Globalization and Cultural Differences

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People in Europe and Asia buy consumer goods, drink cafe lattes and dine on burgers. So why is it so hard for U.S. companies to expand overseas? Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), Starbucks (SBUX) and McDonald’s (MCD) and many American-based players ran into growing pains, missteps and outright failures when opening outlets abroad.

Mastering cultural differences and understanding European, Asian or Latin American customers affect bottom-line results. The companies that make the cultural adjustments thrive, and the inflexible retailers either adapt or fail.

“Americans think if they are well-intentioned and go overseas or anywhere, they’ll be successful. Being well-intentioned isn’t enough,” said Charlene Solomon, a management consultant who co-wrote “Managing Across Cultures” with Michael S. Schell. She says businesspeople need to understand cultural differences and pinpoint what global customers want from their product.

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