Doing business on the international plane presents many challenges because of a variety of factors which differ from one market to the other. These differences are basically informed by the environment of the host country, which is often times different from that at home. One of the environmental factors that present such a challenge is culture.
Culture can be defined as complex construct that embodies a people’s knowledge, morals, art, beliefs, customs, laws and other capabilities gathered by a community over time. The culture of the host country strongly impacts on the performance of a firm that engages in international business. Notable aspects of culture central to the conduct of international business include the social structure, religion, language and education. G4S, a company that has established itself in international business has had its fair share of challenges in this area.
Social Structure has to do with how society is socially organized. It could be looked at from the individual-group dimension, or from the social stratification dimension. Some societies consider an individual the pillar of social organization This is the scenario G4S encountered when it entered the American and most Western markets.
The challenge here was how to instill a sense of teamwork among employees. It was an uphill task for managers who had been socialized to believe in the superiority of teamwork, as individuals compete against each other for results. On the Japanese market however, the firm found that emphasis was on group, rather than individual performance. Though this is said to be the driving force behind the company’s success in Japan, it is vilified for imbedding creativity, and is touted as a stumbling block to dynamism. This, indeed, is a challenge the firm has had to deal with.
Social stratification has to do with placing members of society in certain classes. There are those in the lower, middle and upper classes. Many times, this is borne out of one’s family background, income or occupation. Those from the lower class only hope to move from that class to the upper one through a process called social mobility, which is in most cases done through education and job opportunities.
When opportunities for mobility are suffocated, there is likely to be conflict between the classes; and in the job situation, between management and employees. Some societies have room for social mobility, while others do not. A country like Britain has less social mobility. As a result, there is always simmering tension between management and workers, which the firm has had to deal with from time to time. When industrial disputes become frequent, the firm finds doing business in the country quite expensive. Such a problem is not common in America, where social mobility is easy.