Live Local, Think Global
In today’s business world, the globally minded CPA will inherit the work.
Once upon a time, caring only about the comings and goings
in your neighborhood or city, and maybe even your state, was
enough to get by in life and business. Those days are gone. Today,
if you’re not looking at everything through a global lens, you may
as well be blind.
“You’ll be so far behind, you’ll never catch up. Your competitors
will surpass you and get the business,” stresses Debra Benton,
author of “The Leadership Mind Switch.” “And you’ll miss out on
some great food that your mama never made!”
All joking aside, “any business leader who is worth the role
simultaneously thinks about globalization, changing demographics,
and technology changes all of the time,” she adds. “It’s the new
world of work.”
“Gone are the days when you could confine your thinking to
domestic implications,” says Suz O’Donnell, executive advisor at
global management consulting and leadership coaching company
Thrivatize. “Whether you think your work is global or not, there
are always global implications.”
What this all means is it’s imperative to build a global mindset if
you want your career—and business—to keep moving forward.
“The higher you rise, the less important the basic duties of your job
become. Crunching numbers, consistent accuracy, and critical
thinking are all job requirements that got you to where you are now.
Thinking globally will take you to the next level,” O’Donnell says.
But what does thinking globally really mean?
The challenge for most CPAs is that global thinking is a relatively
new concept. “Most CPAs don’t think globally because we were
never taught, nor encouraged, to do so. Most of us were simply
taught to take good care of our clients—which meant doing quality
work on a timely basis for a reasonable fee,” explains Howard
Rosen, CPA, JD, AEP, director of business development at Mesa,
Ariz.-based Schmidt Westergard & Company PLLC. “That’s not the
world of today. Today we all compete on a global basis, and if we
cannot do so, our future is in peril.”
The mindset behind global thinking isn’t just about sustainability
or survival, though; it’s about making you a better professional—
and building a better profession. Here’s how to get started.
1. Get Forward-Focused
“If you don’t want to get left behind, move forward,” says John
Norman, CPA, partner at Charlotte, N.C.-based CPA and advisory
firm GreerWalker LLP. Simply having technical knowledge and
know-how isn’t enough anymore if you want to build lasting
“‘Globalization’ has become the buzzword of the last two decades.
Our industry in general might not have adjusted to the new market
conditions as fast as other industries have,” he says, “but you
clearly see that’s changing.”
“You need to have a genuine thirst for knowledgeable about
economic, political, and cultural issues around the world, and to
look into the complexity of international affairs,” Norman
continues, suggesting tapping into the news and resources from organizations like World Affairs Councils of America, The World
Trade Association, and the international chambers of commerce
where your customers or clients do business as a good way to start
growing your global mindset.
The point is a global mindset isn’t an innate feature, but it can be
developed, adds Dr. Lilac Nachum, professor at Baruch College’s
Zicklin School of Business in New York and an international
business executive educator and consultant. “Social interaction with
people outside one’s usual circles, and connection with people that
differ from one’s own, is a particularly effective means for the
development of a global mindset,” she explains. “Research shows
that professionals across all business areas considerably improve
their scores on global mindset tests after engaging in such activities.”
2. Tap Your Clients’ Minds
Thinking beyond the world you live in means also thinking more
about the world your customers and clients live in. Truth is, today,
even if your company or your clients are domestic, they have global
competitors or suppliers affecting their business.
“Talk with your clients. See how they interact with their customers
and learn how they do business outside their local markets,” Rosen
suggests. “Global thinking is looking at your market on a worldwide
basis. Do you have clients with operations in Canada or Mexico?
Do your clients sell into Europe or Africa? It’ll amaze you how much
international business your clients do once you ask them about it.”
Being curious not only benefits you, it likely benefits business
relations, too. Sharing his experience, Rosen recalls a client from the
printing industry. “One of their customers was a foreign auto
manufacturer who had plants in the U.S. Our client printed owners’
manuals for the cars. When we did a bit of inquiry, we discovered a
portion of the autos built in the U.S. were shipped to other countries
for end-user sale. This created a tax planning opportunity that
wouldn’t have been available if the cars were sold only in the U.S.
Thinking globally allowed us to assist our client in an ongoing
technique that lowered their taxes.”
3. Pull From the Profession
“To me, global thinking also means thinking about business
opportunities existing outside of our boundaries and how our
services can create value when we address the needs of foreign-owned
entities doing business in the U.S. and domestic companies
doing business in other parts of the world,” Norman explains.
What better way to learn about the needs of your foreign
counterparts—and the value you can bring them—than straight
from the source?
“Join one of the many international associations of accountants.
Attend regional and worldwide conferences that accounting
associations sponsor. Meet members from other countries,” Rosen
encourages. “These are the best sources.”
For those of you already working in a global organization or firm
that does business abroad, it would behoove you to take on a global
role or expatriate assignment to enhance your global mindset, grow
your leadership profile, and also to spice up your work life.
After all, even if you think you’re not currently working in a global
environment, we’ve got news for you: You are.
“The reality of today’s business environment is that we’re competing
with businesses throughout the world. If you’re still thinking that your
competitors are just down the street, you will probably not stay in
business for very long, at least not very successfully,” Norman says.
“The sooner we recognize this, the better,” Rosen adds. “If we don’t
recognize the importance of global thinking, we as an industry are
doomed to failure.”