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School of Business and INSEAD Partner to Bring Insights on "Managing Across Cultures"

April 26, 2010
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insead panel

Event panelists (left to right): Francisco X. Santeiro,
Christophe Maincourt, Adam Goldstein, Raul
Alvarez, and moderater, Dean Barabara Kahn

Alumni of the School of Business and fellow business school INSEAD joined other members of the University and business communities to gain insights from a panel of global executives on managing across cultures at the School April 20.

The School hosted the panel with INSEAD, the international graduate business school that has campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi and is a pioneer in international business education. The partnership, one of a number the School has forged with leading business schools around the world, helps students and faculty expand their global focus.

School of Business Dean Barbara Kahn moderated the lively talk by leaders from fast-food giant McDonald's, Royal Caribbean cruise line, luxury goods maker Cartier and delivery titan FedEx.

Discussions ranged from how to build a corporate culture worldwide and meld local cultures into daily operations to how to navigate differences-from language to laws-among markets. "My biggest lesson was to go to the local experts," said Raul Alvarez (BBA '76), a former president of McDonald's whose career spanned Spain, Mexico, the United States and nations beyond.

Panelists agreed it's no longer just a nicety or personal advantage for an executive to manage well across cultures. Instead, it is imperative to effectively lead across borders, as business goes global and Brazil, China and other developing nations account for a larger share of companies' sales.

Among the insights panelists shared during the hour-plus panel:

  • Let locals run business in their own country. McDonald's, for instance, has fewer than 100 Americans working outside the United States. The company sets strict standards for products and systems, but it leaves locals who know their own markets best to run the local operations, Alvarez said.
  • Seize challenges as opportunities. The global recession helped Royal Caribbean drive home the message for staff worldwide to work together more closely and offer even better service to customers. They clearly understand that, "If they don't help change, maybe there'd be no more company," said Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Miami-based Royal Caribbean International and an INSEAD graduate.
  • Encourage competition across cultures. Cartier coaches sales staff at its boutiques and monitors results through mystery shoppers. The company shares the findings and international rankings with stores. When a boutique falls short, its staff invariably work harder to raise their ranking, said Christophe Maincourt, Cartier's president for Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Embrace local cultures and customs. FedEx demands fast and efficient delivery, but it revels in Mexican staff proudly displaying images of that country's beloved Virgin of Guadeloupe at Mexican stores. That lets them make FedEx their own, said Francisco Santeiro, a managing director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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