outside Korea.
In particular, Korea to enter many new markets looked to Japan and the West for a transfer of technology and explicit knowledge, such as blueprints, technical specifications, production manuals, and training of engineers and production teams.

Over time Korean companies developed their own in-house integrated technology research, development, and design not to mention the economies of scale needed for the Korean automaker to compete globally with industry heavyweights such as Sony and Panasonic in electronics and Toyota, Ford, GM, and VW in auto-production.

To Dig Deeper

Here’s a link to Hyundai and Kia Motors: The Early Years and Product Development


As Always….

Have a Korea-facing situation that needs addressing? Need some insights into Korea-facing challenges? In many cases, we can provide solutions and workarounds. My personal assistant Stacey at stacey@koreabcw.com can coordinate a time for us to chat by phone, meet or handle by email.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Everything Korea, August 1 Episode: Solving Problems and the Creative Process

I recently came upon a 5 step process for solving problems. My work centers on this, as well as reminding the CEOs I support that it’s a big part of their job, too — by default many leaders just focusing on operations. So the list peaked my interest. Digging deeper I found it was sourced from a book originally published by James Webb Young in 1939 — A Technique for Producing IdeasTo many in the industry, Young was one of the original Ad Men. Supporting so many in Marketing, Media and Branding, I found this fascinating.
As a caveat with South Korea new global branding as “Creative Korea,” it is only timely to look more closely at creativity, more so, having commented frequently in this Vodcast on the Korean vs. Western creative class. (My PDF on the topics is available upon request).

Let look at James Webb Young’s process.
  1. Gather new material. At first, you learn. During this stage you focus on 1) learning specific material directly related to your task and 2) learning general material by becoming fascinated with a wide range of concepts.
  1. Thoroughly work over the materials in your mind. During this stage, you examine what you have learned by looking at the facts from different angles and experimenting with fitting various ideas together.
  1. Step away from the problem. Next, you put the problem completely out of your mind and go do something else that excites you and energizes you.
  1. Let your idea return to you. At some point, but only after you have stopped thinking about it, your idea will come back to you with a flash of insight and renewed energy.
  1. Shape and develop your idea based on feedback. For any idea to succeed, you must release it out into the world, submit it to criticism, and adapt it as needed.
As always, we appreciate you comments and feedback. Please feel free to share either privately at questions@bcwkorea.com or publicly in the comment section.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Everything Korea, July 25 Episode: Mentoring, Leadership and West Point

In last week’s commentary, I shared my recent Branding In Asia interview. 

Topics ranged from Korea’s changing corporate culture to upmarket trends with Korean automakers Hyundai, Kia, and their new stand-alone luxury brand Genesis. 

What drew much attention was the profile’s mention of my 40+ years of Korean martial arts experience, the Tae Kwon Do Hall of Fame, and more so my years at the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point. From 1983 to 1991, I served as the Cadet martial arts instructor and USMA Karate Team coach. 

 Don Southerton (center) w/ USMA West Point Cadet 
Army Karate Team 1989-1990. 
Over the years, I remained in contact with a few of the former cadets. More recently via Facebook and Linkedin, I have been re-united with many more… This had been rewarding on several levels including how they served their country in peace time and conflict as well as how they have become outstanding leaders in both the private and public sectors.

Personally, beyond seeing how their lives have unfolded, what touches me most are the kind words they share. It but reminds me the impact we have on other’s lives and the need to support and mentor whenever possible… the fruits of this labor revealed over time.

As one former cadet shared:
I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for everything you taught me and the team. I’ve applied those lessons time and again and worked to pass the knowledge on. I just retired after 27 years in the Army. Time does pass swiftly :) Please accept my best wishes for your continued success. Attached is a recommendation, if it is helpful.

Linkedin Recommendation Link ( Scroll down to USMA/ West Point) https://www.linkedin.com/in/donsoutherton

All said, much of my day is devoted to supporting key leadership --part sounding board, part helping keep the issues in perspective, part helping them keep their job... and providing workarounds and alternatives---all with a Korea facing lens.

Connecting Deeper

Have a Korea-facing situation that needs addressing? Need insights into Korea-facing business? In many cases, we can provide solutions and workarounds.

My personal assistant Stacey at stacey@koreabcw.com can coordinate a time for us to chat by phone, meet or handle by email.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Everything Korea July 19 Episode: Branding in Asia

Much of my client work supporting Korea-facing business involves mentoring Marketing, Creative and Media leadership and teams. This has ranged from on-boarding new Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Creatives to CEOs and COOs of new Agencies of Record (AOR) as well as ongoing support across their teams. In fact, I have interacted with most of the top “A-list” Ad, Digital, Media and Marketing groups and their organizations.

I have come to find branding especially fascinating and peaking my interest. More so, the Korean and Asian approach to the market in contrast to the West.

One resource I’d like to share and that stands out is Branding In Asia.

They provide a wealth of information for the industry into Asia’s diverse and widely varied tastes. In particular, Branding in Asia explores exciting new ideas and creative concepts exploding from the mind of Asia. Please subscribe.

It is only timely, that I was just asked to share some thoughts in their magazine.

I’ve included two Q&As from the profile. For the full article go to: 

Q: What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the business culture in Korea over the years?

A: For starters, Change is a constant within the Korean companies. As for corporate culture, Korean companies have found that as they expanded operations overseas the rigid norms and practices that worked well domestically needed to be adapted to local Western markets. In turn, this gap in cultures is well recognized by HQ teams who are in daily interactions with the West. Most recently, the leading Korean brands have crafted more global savvy corporate visions, core values and communications to reflect their international footprint and diverse workforce. In some cases, I have developed and shared these programs worldwide.

Q: You’ve said that Korea is the place for companies to start before moving into neighboring markets like China and Japan. Can you talk about that?

A: International market entry can be a huge challenge for Western brands looking at new opportunities. I have long seen Korea as providing a sound entry point for further expansion into China, Japan, India and Vietnam. Ever growing, Korean companies have divisions in these countries and have strong international business networks and supply chains. Options include partnering in a Joint Venture or Licensing Agreement with a local Korean firm, first for Korea, and then for a rollout across East Asia.

Again, for the full article go to: http://brandinginasia.com/don-southerton-interview/
One last thing…

Have a Korea-facing situation that needs addressing? Need some insights into Korea-facing business? In many cases, we can provide solutions and workarounds.

My personal assistant Stacey at stacey@koreabcw.com can coordinate a time for us to chat by phone, meet or handle by email.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Korean Corporate Culture Immersion - Everything Korea: July 11 Episode.

“Where were you a year ago?”-- A comment after a recent international level leadership mentoring getaway.  

Sadly, I hear it often and it can range from understanding workplace protocols to miscommunications between the Korean and Western teams.

That begs the question on when is the best time to ensure new western leadership and teams receive an immersion in Korean workplace norms, practices, expectations and mindset?

Immediate, a few days into the new job, or after they are on the job and caught up with all the urgent matters?

Having provided mentoring and coaching to a number of CEOs, COOs, VPs of Marketing, Sales, and Service, as well as teams, how company and leadership view timing has varied.

Many top leaders recognize from their own experience that with immediate mentoring and coaching the new employee will better tackle the issues and challenges set before them.  In the best cases, I am onsite Day One….


Failing to have a grasp fully the Korea facing side of the business in for example decision making, approvals, communications (often one way), risk avoidance, and the what is the “Role of a Coordinator”…. will and does impact the new executive or team member.  

As one veteran manager shared that a new executive can easily make costly mistakes or miscalculations without considering all the Culture nuances.

So where are the challenges?

  1. Huge workload demands dropped on the new employee… their days overbooked with meetings although they do recognize the benefit of mentoring and coaching.
  1. Local Korean teams seeing value in the mentoring, but feel best put off for a while. (Code word it costs money and unless a crisis let’s delay and we may not need).  A caveat to this is if there has been a turnover of western executives (fired or resigned) due to poor understanding / conflict with the Korean side of the business, etc., they want the mentoring ASAP for the new executive.

  1. New executive or team member feel they have a grasp of the Korea side of the business—often because they have worked for other international OEMs like the Japanese.   

All said, there is no escaping the need to get you and the team mentoring, coaching and skills sets. I am here to support. Just a call away.  

My personal assistant Stacey at stacey@koreabcw.com can coordinate a time for us to chat by phone, meet or handle by email.

One more thing, if you are not already subscribing to my YouTube channel take a moment and click the subscribe link.