David Fliss, AIB International
David G. Fliss, global vice-president of client development and target marketing for AIB International.

Considering global cultures at AIB International

AIB International continues to expand its global focus, placing executives in different geographic regions and adapting to the culture and regulatory expectations of those areas.

“There are many companies that call themselves international, but there’s a big difference between being international and global,” said David G. Fliss, global vice-president, client development and target marketing for AIB International, Manhattan, Kas. “There are U.S. companies that sell internationally or offer services internationally, but to be a true global company you really have to understand the culture. It’s critical to doing business.”

Mr. Fliss previously worked for Lawrence Foods, Inc. and CSM (now Corbion) and has experience doing business in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. He said AIB International is organized into five geographic regions: North America; Latin America; Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA); Asia-Pacific (APAC) and China.

“We’re repositioning ourselves to have management teams in each region to better understand the culture, language, and needs of the market,” Mr. Fliss said. “We want to get to a point where each region is an integral part of the overall business run by managers who know and understand the region. We are well on our way.”

More than half of AIB’s employees work in 75 countries spanning 6 continents.

To determine where to position people, for example in Latin America, AIB International identifies the commercial food and beverage centers for Latin America, Mr. Fliss said. The organization used to have people scattered throughout Latin America, but research has shown the majority of its clients are based in cities such as Mexico City and Monterrey in Mexico and Bogota in Colombia.

“We are also seeing growth of the commercial food and beverage industry in Peru, Argentina and Chile,” he said.

Having people in strategic geographic regions allows AIB International to better understand the regulations and cultures of the regions. Training materials and seminars might need altering based on language, culture and needs of the market.

“We can’t take materials from a seminar in the United States and simply translate them and do the same training because it might not directly apply,” he said.

Food safety is a global concern, but each country’s approach it is a little different, said Alfonso Capuchino, general manager, AIBI-CS.

“In some countries, like the United States, government authorities get more involved in a food producer’s process and controls,” he said “A good example is the dairy industry where the Pasteurizer Milk Ordinance defines controls for production, processing, pasteurization and distribution of milk and milk products.

“In other counties with less developed regulations the manufacturers are responsible to determine and implement the appropriate controls. Similar examples exist with respect to pathogens of concern. Some countries require testing for specific pathogens like Salmonella and Cronobacter in powder milk while other countries do not have mandatory controls.”

Stephanie Lopez, vice-president, food safety services, Americas, said seminar logistics also may be different in other countries. For instance, U.S. companies typically plan for seminar attendance about 10 weeks in advance, she said.

“They typically want to pre-pay,” Ms. Lopez said. “They typically want to have their hotel arranged well ahead of the seminar.”

In Latin America, clients are more likely to commit to seminars about two weeks in advance. AIB International thus has modified marketing and enrollment timelines based on the region.

“In Latin America, we have been flexible on the registration process because we have clients who want the flexibility to show up the day of the seminar and participate,” Ms. Lopez said.

Mr. Fliss said the culture of the United States is very different when compared to its southern neighbor, Mexico. Both business culture and personal culture should be taken into consideration.

“We have to understand the people that we’re working with,” Mr. Fliss said. “It’s not just the language that changes. There are cultural differences in addition to the language, and of course the needs of the market.”

Mr. Fliss added that many of AIB International’s global clients operate in different geographic regions and wrestle with similar challenges within their organizations.

“AIB International is forming the global partnerships to better understand and address clients’ regional needs,” Mr. Fliss said. “Some people might call it ‘customer intimacy,’ but I call it AIB’s competitive advantage.”