When in Rome should we be a Roman? Or should we follow the expression and just DO as the Romans? Americans often refer to themselves as great entrepreneurs and innovators. U.S. companies tend to outspend almost every other country on research and development, and American CEOs often refer to themselves as “chief visionaries.”
Yet, the great American ingenuity often pales in significance to the creative problem-solvers we meet in foreign markets.
In one instance, a large U.S. mining firm was setting up offices in Rumania. It encountered enormous stumbling blocks.
The first problem came from the local telephone company. It needed several cumbersome documents to be filled out in triplicate, and there was a six-month waiting period to get telephone services established. This was before the days of GSM cell phones, where one could simply use American, French or Dutch phones.
Global Business Consultants suggested solutions such as handing out equity in their firm, employing a government official on retainer, bribes, gifts and seeking justice in the Rumanian courts.
The research office it was establishing sat in a primarily residential apartment building, as the “office” was really just a converted apartment.
The Solution? As the Americans were figuring out how to break the news to headquarters, one of the Rumanian local hires came up with an instant solution. He suggested they contact their residential neighbors and ask if a phone line could be strung from their apartments — so the firm could use the phones during the day, when the phone owners were at work.