Sunday, January 31, 2010

Everything Korean: Expectations

By Don Southerton, President and CEO Bridging Culture Worldwide

Welcome to this edition of Everything Korean: Insights into Korean Business. As we enter February 2010, it looks like the US and Korean economies have been recovering--in Korea some are concerned over a double dip recession, a strong won eroding profits, and if the Chinese economy contracted--how would they deal with its impact on Korea--now rivaling that of US Korean economic ties. That said, Korea's top tier companies like Samsung and Hyundai Kia are posting record 2009 sales and profit. For example, Samsung Electronic sales exceeded $ 117 billion. Their profits, like those at Hyundai Kia, soared, too.

Moving right along, today I'd like to share in this vodcast a topic many viewers will find valuable. I know many firms have successfully gained new business opportunities with Korea based companies. Others viewers are hopeful at the prospect of Korea focused business ventures.

Many of you did a great job meeting with Korean teams and sharing your services. You were culturally sensitive and gained the trust of your Korean client. You negotiated well. The deal is signed and its time to perform. Sadly the honeymoon is over. Challenges arise, what appeared to be clear expectations can now seem murky with poor alignment and weak communications.

Why? There are a number of reasons. One is that teams that meet, bond, and negotiate are seldom the one's actually doing the work. The teams on both sides that crafted the deal are well skilled in global business. The teams doing the work are talented, but usually less skilled--many have no experience either working with Koreans, or Koreans who have limited experience working with American or international teams. A caveat to this is that many of the Korean teams are bright, but very junior (sawon or daeri), new to the workplace and tend to be generalists, whereas your team is comprised of highly specialized veterans.

So what's the solution? Frankly in my experience the most successful firms show great leadership. Top management stays well informed, get coached, and is frequently advised and updated on changing Korean business norms and the client. They provide constant positive and upbeat support.

Second, they make sure their teams get training and support. Expecting the team to "get it" seldom works--and if it does it takes time, is costly, contributes to stress, poor productivity and even employee turnover. In fact, expecting non-Koreans to understand Korean culture, its changing workplace, and your client is like throwing someone into a pool and assuming they will swim, not sink.

To conclude,
In dealing with your Korean partners, understand the huge stress loads within Korean based firms—pressures to endure and leap frog ahead of the global competition. They need to perform and you will be expected to perform also. Be mindful and culturally sensitive at all times. BCW is dedicated to providing much needed coaching and training. We can also provide research, analysis, and strategy to you and your teams. As always, we are here to assist and support 24-7-365.

Contact Don Southerton

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