Sunday, March 23, 2008

No Global Companies for Korean Old Men

I just read this month's Businessweek and was drawn to an article on the issue between Hyundai's Korean management and its US subsidiary.

How freaking deja vu.

Every damn company here in Korea (especially in the IT sector where I have spent my time here) has the word "Global" in their vision statement. Examples like: "First Class Global Entertainment Company" or "Elite Global Media" and so on. I understand that it is not a statement of fact but a statement of intent.

But damn. Intent actually means you try. Intent here translates to greed.

The IT and tech companies that actually do operate globally do not attempt to understand their userbase at the local level. They do not attempt to service these customers in the manner that they have become accustomed to locally. Korean MMORPG's that do "global service" have notorious reputations not just because of the derivative concepts and the "grind" gameplay; but also because the customer support, the operational support is nowhere near local standards. Marketing doesn't know who their target is, their wants, their dislikes and instead just throws up a CGI-ed hottie with very generic copy. Featurelists are just that. Lists.

Podcasts? Developer Blogs? Developer chats? Fansite support and participation? Social network presence? HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHHEHEHEHAHAHAHHA....*crying*

So okay....hire people who can deliver that customer support. Hire people who can deal with what is nominal marketing for Western tech/game companies.

Then smother them to death.

Because the Old Men who are the CEO's and upper management in many of these companies hire these people who have the experience and capabilities and then promptly ignore everything they say, appoint "overseers" who have none of the experiences or capabilities that translates at all, provide none of the resources necessary for local operation and then expect returns on their investment consumerate with the "global" market. Or they assume because of their sterling success here in this domestic market; that those values will translate globally.

Nevermind that this was an essentially a closed market with indirect state financing of certain companies/industries/idiotic management principles. Let us also not forget that duing the nineties any online entertainment property was a win. There was no down time then. Make an MMO? You made money no matter how piss poor the UI, how insecure the database, how laggy the server, and how your game mechanics PROMOTED gold farming. Made a search engine with community-generated results? You got traffic and reach even if the results have a signal to noise ratio of a billion to one. Made a social network? You got the stickiness and connections even if your pop up ( GAG) was clausterphobic, media file organization was bare, ability to publically publish yourself nil, and the inability to evaluate or leverage your own network for anything else.

Your car companies have had no meaningful competition due to insane "luxury" tariffs and thus artificallly inflated prices. Anytime foreign food and consumable companies come in, suddenly there are "health contamination" scares. Rival moblie phone producers/telecoms are hampered by extra costs to use the grid, extra "quality" inspections on import in, and tax inspections on subsdiaries. Your companies have not had the influx of diversified management styles and diversified outlooks that truly international mergers and acquisitions bring. Your companies have not been held accountable for inability to deliver financial performance due to product/service success (layoffs do not = good financial performace or long term management), criminal violations (raping subordinates is a jailable crime but I think you should be castrated), ethical violations (insider trading/stock manipulation is. not. a. cookie. get your hand out of the jar.)...because there is very little activist shareholder culture of significance.

Oh yes. Your businesses and corporate values have really been tested enough to go global. But that's a topic and a rant for another day.

Let me say this in as simple terms as possible: There is no such thing as a global business. Only a serially local one.

Simply putting your product out for global consumption is not enough. There needs to be a support structure that is not only servicing your users in the local way but also influences management the other way as well. So many Korean companies do the former but seriously flub the latter. Many Korean companies also don't give the latitude to their local operations to incubate their own projects which may create new revenue streams/methodologies to use elsewhere. They also just don't listen to what their subsidiaries have to say. Or use the collective experience and talents there.

No. Its... do it the dysfunctional, top heavy, and inefficient way. With lots of silly reportage. And overseers who only know how to oversee...but not do.

But you know...alot of these CEO's are stuck. Stuck with no way to grasp how to...oh...manage in a fast changing environment. Because in Korea you always have that stretch goal.Up or down. And accuracy? pfah! Not micromanaging and admitting that you have some areas of deficiency? NEVER! Not trying to also surround yourslef with people who actually are competent in your deficiencies? NO WAY...MY self -esteem is too fragile for that! Because we learned in boot camp never to lose that aura of command. Even if you have the tactical and strategic ability to essentially waste money. Even if multinational businesses don't quite work like armies.

I think sometimes we copied the Japanese model here too far. Ah but that too is a rant for another day.

So the next time I see a Korean company's business plan with the words "global"...excuse me if I don't start manically laughing. And then set fire to it for the value your "global" strategy has.

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