Tips on Working Abroad
By Adrian Travis
In management consulting, there’s no deeper end of the pool than an international consulting assignment. At Trindent, we call this a complex business challenge, because of the various cultural nuances, language barrier, not to mention jet-lag and isolation it causes staff while on assignment. However, for the right person, and the right client, it can both be a valuable driver of business performance for a client. Working abroad can benefit a client that doesn’t normally have access to excellent consulting talent in their particular city or country and it will also be a gratifying learning experience for a consultant to explore new frontiers in business, and their personal lives.
As a consultant, I’ve had the pleasure to work for long periods of time in places like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Munich. It was a tremendously gratifying experience and I felt that I grew as both a consultant and a human being.
Asia Pacific is well-known to have a rather immature management consulting talent pool. Even the biggest and strongest management consulting firms have rather spotty track records in developing markets, particularly those in markets where educational systems minimize free-thinking and criticism of ideas. As businesses grow and the demand for consulting talents in Asia become necessary, management consultants will grow. For now, this market is still a frontier market for consulting services.
The number one complaint from clients looking to perform a project in Asia is international travel expenses, followed closely by local linguistic expertise. The common questions that I ask international client executives are:
“Would you mind the additional travel expense to have an expert on your team?”
“Would you like the problem solved with the strongest possible team, or would you like us to trade that off for local language proficiency?”
Sometimes clients wish to minimize travel expenses by keeping their consultants on site 100% of the time. Like any good employee, isolation from friends and family is likely to lead to burnout and lack of engagement. It’s a good practice to keep your consultants engaged and operating at their peak performance. Rotations home to see loved ones are essential in achieving this. Sometimes the incremental results generated from a properly-run project with fully-engaged staff and consultants can easily outweigh any travel expense incurred. Forward-thinking client executives will typically understand this.
Trindent Consulting has had a strong track record of delivering results in Asia, and we’ve been able to open up this market to top-notch consulting expertise. It’s not without it’s challenges, but any project’s chance of success can be achieved by favoring the strongest possible consultant, regardless of geography, language proficiency, and ensuring they’re motivated to perform.