Building an international business? Go Native

I first heard the phrase Go Native (with respect to business anyway) from Stuart Hart, author of Capitalism at the Crossroads. Stuart intended this phrase as advice to companies looking to construct and gestate new products and services in partnership with indigenous markets. Last week we had an interview with Bruce Churchill, President of DirecTV Latin America. He understands the implications and expansive power of working closely with local operators and distributors, and not trying to manage businesses in foreign cultures from a head office located deep overseas.

Going native in emerging market ventures means leveraging the benefits of:
Culture: who knows better than a local operator in Venezuela that La Vinotinto is the football (soccer people!) team to watch and not La Furia Roja. A programming operator in Miami or NYC can’t possibly replicate the value of the local knowledge of cultural interests.

Credibility: again when creating the promotional and assembling programming packages (in the case of DirecTV) who knows better than the local operator in Lima, Peru what the population will respond to. Famously, think of Chevy’s efforts to market a car in Latin America called NOVA – uh, that’s means “No Go” in Spanish. Ow.

Financial excellence: operating on the local Mexican Peso or Venezuelan Bolivar means that the operating business isn’t managing currency fluctuations, but the local operator is working on local currency. In the end, reconciling P/L is more actual.

Ultimately, DirecTV disbanded offices trying to manage the business ventures in Latin America remotely from Miami or New York, and gave the creative and operational power to the local operators. The result? 62% Q3 growth reported November 5, 2009. Seriously.