Building relationships across the Atlantic

They spoke the same language, they studied the same topics, they were pursuing the same degree, but Post University students and their recent visitors from across the Atlantic learned fast that what the two sides were doing was hardly business as usual.

A contingent of students and professors from the Limerick Institute of Technology, an honors college in Ireland, got a taste of U.S. business practices during a visit to Post last month, learning things can be very different on the other side of the pond.

Dr. Ruediger Mueller, Academic Program Manager in Post University’s Malcolm Baldrige School of Business, gave a presentation on International Business to the visiting group as part of their visit. Mueller outlined some of the difficulties companies run into when moving into America and how to address this growing issue.

“I explained to the Irish visitors that you can’t come over to the U.S., set up shop, and think everyone is just going to buy your stuff,” Mueller said.

Despite seeming similarities between European cultures and the U.S. there are fundamental differences, especially in business culture, that are driven by misperceptions and stereotypes on both sides of the Atlantic, he said.

Cultural differences, a varying market size, investment challenges and market entry strategies are just a few of the challenges international business leaders need to consider. For example, because the U.S. market size is so substantial, market entry for overseas companies requires significant investments and few companies have the resources to cover the entire market.

Additionally, investments into the market are determined by company objectives and the mode of market entry. In almost all cases, investments are far more significant than estimated and even a small office will be expensive, according to Mueller.

Management is also an issue, said Mueller, because home country nationals usually understand their parent company but often run afoul of U.S. culture, laws, and regulations due to a mutual lack of understanding of the other side. An ideal management candidate is equally comfortable in the company’s home and host country, but such individuals are hard to find.

Visiting faculty member Donnacha McNamara, Head of the Limerick Institute of Technology School of Business and Humanities, said he felt the biggest difference between U.S.-based business and European-based business is the outlook.

“With such a large domestic market the outlook from domestic U.S. companies is on scale and logistics around the U.S., whereas in Europe most business must incorporate transnational issues such as culture, language, from the very start of their business plan,” McNamara said.

McNamara and his fellow professor Ronan o’Brien outlined the culture of business in Ireland, accentuating some of the positives.

“There is much more to Ireland than green pastures and Guinness Stout,” o’Brien said.

McNamara added that the overwhelming hospitality shown to their faculty and students by Post was the biggest takeaway from their visit.

“The effort of faculty in the Malcolm Baldrige School of Business, particularly Alisa Hunt and Rudi Mueller, is why international study abroad trips such as our visit from Limerick, Ireland are so successful,” McNamara said.

Mueller and Hunt have formed the beginning of a strong relationship with their counterparts in Ireland, which will help both institutions’ students gain a global perspective on business. Mueller said the intent is for Post students to now visit the Limerick Institute of Technology and receive the same experience the visiting Irish students and professors had while on campus.

“I feel we need to open ourselves up to the global marketplace and this is the first step in the right direction,” he said.

Stephen Paulone, Ph.D. is the Director of Graduate Business Programs offered through the Malcolm Baldrige School of Business at Post University. He has more than 25 years of experience in manufacturing, marketing, and finance, and has held such positions as marketing manager, manager of new product development, marketing program manager and finance director.

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