So you fail, so what... Now, bounce back!

"So you fail, so what... Now, bounce back!" was the title of one of my favorite articles in the 90s. It tells the story of Sergio Zyman, marketing Director of Coca Cola who introduced New Coke. Do you remember?

The cover story in Fortune Magazine from May 1, 1995 starts with "if ever there were a failure destined to kill a career, New Coke was it." Sergio was then the marketing man behind one of the most disastrous product launches in the 20th century. After leading successfully the introduction of diet Coke, he proposed to replace the classic Coke with a better-tasting cola, label it "New Coke," and, probably his greatest error,  not leave the old Coke on the market. Alter this project, he left the company. 

Nevertheless, seven years later he came back with a promotion. Goizueta, Coca Cola´s CEO at the time, argued that: "We became uncompetitive by not being tolerant of mistakes." The article mentions other historic failures, like Walt Disney being fired at the beginning of his career for "lack of drawing ability" or Henry Ford who went bankrupt with early ventures before his career success. Bill Gates is also mentioned saying he likes to hire people who have made mistakes as it shows that they take risks.

Failing spectacularly can just be the motivation to fight and bounce back. 

This story comes to my mind now that in recent years Spain has failed in confronting his economic challenges, specially unemployment that is at record high levels. But no doubt, Spain will bounce back.

I hope 2013 brings a better economic environment for everybody, and in particular, good news in the Spanish labor market. 

Merry Christmas for you and your family,

The challenge of managing Expats

Managers of International Mobility Programs face a great complexity when dealing with their Expatriates. No worldwide harmonized legislation exists in the different subjects related to international assignments: immigration, taxes, social security and occupational safety. The complexity is multiplied by the number of countries, and increases with factors such as:

  • the disparity of social security agreements and applicable tax treaties.
  • the existence of different tax periods in the countries of origin and destination, for example, Australia (July-June) or UK (April to April) whose fiscal year does not coincide with the calendar year
  • pressure from business leaders to obtain residence and work permits in record time

In Addition, HR teams face other management challenges around the Mobility Programs: cultural change, negotiating each case, international suppliers, dual careers and overall, maintaining a consistent line to strengthen the credibility of the program.

All this complexity leads to different issues you need to resolve with consistent criteria. If not, Expats will find out as they meet over the weekends and talk about their compensation and allowances. If they feel unfairly treated, they will complain and lose confidence on the Program.

You want to ensure you have a consistent Global Policy and a robust Communication Strategy  for your International assignees. At the end, the valuable employees who move with their families to a different (sometimes remote) country need to trust their Expat Program. 

Why Sweden had a "mild" crisis

The current economic crisis has hit all European countries. Given my Swedish origins, I am asked about how Sweden is doing in this context. The response is... surprisingly well.

At the beginning of the 90s, Sweden experienced a similar downturn to the current Spanish one: financial collapse, end of housing boom, government budget deficit and general economic recession.

The way Sweden confronted the depression has become a reference as the Washington Post stressed in The Swedish Recovery. The lessons learnt explain why the swedes have overcome the current climate better than the rest of the European neighbors. Another good article on this is Why Sweden had a good crisis that  highlights some success factors:
  • Reacted promptly, efficiently and with wide support from the electorate
  • Kept fiscal house in order when times were good, to have more room to maneuver when things turned around
  • Benefited from the automatic fiscal stimulus and used monetary policy aggressively
  • Kept the value of the Swedish Krone flexible
Nevertheless, unemployment remains a cause for concern in Sweden, as in most  European countries. We face a tremendous common challenge that will need the best effort from our public authorities, private companies and human resources professionals.