Business education Featured

7:00pm EDT February 28, 2007

Business is always changing, and it seems today those changes happen faster than ever. Right now, it’s more global than ever before, and those who want to succeed need to recognize that and educate themselves on global business principles.

Communication is the number one skill demanded by companies recruiting employees who can make an impact right away, says Dr. David D. Long, chancellor and COO of Northwood University in Midland.

Smart Business spoke with Long about the importance of modern-day businesspeople getting a global business education and the avenues available for them to do so.

Why is business more global today than ever before?

Technology changes in the last decade, and particularly the past five years, have allowed even the smallest of business operations to engage in the global marketplace through the Internet and other technologies that are instantaneous. Plus, our economies around the world have become more open. As these economies become more free and markets open to trade, all the aspects of business and management bring into play the fact that even a very small business entity, say in a rural area to use an extreme, can be shipping product or services internationally with a couple keystrokes. So the competitiveness of that market has been thrust into our environment in many ways.

When you see the outsourcing that’s come into play in many corporate entities in the past five years, that’s another indicator that business functions are being spread throughout the world.

What kind of tools or skills do businesspeople need to cope in the global business world?

Whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student, you need strong math skills such as calculus and statistics.

Also, students need to understand how to prepare spreadsheets and be able to do analyses and projections. If they will be in management roles some day, those kinds of math-based analytical skills are very important as a way to measure the enterprise’s performance, if nothing else. The technical skills needed to operate computers are a given at this point.

But most employers would say today that the skill set that is still in high demand is communication. Can you formulate your thoughts? Can you express them in a concise manner, both verbally and in written form, so you can communicate your ideas? Can you show leadership through transposing those ideas through all forms of communication?

How important is it to have entrepreneurial skills today?

Entrepreneurial acumen also is important today. You can teach a person to be an entrepreneur, because many people already have some innate capacity for this. Entrepreneurs are hard-working and have interesting ideas, but they’re also very creative. Getting individuals to understand their creativity and being able to follow that through and expressing it is more challenging. Creativity is something most people have some skills for, and sometimes just recognizing it and how to apply it are critical skills in the business world.

It’s important to understand that — in the decision-making process and in marketing — various cultures approach the marketplace differently, solve problems differently, and usually come to reasonably common solutions. But they don’t always come to those solutions in the same fashion. In a negotiation or exercise where you’re trying to compete with other companies regarding a bid or implementation of a strategy, you need to know those cultural aspects as you work your way through the complexities of each project.

What value does a global-business-educated person bring to a company?

Most companies are realizing today that their competitors aren’t just local or regional concerns in the U.S. but they’re international as well. As they’re hiring people to work for them and represent them and negotiate different opportunities for them, I think obtaining people with a global perspective is a prime order. There’s a maturity and confidence most employers recognize quickly in someone who’s received a broad business education with firm ethical values, and they realize this is a person who will not only grow and continue to learn but be able to impact their operations right now.

Companies are struggling because they’ve had to engage these markets and work with people already on staff who may have no understanding of international cultures or economic systems or the legal and ethical ramifications of their decisions. Therefore, new people coming into the organization with a global business perspective is essential.

DR. DAVID D. LONG is chancellor and COO of Northwood University in Midland. Reach him at (989) 837-4367.