Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
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Engaging Emerging Markets

On-the-ground business experts provide tactical knowledge and advice at summit

Cultural competence is critical to gaining competitive advantage when conducting business in developing markets.

That was a key message from business professionals who shared their expertise at the inaugural Business Across Borders Summit at UNC in February.

“On the Ground in Emerging Economies” featured experts with intimate knowledge and recent practical experience conducting business in emerging markets around the globe.

One participant said the message he took away could be applied to any economy, emerging or mature.

“What I gained from the conference was the importance of substantively engaging with local cultures and understanding the way business is done in a given location,” said Michael Chasnow, a UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA student who is also pursuing a master’s degree in city and regional planning. “And, I heard that finding good local people to help with or lead your venture is critical to sustained success.”

Leadership Fellows take new approach

The one-day summit format was a new venture for the Business Across Borders series, organized by the Kenan Institute Leadership Fellows and sponsored by the Kenan Institute with support from the UNC Center for International Business Education and Research. Leadership Fellows are MBA and undergraduate business students who help connect fellow students to institute opportunities in research, education, and outreach.

The original Business Across Borders format focused on doing business in a single country and comprised two events: a public lecture for students, faculty, and the community and a panel discussion for students and faculty only.

The new format broadened the scope of the series and appealed to more students and business people, summit organizer Alicia Conway said.

“When we polled students and club leaders for topic ideas, there was a clear preference for more expansive subjects, such as microfinancing, marketing, and supply chain,” Conway said. “We chose emerging markets as an overarching theme for our first event in the new format to explore all of these areas.”

Judging by the sold-out attendance, the format hit the mark.

“People got the message that if they were interested in business, we had something for them at the summit,” Conway said. “The feedback has been very positive and we definitely plan to continue the new format in the future.”

Emerging markets theme relevant, critical

The inaugural summit topic was a natural fit for the Kenan Institute, Director John D. Kasarda told participants.

“The institute focuses on emerging markets because they provide rich learning environments for our students and because they allow us to apply the knowledge we create to promote economic growth in some of the most dynamic markets of the world,” Kasarda said. “Because of that, emerging markets have been a primary focus of our education, research, and outreach for more than two decades.”

Experts at the summit discussed topics key to operating a global enterprise: financing and establishing a new business; the complexities of human capital; effectively marketing and selling a product; and overcoming infrastructure shortcomings.

Keynote speakers Tony Keck, director of health and human services for the State of South Carolina, and Ray Turi, general manager of strategic marketing services Latin America for Johnson & Johnson Medical Device and Diagnostic Group, offered a general management perspective. Clinical/industrial psychologist and consultant Edwin J. Nichols, Ph.D., led a workshop on organizational strategies to achieve cultural competence and competitive advantage.

MBA student Katherine O’Herron said the summit offered students a rare look at what they will face in all areas of international business.

“It was interesting that while business challenges were similar in different countries, the unique cultures were important to consider,” she said. “All the speakers emphasized the importance of developing and building relationships to find success and to foster economic growth in a region and in a company.”

John Stephenson, vice president of corporate marketing and communications for Ply Gem Industries, Inc. in Cary, attended the summit to learn more about global expansion. His company, a leader in the building supply industry, is now working with one of the conference experts to plan strategies for growth in net international markets, he said.

“Ply Gem continues to expand our markets globally,” Stephenson said. “Already, we have a presence in Russia, Japan, China, and India, not to mention a significant position in Canada through Ply Gem Canada. Clearly, exposure to those who have traveled these roads before—both those presenting and those attending—offered new perspectives and new contacts for Ply Gem to forward our efforts.”

For more information, contact:

Lingmei Howell, MPA, MDA
Outreach Director
Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute
of Private Enterprise
Campus Box 3440, Kenan Center
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3440