I’ve wanted to own my own business for as long as I can remember. However, I could never decide exactly what type of business I’d like the most. When my boyfriend, José, and I started dating, he shared with me right away that he had always dreamed of opening a bodega or some sort of restaurant. Immediately, I felt like his ideas were what I was waiting for. I had toyed with the idea of a restaurant for several years, but I heard some scary statistics about how most restaurants fail in the first five years, so I was scared to make that kind of commitment without some sort of plan. With José’s experience of running his mother’s bodega in his home country, the Dominican Republic, as a teenager, and our combined ideas for how we’d run a business together, we have the passion and commitment needed to get a successful business off the ground.
But with José and I originating from different countries, how would our cultural differences affect our leadership in this business? José has experience running a bodega, while I have the knowledge gained from my (soon-to-be) dual degrees in Business and Psychology. Our ideas for the business include serving hot foods daily within the bodega, while also providing customers with Hispanic foods and products that they may not be able to find in other stores. While I have many ideas and suggestions for how to run this business, we will need to rely heavily on José’s expertise as a Hispanic person to understand what types of products will be popular in our shop while still adding in some of my American influence. Many of our customers will be from Hispanic countries or families and will be looking for hard-to-find products. Those coming in for our hot foods may be employees looking for a good quality yet fast meal to grab on their lunch breaks and could be any ethnicity. In this type of business, we will need to cater to customers from many different cultural backgrounds.
Northouse (2016) reported findings from Adler and Bartholomew (1992) who found that the increase of globalization in recent years has led to a need for leaders to develop several cross-cultural competencies. These competencies will be important for José and me to keep in mind as we develop our business. First, we will need to understand the difference in business and cultural environments (Adler & Bartholomew, 1992, as cited in Northouse, 2016) between Americans and Dominicans and make sure that we can work well with our vendors and our customers. Next, we will have to focus on the tastes and trends of the cultures of our customers (Adler & Bartholomew, 1992, as cited in Northouse, 2016) in order to understand them and cater to their needs. We will also need to be able to work with people from other cultures (Adler & Bartholomew, 1992, as cited in Northouse, 2016), as it may be important to hire bilingual employees who can communicate with Spanish-speaking customers or hire foreign vendors to provide authentic products. Fourth, while we may not need to go live in another culture, we will certainly need to be able to communicate with other cultures (Adler & Bartholomew, 1992, as cited in Northouse, 2016), based on our desire to start a business that provides foreign products in a local market. Finally, we will need to be able to relate to our customers from a position of equality instead of superiority (Adler & Bartholomew, 1992, as cited in Northouse, 2016) if we want to please our customers and keep them coming back to our store. Because our business will focus on the Hispanic culture but will serve people from any culture on the planet, we will need to have a multicultural approach to business (Northouse, 2016).
It is my belief that by keeping these competencies in mind and striving to provide the best experience and products to our customers, we will be able to have a successful business. While working with different cultures may not be second nature, it doesn’t have to be a source of stress, and can actually be a fun and exciting challenge.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.