Many years ago, my husband and I came to America with nothing but two suitcases and a love for each other and entrepreneurship. We had no money, and we were clueless about American culture -- but we had passion, curiosity and a willingness to work day and night to find success.
These are the main advantages of an immigrant mindset; we’re comfortable with being uncomfortable, we love to learn and we’re willing to take big risks -- all important ingredients for launching successful businesses.
Many immigrants have capitalized on this mentality. According to a Duke University study, nearly 52 percent of Silicon Valley startups launched from 1995 to 2005 were founded by foreign transplants. Immigrants are almost twice as likely as native-born Americans to become entrepreneurs. U.S. companies that feature foreign-born executives tend to enjoy higher returns on equity.
The perks are clear, but you don’t actually have to be an immigrant to think this way.
Adopting an international mindset.
Similar to entrepreneurship, immigration is like a roller coaster. There are inevitable highs and lows along the way that require flexibility and a positive attitude. But an international viewpoint goes beyond grit and determination; there’s also an element of global awareness that needs to be factored in.
Even if your business only operates domestically, America has become a globalized society that represents many cultures, habits and social norms. To best address your customers’ needs and demands, it’s in your best interest to develop and maintain a global perspective. This means being open to new ideas, solutions and growth opportunities. It also means developing a cultural sensitivity and a willingness to learn from others.
Without thinking globally, you deprive your business of a golden chance to establish a foothold and expand into new markets. But if you’re open and adaptable, these new opportunities will come knocking on your door.
Here’s how to boost your entire startup’s international perspective -- regardless of where you’re from:
When hiring, create a company culture that embraces different backgrounds and viewpoints. A diverse workforce will help your startup appeal to a larger customer base and improve your business overall. One study showed that stock return for diverse companies is more than twice that of those with low levels of diversity.
Study cultural quirks.
Culture plays a huge role in driving consumer behavior, business practices and general business etiquette. Take time to educate yourself and your company about cultural differences, norms and values. Aerospace company Boeing tackles cultural awareness from several different avenues, both sending its 300,000-plus employees to seminars and conducting one-on-on training sessions to ensure it properly reaches its international clients.
Hit the road.
There’s only so much you can learn without actually immersing yourself in different cultures. Give your team members an opportunity to travel to other countries -- especially ones they may have to do business with down the road -- and attend international trade shows and meetings. They need to see firsthand how different cultures work and interact.
Before any of this can happen, you -- as the leader -- need to take time to identify how your personal beliefs, strengths and weaknesses might differ from others’ across the globe. Understanding who you are is the first step to understanding who others are, and taking this Strength Finder 2.0 test will help you make this assessment.
If you’re an entrepreneur who resists change and isn’t interested in the viewpoints of others, you should seriously reconsider your career choice. Successfully growing a business requires drive, flexibility and, most importantly, understanding.