Arab Youth Leaders, DaimlerChrysler Launch the ’07 Arab European Internship Exchange

The Young Arab Leaders (YAL) and opulent carmaker DaimlerChrysler (DC) announced recently the partaking of 10 students from various Arab countries in the Arab European Internship Exchange and of the 20 professional youths in the Top Talent programs.

Initiated by YAL and DC, the three to six month in-house internship program will bring together 10 chosen students from the Arab world to Germany. This will be conducted so that they will be able to experience practical work as well as manage heterogeneity in the context of Arabian and European businesses.

The 10 selected students, who are called ‘interns’, will be given a particular insight into sales, marketing, finance and controlling, information technology, purchasing, logistics and quality assurance.

The Chairman of the Young Arab Leaders, Saeed Al Muntafiq, said that the Arab European Internship Exchange program gives an opportunity to Arab students to experience and witness how huge organizations operate in the international scene (markets).

Meanwhile, the Top Talent program will be comprised of several key areas including management of cultures, market research, international business and production management of the industrial value chain. It has 2 modules. The first will be held in Stuttgart Germany and will be followed by six month virtual team cooperation between the Germany and Arab young professionals. And the second module will be held in January 2008 at The American University in Dubai.

Saeed Al Muntafiq added that the young professionals would comprehend how to manage heterogeneity in different contexts and boost reliable networks through intensive work on common tasks. And this is because of the intensive networking between future junior managers from the Arab and European countries.

A member of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler, Ruediger Grube, said that their company’s support with YAL depicts that DaimlerChrysler is fully dedicated to guide the development of the young generation in the Arab Region. He added that the Internship Exchange Program and the Top Talent Camp are stepping stones for the business sector to experience global business challenges in the Arab European scenario and to further strengthen the relationship between the Arab and the European worlds.

About The Arab European Internship Exchange

Initiated by Young Arab Leaders (YAL) and DaimlerChrysler (DC), the Arab European Internship Exchange is an initiative by Young Arab Leaders (YAL) and established to advocate good relationships between Arab students and managers from multinational companies based in Europe. It emphasizes on knowledge exchange in areas of entrepreneurship, leadership development and education.

The YAL and the DC believes that students can benefit largely from networking to help shape the future of their national economies
through intensifying relations between future junior managers from the Arab region and experienced European managers.

About Young Arab Leaders

The Young Arab Leaders is a network of Arab men and women who have experienced the power of action in their own lives, reached different levels of success for their age, are optimistic and can foresee a prosperous Arab future despite today’s difficulties. They are now in prominent positions of responsibility and are set for extraordinary achievement. They believe that their efforts and struggles today can affect their communities, countries and the region as a whole.

About DaimlerChrysler

A German car corporation DaimlerChrysler AG is the fifth largest car manufacturer in the world. DaimlerChrysler produces and supplies trucks and provides financial services through its DaimlerChrysler Financial Services arm. It also owns a big time stake in aerospace group EADS.

The company was established in 1998 after Daimler-Benz’s merging with Chrysler Corporation USA. It manufactures automobiles under the brands Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Smart, Maybach, GEM, and Mercedes-Benz.

DaimlerChrysler produces cars and trucks under the brand names Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Smart, Maybach, and GEM. The company also provides parts and accessories that are sold under the brand name Mopar.

Eagle, maker of Eagle oxygen sensor, is among its defunct marques. Other defunct brands include Barreiros, Commer, DeSoto, Fargo, Hillman, Humber, Imperial, Karrier, Plymouth, Simca, Sunbeam, Singer, and Valiant.

Outsourcing Leaders Speak Up

Offshore Outsourcing is an emotional subject these days and many senior managers are uncomfortable talking openly about their company’s projects for fear of being labeled unpatriotic job killers. One fellow from California told me that when he accepted a posting to run his company’s offshore facility in Philippines, a number of co-workers came to his office to let him know he was “tearing apart the very fabric of our nation.”

Even big-talking CEO’s, who can usually be counted upon to hype their company’s cost reduction strategies, are often remarkably silent about offshore outsourcing. They seem to put the subject on a similar level as pornography – they all want to sneak a peek at it but none want to admit to do so.

Happily, there are some who will talk about their experiences with Offshore Outsourcing and their comments are useful for the rest of us. Most seem optimistic and think the future of offshore outsourcing is bright. Nevertheless, no one should be misled that running an outsourcing facility in a developing country is a Sunday afternoon picnic. There are serious frustrations that must be contended with.

Charles Phelps is the Texan who runs the large Manila-based design engineering center of Fluor Daniel, one of the world’s largest engineering companies. The facility has been in Philippines for many years and is now able to develop complete engineering designs for large facilities in the oil & gas and manufacturing sectors. Charlie speaks highly of his Filipino employees. He says, “Our clients are always impressed when they visit our office. They see the smiles, the friendly atmosphere, the positive attitude of our team and immediately are impressed.”

Charlie became rather testy with me when I referred his center as a “back-office operation.” He said something to the effect of, “Richard, don’t you ever call us ‘back-office.’ We are a ‘Global Service Partner’ within Fluor’s world-wide operations and leading edge in our areas of focus.”

He also presented an interesting slant to the job loss worries at some US companies. Charlie believes employees at Fluor feel their jobs depend on offshore engineering design groups like his in Manila. Without Filipino engineers, their project bids would not be competitive in today’s global market.

Neil Elias started the Manila-based Business Processing facility of AIG, the world’s largest insurance company, from scratch a few years ago. He has good things to say about the quality and quantity applicants available for his processing work – all of whom are university graduates. He says his employees have a “real desire for training and a service orientation.” As well, Neil says government, schools and industry are all working together to make it a success.

John Standring is the talk of Manila these days for turning around the outsourced IT operation of Safeway, the mammoth supermarket chain. When John came, it was common knowledge among the local industry that the operation was a poor performer. After being extracted from a third party provider, the center lost its first General Manager just 5 months later. John’s turn-around results are said to have been dramatic and faster than most people here anticipated. He seems to enjoy talking on and on about his success but concedes that it was really just a matter of putting the right people in the right positions. John says the people you can hire in Philippines are not much different from those you can hire in the US or Canada.

Klaas Brouwer is Vice President of Global Technology for NASDAQ-listed Innodata Isogen, Inc. The company’s 5,000+ offshore employees provide high-end content and knowledge management services to US and European clients. Klaas is based in Manila but oversees operations for all facilities worldwide. When I asked him what advantages he has by operating offshore, he says it’s “the people.” For once, this fast-talking Dutchman had to be prodded for details about this. He said that people in western countries will work late to finish a job for the first week but you get a lot of long faces if you ask them to do this again for a second week. In Philippines, people work until the job is done, however long it takes.

Then there is the qualification availability. Klaas mentions that positions occupied by basic college graduates back in Europe are being taken by lawyers and doctors in his current company. He also talked about his people being loyal, friendly, trusting, on and on.

Salary costs are probably the only significant positive that business leaders are not overly keen to boast about. It is no secret, however, that these offshore employees who are so admired by their employers are available for a few hundred dollars per month. Despite the bashfulness, we can be sure that this factor warms the heart of many a CEO back in the home office.

But we all know that you don’t get something for nothing. There are plenty of problems operating offshore facilities and we should be aware of a few of them.

All offshore managers say there is a strong deficiency of management talent. In developing countries, it is not always easy to hire managers off the street who are capable of performing at international levels. And since outsourcing is such a new industry and growth rates in employment have been so astounding, it is understandable that there hasn’t been time to develop enough quality managers. As the industry continues to thrive, this predicament will only get worse.

Another increasing concern of senior managers is that their qualified staff are being hired away by overseas companies. Japan, Singapore and Saudi Arabia are examples of countries that are aggressively pursuing Filipinos and Indians. While writing this report, I received a distressed email asking for assistance, “They are going to try to hire away from me 20 of my top designers and ship them up to Japan after some language training. This will hurt me big. You know this company?” This threat is a currently an ongoing concern for those employing technical people and indications are that other skill sets could soon be impacted.

Another interesting challenge that most senior managers contend with has to do with perceptions of their company’s US and European teams that their operations are job killers. The result, the managers feel, is vastly increased scrutiny of offshore performance, and even a reluctance to work with the offshore operation. In turn, the offshore managers say they are forced to drive quality of Philippine and Indian output “above that of the work being performed in developed countries.”

Of course, there are a lot more challenges than the few discussed above. But, these are said to be manageable and more than outweighed by the advantages of working offshore.

International Executive Search in Southeast Asia

Chalre Associates is an Executive Search partner to multinational corporations throughout the Asia Pacific region but with specific focus in Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia.  Our purpose is to enhance these organizations by identifying, attracting and developing outstanding people.

Richard Mills CFA

Doing Business In China – Body Language, Lost In Translation

We are often led to believe that the non-verbal forms of our communication are so culturally bound that they are indelible and always remain with you even after living a lengthy time in a second culture.

This is far from the truth. The culturally bound, non-verbal habits of your native culture can often be over-ridden in spite of the inborn natural predilection of cultural blueprinting.

Most often, North American and European companies wishing to expand in China will send over their local ‘new market expert’ to initiate contact with local authorities and business leaders. Equipped with the socially proper forms of introduction; the acceptable patterns for exchanging business cards; the appropriate level of gift giving along with best wishes and the encouraging advice of “Go get’um cowboy!, the poorly prepared candidate doesn’t realize the formidable task before him or her.

Rarely, the company will leap for joy, when they realize that they have a native born Mainland Chinese employee on staff and he or her is given the task of opening up the new territory in the expectation that sending back the expatriate to do the job gives the home company a great advantage.

Certainly, the ability to speak the host country’s language is a distinct and valuable advantage. But it is not the key to success by a long shot.

For example, I was recently in a series of meetings where just this sort of unhappy scenario occurred. The company was marketing a software bundle to a Beijing Company, for the burgeoning Chinese real estate market. Two of the Canadian company’s employees were native born Chinese who had immigrated to Canada over 8 and 12 years ago, respectively. There was a key Beijing resident point man who had all the connections required to introduce the Canadian company to the Beijing authorities. It should have been a reasonably easy project since all of the necessary components for successful communication were in place.

But something wasn’t going well.

The first meetings went as expected. The point man was graciously received by the hosts and the meetings started with acceptably low level representatives. Apologies were given for the absence of higher representatives. The reasons for their absence were acceptable since these introductory meetings were necessary in any event.

After two such meetings there was a stall to meet the higher decision makers. Continuing excuses and apologies were forthcoming and time went on. These circumstances can be expected and are often used as a negotiating tactic when dealing with foreigners who the Chinese regard as too eager to make deals. The strategy is meant to frustrate the foreigners and to agitate their natural impatience so as to extort concessions during final negotiations. The two native Chinese employees were aware of this tactic but were not influenced by the circumstances. Like their Canadian colleagues, having lived in the foreign influence for 8 to 12 years, in spite of their cultural blueprint, they were becoming more and more impatient.

Another meeting was finally arranged with more low level and intermediate level Beijing representatives but still the absence of the decision makers of whom apologies were again offered.

During the meeting I had the opportunity to observe everyone’s body language. Here it was helpful to understand which gestures were universal and which were culturally bound. The universal gestures, such as facial tics and eye contact should have been apparent to everyone, including the two Chinese Canadians. But they were ignored, having been overtaken by the new cultural standards they had been living under for a decade.

Finally, quite uncharacteristically, one of the Chinese Canadians shouted out his uncontained frustration and anger at the slow progress. The point man, a native Chinese, who should have been able to read the body language of his own countrymen, also shouted uncharacteristically, threatening to pull all of his financial support out of the project.

Such behavior is regarded as the most unacceptable behavior in any meeting or company in China. It causes the ‘lost face’ of both parties since one is shamed and the other is embarrassed for them. After some calming and soothing efforts by the hosts it was agreed to close the meetings for now and resume later when the decision maker could finally attend the meetings. This seemed to placate all those who had registered their vociferous complaints.

What went wrong? Why didn’t the Canadian company ever get anywhere with what was clearly a great product and one which everyone agreed could be put to good use and make a profit for everyone?

First of all the Chinese Canadians had forgotten the explicit non-verbal signs of their native cultural. They ignored the fact that the hosts, although showing outward respect for the point man were not going further than the intermediate stage which should have indicated that there was something superficial about the relationship between the point man and the hosts. He in fact had exaggerated the positive aspects of the relationship which as it happens did not run as deep as needed in these circumstances. This fact was apparent at different times. For example, the point man’s seating position in the meetings was relegated to a diminishing placement in the various meetings. If this had been noticed by the Chinese Canadians, it was misinterpreted as a sign that the hosts wanted to speak more candidly with the Canadian guests. As time went on, the hosts began to discount the comments of the point man which is very uncharacteristic This would never have happened if the point man held a prestigious place in his relationship with the Chinese hosts.

I later learned from a candid conversation with a nephew of the high ranking decision maker that the government had done business with the point man in the past but the relationship had deteriorated since. The offer of initial meetings was based on the appearance of respect in efforts to avoid unpleasantness. But the invitation was construed as a green light for the project. Also, when the two incidents of shouting occurred it should have been abundantly clear to the two Chinese Canadians that something was terribly wrong. If the relationship was solid this would never have occurred. Yet, the whole Canadian party held out for more than another month at great expense to the company, in the false hope of another meeting.

I have since witnessed several other similar meetings with English, German, American and South African companies to whom I have offered advice.

I cautioned each company, prepare your employees and representatives with knowledge that they can use when coming to do business in China. Arming them with superficial knowledge of greeting courtesies and gift giving rules just isn’t enough if you want to be successful. Teach them communication skills and especially appropriate non-verbal awareness and behaviour.

European Heroes (2005 )

Maud Fontenay

As my exploits in the field may be viewed as inertia personified, I always greet tales of extraordinary physical endurance with a mixture of awe and wonder. The awe is simple enough – and in the case of the youthful Maud, quite understandable – but the wonder is how bonkers some people are. There are innumerable cases of individuals fulfilling long held ambitions by testing their limits and Maud Fontenay demonstrates this point in spades.

Maud Fontenay is a slight, slender woman of 27 who sought to show that size and strength alone mean little without mental toughness and resourcefulness. Her achievement? Rowing 7,000 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean on her own in 73 days while variously contending with a broken seawater filtration system and diving into shark infested waters to fix her boat. Spending the first fifteen years of her life at sea was certainly a helpful start but, nonetheless, it’s a pretty staggering feat. As for my feet, you can be assured they remain rooted to the spot.

Jeff Porter

Thank God, I have never borne personal witness to a terrorist outrage or other catastrophe. Yet, if I was and I was also compus mentus, what would I do? Run for the proverbial exits? Sit in shock? Or, indeed, take some responsibility? That all assumes, of course, that I only had myself to worry about and not the scenario that confronted Jeff Porter.

Porter is a driver on the London Underground who saw a train on an adjacent track blown up as part of the orchestrated campaign last July by supporters of al Qaeda. His presence of mind as he approached Edgware Road station ensured the death toll was minimised. He decamped from his train, in the wake of this ferocious explosion, and groped his way through the dust, smoke and trapped bodies to raise the alarm in the main body of the station. He subsequently assisted in the orderly evacuation of around 1,000 passengers from his train in small groups. We often marvel at the heroic achievements of trained emergency services so Jeff Porter, a modest, self effacing train driver, deserves our great admiration all the more.

Lars G. Josefsson

I attended a seminar recently which, among other things, showed the result of a vox pop that asked members of the public whether they were both environmentally friendly and aware. The bemusement, embarrassment and mild irritation that unfolded on screen was highly instructive and was almost a mirror image of the attitude and stance of business leaders and politicians. Climate change is the most serious long term threat to the planet, far more than the threat of race wars or mutant viruses, and Lars G. Josefsson is among the most serious champions of this issue.

His influence reflects his position as CEO of Vattenfall, the Swedish state controlled electricity company, and he has used it to exert pressure on G8, the United Nations and the international business community to impose a worldwide system to limit carbon dioxide emissions over the next century. This will permit a market in which quotas may be traded and indicates that energy providers are starting to regulate their industry before governments demand it. The brand of enlightened radicalism displayed by Josefsson has been an infrequent guest in boardrooms hitherto but is, I suspect, something we’ll be seeing rather more of in the future.