Getting Back is Trickier
Getting around the world is easy. Very easy. Maybe too easy. It can be so inexpensive and easy that one can quickly end up in situations which expose one to potential health and safety consequences.
Most of the risk can be ameliorated with some simple planning and basic prophylaxis in just a couple categories.
Planning and Prep
Even if you have traveled safely in the past without consideration for these points, start incorporating them into your travel prep routine now. You have been lucky in the past if you haven't had problems. Basic categories for planning and behavior include:
- General risk assessment - Is there prevalent or increasing unrest? Violence in neighboring countries? Meteorological disturbances? Substantial political discord and a history of protests which accompany such discord? Elections or major court decisions upcoming? Just a couple examples but the point is to anticipate and avoid potential flash points and substantial uncertainties.
- Health issues - Use a travel clinic. Sure your insurance may balk, and your PCP will assert that they are eminently capable of providing proper pre-travel care. However the fact is that they are not infectious disease specialists, and further many of the funky and unusual ailments to which international travel exposes you are ones for which the treatment is problematic and the illness quite severe. Sensible and comprehensive prophylaxis is really essential, and is a process with periodic boosters, as well as medications for every trip in some cases (e.g. malaria) - not a "one time" visit. The CDC website provides country specific recommendations which you can discuss with your travel clinic physician.
- Country requirements - some countries require proof of certain vaccinations prior to entry. others will deny entry based on certain other previous entry/exit stamps from other countries in your passport
- Situational awareness - this is the most important. Don't space out. Sense uncertain circumstances and take steps to secure yourself and your property accordingly. AVOID problems.
Sensible Action Steps
- Register with the State Department's STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) and register your travels so that in case of real unrest the local embassy / consulate will know they need to account for you
- Secure your passport in an appropriate secure location but carry a photocopy with you
- Subscribe to a global intelligence briefing service like Stratfor. With very little effort one can easily keep one's "ear to the rail" and monitor circumstances prior to departure or even while in country.
- Schedule initial (and appropriate follow up) appointment at a nearby travel clinic to ensure that all vaccinations are current and that trip specific meds are adequate, appropriate for the destination, and have not lapsed in expiry
- Research any country specific requirements for vaccination or other preparation and ensure that no restrictions on previous travel to other countries which might be reflected in your passport would create complications
- Read and practice the suggestions outlined in Stratfor's special series "Common Sense When Traveling Abroad" - incorporate simple suggestions like carrying a "throw down wallet" and moving quickly through areas of airports and hotels "outside security" to spend time waiting in more secure areas. General awareness is the central theme
- Plan your wardrobe to blend in, or at least to "stand out" less. Speak in measured tones and be circumspect in displaying cash, etc. Don't make yourself a target for simple theft or draw unnecessary attention to yourself
- Monitor alcohol consumption and fatigue (harder to do with international travel) since both dull ones situational awareness
- Research options and purchase membership in a medical evacuation insurance service. Car accidents are a common cause of serious injury and many people strongly prefer local familiar (and probably higher quality care) as soon as possible. Yet evacuations can cost literally >$100K. I have traditionally used Medjet Assist although there are other good options.
Aware but not Worried
People travel to all sorts of exotic and dangerous destinations routinely - and almost always without security or prolonged health challenges. But there are clearly risks, and understanding and preemptively addressing those to the greatest extent reasonably possible is only prudent. Ultimately it is a sensible business practice. Be cognizant and adapt to prevailing conditions. But don't be paranoid.Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
It's 11pm, you've just finished a late business dinner and are eager to get back to the hotel. You know you have at least a full hour of work to clean out your email and you have a meeting scheduled for 8am. You come to a street to cross what do you do?
If you are German you turn left or right to the nearest crosswalk and then wait for the walk light even if there is no traffic, and then walk briskly to the hotel. If you are Indian you look right and step into the street at any point and start to work your way across traffic, jockeying for an propitious looking ric with whom you would vigorously negotiate.
I know.....generalizations. But guess what? They are founded in reality and can be key to helping us in global business. Should we make decisions based on them? No - at least not exclusively. But if we are aware of some of the fundamental sociological differences (I'm not talking about the half bow and two handed business card transfer - that's the simple stuff; rather I mean the subconscious, visceral factors) then we can adjust our approach to minimize the risk of nasty surprises.
Vanity Fair's Michael Lewis' most recent piece (It's the Economy, Dummkopf) speaks to the cultural factors that allowed Germans who are predisposed to risk aversion to become thoroughly embroiled in the "sub prime" crisis.
Superficially Lewis' article struggles to draw a tenuous (at best) correlation between what he asserts is a German fascination with filth/feces and their bond traders naivetee. I'm married to a German national, was born in Germany and have spent substantial time there and done substantial business with Germans - from senior management to factory workers; from old East and old West; from North and South. I will grant that "Scheiße" is tossed about far more casually in more formal and mixed company settings than our equivalent is here, but I have never encountered the virulent (or even a latent) preoccupation with bodily functions which Lewis identifies.
But perhaps his prurient context will hold one's attention long enough to grasp his thesis - and in this area I completely agree.
German bankers bought subprime bonds because their mindset simply assumed that, as "I've ticked off all the boxes (data points which needed to be confirmed). (Therefore) There is no risk."
You can argue (and people will) for generations about the naivetee or ignorance of that position but unchanged will remain the fact that sociological predilections affect business. We all approach relationships and transactions with a filter which simultaneously enhances and retards our capacity to understand the complex situation we face. Our global partners, distributors, customers, employees, etc. will have similarly biased perspectives. And when those clash we will have problems.
The problems are always exacerbated because no one understands what they did wrong...... because they are doing things just the way they are supposed to be done. Whether waiting for a waiting for a walk signal on an empty street, willfully pillaging IP or presuming that a price is fixed (or that it is naturally inflated by 50%) the potential pitfalls abound. (Keep your eye out for an upcoming post digesting the McKinsey Quarterly article "Remapping your strategic mind-set" or how your assumptions and biases will get you in a heap of expensive trouble!)
How do people cross the street in your target markets? Or is your product one which should be targeted at markets which cross the street in a certain way? Obviously the "Jaywalking Index" is a spoof, but the principle is critical.
That's why you need experienced assistance as you launch or expand your global business program. You can rail about how the XXXX do business and how unethical it is, or you can work to position your company and product to succeed. But if you cross that street against the light unwittingly, you could end up adorning the hood of a German driver who would never have imagined that someone might act so irrationally.
Consilium can help - as the little voice whispering in your ear warning you not to cross that German street until you have a walk signal, or to incorporate a component into your distributor training to address pricing strategies (and many more standard and customized areas.)
Although each of his pieces on the affects of the economic crisis in Europe is lengthy and takes some time to read, the articles are very readable and informative. It's worth downloading pdfs to your kindle for beach or commuter rail reading.
Iceland - April '09 Wall Street on the Tundra
Greece - Oct '10 Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds
Ireland - March '11 When Irish Eyes are Crying
Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog