Global Awareness Regarding International Business

At our visit with SAAB, a national defense company that specializes in defense products such as radar, weapons, submarines, and planes; we learned that it is imperative to have a global awareness mindset when conducting international business. SAAB looks to sell their defense technology not only to Sweden, but to other countries. Currently SAAB sells 40% of their products to the US, 4% to South America, a smaller percentage to the middle east, and to other countries in Asia such as Singapore. When looking to conduct business abroad, Lars informed our group of the importance of understanding the current conditions and relations of the countries that you look to conduct business with.

One example that Lars specifically used was the situation when SAAB was looking to sell to a European country. This particular country said that they would buy less sophisticated weapons from France in order to maintain their positive relationship with France. This is an excellent example as it shows that one country’s priorities lie within their relationships and allies rather than material wealth and superiority in regards to weapons. Lars concluded the story with finding a middle ground with the buyer in which they still bought the more expensive product from SAAB, but bought other needed products from France in order to satisfy that relationship.

By understanding the international customer’s priorities, cultural values and differences in perspectives, a business can get into the mind of the customer, providing them with a more unique or specialized experience. I was able to connect this international mindset to the learnings that I drew from the International Marketing course that I took last semester. In International Marketing we largely discussed the importance of understanding the country or segment of the market that you enter, before entering. Different cultures have different beliefs, attitudes, values and experiences that impact perspectives and decision-making that are imperative to business.

Connecting this back to SAAB, we were able to see another challenge that the company must navigate: government regulation. When asked if SAAB is unable to sell to particular countries, Lars answered: “yes and no.” He explained that SAAB must enter contacts with these countries and these contracts must be approved by the Swedish government. He went on to explain that some countries like Russia are specifically not sold to in order to appease to existing customers who currently have issues with or potentially will have issues with the country. This reveals the importance of working with the government and business partners in a positive and ethical manner in order to conduct business legally. While it would seem difficult to appease both the customer and the government, SAAB has discovered the appropriate balance.

Overall, the experience of visiting SAAB was insightful. We were able to see exactly how a sophisticated firm conducts business internationally. This visit stressed the importance of understanding who you are working with on a deeper level before you begin to work with them, and the importance of working in a positive relationship with the government.