Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Everything Korea: May 25 Episode: Diverse Sub-cultures

Coming off the Memorial Day Weekend Holiday here.  I use holidays as a time to write, read, recharge and re-focus. This means opting out perusing Facebook and Twitter, as well as checking emails.  I’m happy this year both the American holiday and Buddha’s Birthday (a legal holiday in Korea) fall together.  

I was again asked what’s been on my reading list.  I recommend for starters, Brian Grazer’s (the Hollywood producer and with creative partner Ron Howard founded Imagine Entertainment) new book A Curious Mind

A second Book:  The start-up of YOU, by Reid Hoffman, co-founder and Chairman of Linkedin

And, Hatching Twitter, by Nick Bilton

All three give some great insights into the varying aspect of American business--behind the scenes and sub-cultures.

This brings us to today’s topic—these recognizing diverse sub-cultures.  To often like an iceberg what is seen on the surface only shares a potion of a business and in particular for that business model in a respective market or region.

What is truly deceptive is that on the surface business is business, and all can appear similar.  Where the challenge emerges is that each business sectors can vary considerably in the West, and the three books I mention highlight just how different.

For example Brian Grazer, as a Hollywood insider and successful TV and film producer talks about expectations within filmmaking and specifically Hollywood that require special mindset— which at the core is “creating ideas.”

Building on this, the other two books look at recent trends and sub-cultures that exist within…

As the Linkedin Chairman points out that in contrast to an old model embodied by the once great Detroit, we find the entrepreneurial mojo of Silicon Valley embracing a willingness to take bold risks and accept failure, coupled with a network of alliances to work in collective action. 

More revealing to inner workings, we find in Hatching Twitter that can things vary lots even across startups.  Cited in the book one of the Twitter co-founders Biz Stone willingly went to a startup which would become Twitter from  “unlimited free meals, free snacks, free buses to work, and a free inexhaustible everything at Google  and replaced with a office where homeless people slept in stairway, the only free transportation was his two feet, and the only free food and drink was a beer after work if EV [his boss] picked up the tab.”

This said, the author notes, “ The cultural difference was incalculable. The sterile, robotic culture of Google, with its know-it –all engineers and bossy bosses, was now replaced with tattooed hackers with a do-what-you-want mentality.”

So what am I saying… 

To my friends and clients in Korea, I’d share these are just several examples of the diversity in Western work culture and norms—a deep understanding required to be effective in the local market. 

In contrast, although no two Korean Groups are entirely alike in their mindset and even Divisions and sister companies within a Group can vary some—workplace culture, norms and process are very relatively similar.  For example, hierarchical titles, role of Finance, a team focus, a junior's deference to seniors, pressure to take action over considerable upfront critical thinking, as well as top down oversight and decision making.

All said, I am often asked about a pet project of mine over the past year Mad For Garlic.  My Korean friends and the expat community in Korea know the brand well. In short…. Mad For Garlic is known for its unique and innovative menu with garlic-specialized Italian cuisine.

I was asked to assist the team in US market entry. A rare and very smart move by the Korean team who recognized the need for local support. Our first round was getting the word out to the FSR industry.  This is summed up nice in a PDF study. Link below. 

As if often the best case, our original strategy to find a master developer for the US market has evolved to now finding a VC or Angel to invest in the International development of the brand.  This makes considerable sense with a recent  $48 MM investment by Standard Chartered Private Equity (SCPE) in the now 40 plus domestic Korea Mad For Garlic operations. This new partnership with SCPE will accelerate Mad for Garlic's Korea expansion.  Working with the Korean team we seek to accelerate the International development though a similar partnership.  Questions, thoughts or an interest, please contact me directly and we’d love to discuss more.

Oh and one more thing…. I am off to Nashville, Tenn. area this week and more specifically as speaker a panel on international development held in Clarksville-Montgomery County, soon be home to a $180MM Hankook Tire plant. 

So until next time….


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