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Consider Culture when Expanding Reverse Logistics

Consider Culture when Expanding Reverse Logistics

by Kate Lee, Director of Research and Marketing, Fronetics Strategic Advisors

Reverse Logistics Magazine, Edition 63

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Discussions around the importance of culture in reverse logistics typically focus on the need to establish an organizational culture which not only supports reverse logistics, but also recognizes the importance of a holistic approach to reverse logistics. While this discussion is important, there is another culture discussion – one which is critical to success and, one which is, more often than not, forgotten. This forgotten discussion is on the significance of culture when taking your reverse logistics operations international.

Recognizing the importance of culture is critical to success when taking your reverse logistics operations international. If you assume that you can box up your operations, unpack them in a different country, and then move forward with a business as usual mind-set, chances are you will not be able to attain the level of success planned and you may even fail.

Culture defines a place. Culture is one of the reasons we love to travel – to learn about and to experience language, art, people, food, traditions, and environments that are different from those which we are used to. Ironically, these differences are often given little or no consideration when establishing and running operations in a new location.

Taking the time to understand a new culture is necessary. Taking the time to understand how to set up and run operations with and within this culture is vital. The challenges, hurdles, headaches and failures that will be realized by ignoring or working against a culture are avoidable if you escape the common pitfall of jumping in headfirst – with blinders on.

A survey by Deloitte and arvato found that the biggest challenge seen by global players in high tech reverse logistics is the increasing importance of emerging markets. Specific challenges cited by respondents included: finding reliable partners, establishing an efficient network, different legal and tax structures, and customs regulations. I agree that these “challenges” need to be taken into consideration, but that understanding the culture also needs to be added to the list.

Mainstream Global stands out as a company which has made culture a priority and realized growth and success as a result.

In addition to operations in the United States, Mainstream Global also has locations in Mexico and in South America. When the company expanded operations beyond the United States it took the time to understand the local culture in each of the areas they planned to establish new operations. Furthermore, the company took the time to understand the needs of the local market and made smart hires – hires who understood the essential role culture plays in success.

In 2010 Mainstream Global was recognized by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City as one of the 100 fastest growing inner city businesses; the five year annual growth rate for the company was 34 percent.

Article originally appeared on Electronics Purchasing Strategies in March 2014.
Kate Lee is the Director of Research and Marketing for Fronetics Strategic Advisors, a management consultant firm, that works with clients in the supply chain, logistics, electronic distribution, electronic asset disposal, and their related after-market industries. She has nearly 20 years of domestic and international experience working with a range of people from senior executives at Fortune 100 companies to academics to refugees. She has experience in content development, business intelligence, demand generation, qualitative and quantitative research, social media, and in forging strategic partnerships.
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