Expanding overseas needs a diverse leadership team

Many of Asia’s corporations are expanding their brands overseas. Cross-border promotion of a brand is relatively new for China and increasingly diverse for Japan. Japanese car and technology brands such as Toyota, Sony and Honda are already global household names. In China it is Alibaba and Lenovo that spring to mind.

Any company that is looking to expand internationally must ask itself whether the corporate culture be applied elsewhere? And can it be inclusive?

The number one issue is the management itself. Whether your aspiration is expanding your brand into a new country or acquiring overseas businesses and exporting your expertise, you are ultimately likely to export your management structure, style and brand values.

There is no one-size fits all management or business plan. The successful multinational usually has satellite offices that have different practices based on local laws and customs. However there  needs to be a basic corporate ethos and standards of conduct. The successful multinationals tend to have multicultural leadership that promotes equal opportunity in leadership.

That may sound too simplistic and obvious. However, often companies expanding overseas like to have senior leadership that is largely from their home nation, they do not change the acquiring company’s management and therefore do not add value beyond cash infusion. A leadership team that all looks and sounds the same puts a company at a disadvantage by shutting the door on diverse outlooks.

As companies do their due diligence on expansion, not only do they need to consider if it is strategically a fit and the finances are right, they also need to question if they have the right management team and integration plan. Establishing world-class management processes is the first step, not the last one.

Companies should ensure they have leadership programmes in place where they share the mission and strategic intent of the company. What the leadership programme looks like will vary from company to company, but having one is an absolute must, both for the home and host teams. Establishing best practice enables knowledge transfer and promotes a cohesive corporate ethos. Both the home team and the host team will need help to adapt to new ways of communication and doing business. It’s also crucial for recruitment: the best and brightest are not going to work for a company where they do not see opportunities for promotion. Leadership programmes highlight a path.

The second critical component companies need to have is genuine succession planning. Managers at both at home and overseas will need to develop new skills. Your people will need training in leadership, cultural sensitivity and the opportunity to gain experience in different parts of the business. Leadership programmes and succession planning have long been basic building blocks of world-class management

The bottom line is that as Asian companies look to expand their businesses into overseas markets they need to make sure their management teams are up for the task. Their aim should be to build a diverse leadership group that embraces best global practices.