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Of all the things Dave Gray worried about when he branched out overseas, tripe never entered the equation.

Gray, founder and chairman of Xplane, a consulting and design firm based in Portland, Oregon, acquired a small firm in Madrid in late 2006, hoping to establish a European outpost and break into Spanish-speaking markets worldwide. Gray was eager to establish rapport between his Spanish and American staff members, and face-to-face meetings seemed like the best way to forge a bond. But during one dinner meeting in Madrid shortly after the acquisition, a visitor from Xplane’s St. Louis office refused to sample the tripe — considered a delicacy in Spain — and proceeded to make crude jokes about it.

It was a minor incident, but only one in a series of minor incidents that ultimately created tensions between the six employees in Xplane’s Madrid office and the 45 in its U.S. offices. “I expected to come in and say, ‘This is how we do things,’ ” says Gray, who relocated to Madrid to oversee the transition. But he quickly learned that the Madrid and American offices were separated by more than just an ocean.


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