Globalization and Bottom Line Consequences
Globalization. Everything is different and everything is the same.
In an interview with the Dean of Harvard Business School, Nitrin Nohria noted: “When I came to Harvard Business School in the 1980s, the vast majority of people were interested in studying America, because this is where they hoped to have job opportunities. As late as 1988, when I joined, less than 5% of our case [studies] were outside of the United States. Last year more than a third of our cases were global.” Similarly, Fortune‘s Most Admired Companies survey used to be broken into the America’s Most Admired and World’s Most Admired lists as if they were two different beasts. Fortune now combines them into one big list of the World’s Most Admired and rightfully so. As we are seeing with the ups and downs of the stock market, we are all interconnected. The reputation of UBS or Sony or Procter & Gamble matters the world over.
Global everything is on my mind because I am off to Asia to give a speech on reputation and how to build it, safeguard it and defend it. I’ve been catching up on how reputation plays out in Asia Pacific so that I can be a bit more relevant to my audience. As I am preparing, an article I found struck me as a good example of how things are the same and yet different.
As a keen observer on how reputations get damaged in a crisis, I am always on the lookout for estimates of that damage. A recent article provided me with some valuable information on how Chinese companies perform when scandal touches them. Scandal plays out slightly differently in China and on their balance sheets than it does in the US and Europe/EMEA. An academic study examined hundreds of scandals linked to companies traded on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges between 1997 and 2005. Revelations of financial fraud and various other similar crimes, such as embezzlement and kickbacks, definitely impacted share price as it does in the US. The researchers found, however, that to really create a cataclysmic collapse of a company’s stock among Chinese companies, there had to be an additional element. “The study found that companies caught up in mere accounting scandals saw their shares drop by an average of 8.8% over the six months on either side of the incident. In those involving the bribery of government officials or theft of state assets, on the other hand, the stock fell by almost a third.” As they conclude, “In China and other less developed markets….business is done on the basis of political and social relationships, not numbers.” Companies are all impacted by financial scandal but if you undermine the government in China or any of its officials, expect that your financial damage will be compounded by losing discounted financing, access to trusted suppliers, loss of customers, land acquisitions and other benefits that can come with good government relations. Thus, being on good terms with government is critical to success in China. In many ways, this is also becoming the norm in the US as government plays a more visible hand in business affairs.