There are words I prefer to avoid. Branding is one.
There is just too much diversity in personal definitions when you talk to people from different cultures.
Today on Twitter, I asked readers to give me their thoughts on another term I like to avoid using. Here is what I asked:
- Do you see a difference between the term “international business” and the term “global business”? If so, what is it?
There were a few answers I had to share with you:
- @DR4WARD – Domestic country doing business in neighboring country is international business. Competing on world chessboard is global.
- @deanmeistr - “Global” sounds more trendy i.e. includes “3rd world” nations automatically, international sounds old-style IMHO.
- @Lenticular_Girl – In media “global” is generic, and overused. The word “global” is going to become as useless as “green” soon in marcomm.
- @SirGrenville – My view is that Global represents a business proposition which is truly that. International any single/multiple transaction.
- @andyatkinskruge – My 2 cents – global and international often imply English-world – you need multinational / multilingual to break that paradigm
These answers are interesting. I think they are all “correct”.
But why did I ask the question in the first place?
Is The Difference Important?
I often talk to people that have different definitions or conceptions of what an international business is. These differences are so inbred, that I often find myself totally avoiding the words “international business” to avoid miscommunication.
People contact me because they want to develop their international business. The miscommunication problems are usually centered around the word “business”. To me a business has a structure. At the very minimum there is buying and selling carried out within a defined structure and with certain processes.
You cannot say you have an international business until you have a clearly defined structure to carry out your buying and selling.
What Is Global?
With internet, there is an additional monkey wrench. Everyone tends to think they have an international company just because they say they are willing to sell to people abroad. Often this means that the people abroad have to come looking for them too. all to often there is no business, just a bright shiny desire to sell abroad.
This is where two people can think they are speaking about the same thing, when in fact they are not. The problem gets more complicated when people say that global business and international business is the same thing. In a general conversation this can be true, to some extent. But it is not true when you are talking about international business.
My Definition Of International Business
I tend to use two different definitions for the term “international business”, depending on what I am talking about.
- General meaning – Any business that has international clients – buyers and sellers located in different countries.
- Specific meaning – To differentiate from an export company, an international company takes country-specific marketing and sales actions to sell their products in different countries.
And because of the difficulties I have in communicating with some clients, I try my best to avoid the term “global business”. The term “global business” just opens a can of worms.
Differences In Communication
In reality, I can use whatever definition I want to for “international business”, and I will always have a communication issue to deal with if the other person does not understand my definition.
This also goes for you and your definition of the term “international business”.
- Be sure others understand, and continue to understand your definition of international business.
In my experience, it is also wise not to interchange your use the term “global business” and “international business”. In fact I do not even use the term “global business” with anyone I speak to about “international business”. The word “global” can trigger different definitions and change the discussion.
The question of vocabulary may seem like an innocent one. There are dictionaries after all. The truth is that vocabulary does make a big difference in how others understand you. In different countries, words can take on slightly different meanings. Yes, even when you speak in English.
Participate in the March Cross Cultural Communication Challenge and learn more ways to improve your cross-cultural communication.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts and comments below.
Photos from Shutterstock.
Filed under: international business development
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