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Home Articles & Speeches International business executive imparts formulas for success - BYUH: What's New
International business executive imparts formulas for success - BYUH: What's New
Mike Foley
BYUH: What's New

An Asia-Pacific executive advisor for Bearing Point, Inc., who grew up in a small Midwestern town on the Ohio River but is now "passionate about doing business globally," told BYU-Hawaii students several steps they need to follow to succeed in international business at the Sept. 30 Entrepreneurship Lectureship Series.

{mosimage}Robert Lees, former Secretary-General of the Pacific Business Economic Forum comprised of about 900 top international companies, explained that Bearing Point split off from KPMG Consulting several years ago and now has over 16,000 employees worldwide, with about 2,500 in Asia and the Pacific.

"Bearing Point was recently the sole contract winner for rebuilding the infrastructure in Afghanistan, and we just won the bid to do the same thing in Iraq," Lees said. "There are many, many good things happening there. Don't believe everything you see on TV. The media is not focusing nearly enough on the positive things."

Lees thanked BYU-Hawaii "for educating young people like you," based on working with alumnus Chris Sepp, a 2001 international business major. "Chris came in running about a year ago," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind that he was able to do that because of his experiences at your fine school."

"If I can do what I'm doing, anyone can do it," continued Lees, who explained his interest in international business grew out of serving in Vietnam. "I fell in love with the culture, the people and the entire region."
 
He went on to live in Japan and learn the language, minor in Asian studies while finishing his bachelor's in economics at the University of Cincinnati, and earn a master's at Thunderbird in international business.

"I had a record at Thunderbird for the most rejections," Lees said. "I also had the record for the number of job offers. There's a correlation there."
 
He accepted his first job with Corning Glass, thinking it would take him back to Japan. Instead, they sent him to Puerto Rico.

Lees feels a person's attitude has a lot to do with his potential for business success, especially in international business. He cited a Japanese proverb: The more bountiful the rice, the lower it bends to the ground.
 
"Don't expect the school, or mom or dad, to offer you a job," Lees told the students. "Job number one is getting a job; but first, be successful as a student and get the most out of it you possibly can."
 
Lees also recommended they get involved in international organizations; include language, culture and history in their studies; develop leadership qualities, work ethics, and be culturally sensitive.
 
"Success means understanding the market, no matter what that market might be," Lees said, but he also stressed that "cultural sensitivity is a big key which can give you advantages. Know the people, religion and culture."

Lees, who is not LDS but met many at Thunderbird, also suggested serving a mission provides excellent training.

"They've served and are in touch with people," he said. "The returned missionaries at Thunderbird had a leg up on everybody else. It's all about people. Career opportunities in the global economy are limitless. My entire experience has been with U.S. companies doing business outside the country."
 
"Nonprofit organizations hire millions of people around the world, and have very good career paths," he continued. "Every single agency of the U.S. government has positions that can take you out of the country, if that's what you want. More and more companies are requiring that you should be able to function overseas."
 
Asked what set him apart from his peers, Lees said, "You've got to have the tools that companies are looking for to cause them to hire you."
 
He added it's also important to let people know what you can do in a low-key manner. "You must be a team player," he stressed. "One thing that will sink you quickly is that you're not a team player."

Asked what other characteristic is important for success, Lees responded, "Just liking people. If you really want to be happy in life, you've really got to enjoy being with people."