Executives Weigh In on Value of a Global Business Perspective

We asked Carson College alumni why a global mindset is important in business. Here are their answers.

Kristin Sugamele (’84, Acc.)
Retired director of accounting, Starbucks Coffee Company

You can’t ignore what is going on in the rest of the world if you are a company of any size. I spent most of my career in accounting at Starbucks. Even when we were a small company, we sourced virtually all of our coffee outside of the United States. As we grew and expanded into other countries, a global business perspective became even more important. We had to figure out how to efficiently open in new countries.

Starbucks’ strategy was to partner with quick-serve restaurant companies already established in those countries, as they would be familiar with the local real estate and labor markets. We implemented tax strategies and structures with an eye on the global economy. We managed currencies and cash flows on a global basis and not country-by-country. Most major business decisions were evaluated using a global perspective, and that’s true now more than ever before.

Balaji Subramanian (’80 Fin., ’84 MA Int. Econ.)
Vice president of global alliances and channel sales for a software company

Over the last two decades, the world certainly has become much smaller. Technology, the internet, social media, and the ease of travel have changed how we conduct business, making it easier to work across borders and countries. I’m the leader of a team whose members are in Munich, London, Tokyo, Singapore, Bangalore, Dallas, and San Diego. To be an effective global leader these days, understanding how to drive business across countries, cultures, and different ways of doing business becomes critically important.

I grew up here in the United States, but my parents came from India. I learned the language of my parents, and I observed and understood how the Indian community behaved. It made me much more tolerant and accepting of cultural differences and different approaches to business, which has made me a much more effective global leader.

I’m a big supporter of WSU students having opportunities to study abroad and get exposure to international business early in their careers, so they, too, can become effective global leaders.

Rich McKinney (’73, Mktg.)
Independent aerospace consultant, retired U.S. Air Force colonel, and former deputy under secretary of the Air Force (Space)

The way the world is connected through the internet today, it’s much easier to do business in other countries. If your product or service is marketable outside of the United States, then why limit yourself? You’re tapping into a much larger market than if you constrain yourself to the U.S. business market. Doing business outside of the United States also forces you to think differently. You have to be aware of a whole new set of facts and other circumstances, and that might lead to breakthroughs in the ways your product or service could be used in the United States, so it’s doubly beneficial to have that perspective.

If you’re going to work outside the United States, it really behooves you to try to learn that foreign language. It forces you to learn another culture and broadens your perspective.

I was in a meeting in Russia where everything went through translators. We spoke in English, then our comments were translated into Russian. They responded in Russian, and it was translated back to English. It was cumbersome. We came to realize that the Russians we were meeting with already understood English, but using the translators gave them another 30 to 40 seconds to respond to what we were saying.