International Development for the 21st Century Corporate Leader


“Nations that trade together stay together.” – Dante Disparte

We are in a unique place in society; where citizens are overthrowing government while technology advances and social media are allowing everyone to have a voice. Top down leadership has ceased. Small businesses are being given an even playing field with larger corporations. We are in a world where six of seven people are in emerging markets. Ninety-five percent of consumers are outside of the United States of America.

We are indeed in a global economy, and with the recent financial crisis hitting Greece, Puerto Rico and China, a volatile global economy at that.

DCG Speakers Bureau reached out to speaker Dante Disparte to ask important questions focused on international development as it relates to business today. We wanted to learn, when entering the global stage, what should companies consider while representing their respective nations?

As the Founder and CEO of Risk Cooperative, a specialized strategy, risk and capital management firm and the chair of the Business Council for American Security Project, a nonpartisan organization created to educate the American public and the world about the changing nature of national security in the 21st Century, Disparte is quite knowledgeable about the many benefits and risks companies take when participating in international development.

As Disparte prepares to moderate a discussion about entrepreneurship ahead of President Obama’s upcoming remarks at the sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit, he was able to share four leadership lessons with us for this story:

LESSON #1: Everything You Do Must Have a Social Impact.

Disparte believes that at our core, we are all social entrepreneurs. We are all participating in international development either negatively or positively impacting the world around us whether we know it or not. Disparte doesn’t see a difference between a company that has found an eco-friendly solution to solve a dire societal problem to the company that pollutes our waters or air. At the core, we are all responsible; it’s just what side of the spectrum we’re working within.

LESSON #2: One Thing That’s Not for Sale, Is Your Brand.

You have to stand for something that is universally applicable. When a brand decides to expand into the international market the company already knows where it can bend to meet the needs of that market and what’s not bendable. Smart companies that are great choose what they are going to be very bad at. Take SouthWest Airlines for an example. If you get on a SouthWest Airlines flight and ask for a hot meal you may get laughed at. They say ‘our customer wants no frills, just a cheap flight.’ They were able to identify the markets that would value what SouthWest Airlines stood for. Even though SouthWest Airlines have a localized brand, their brand value stays the same in every market.

LESSON #3: From Corporate Responsibility to Corporate Activism

Once upon a time, companies only value was in its shareholders. But with the 90s backlash, companies started taking corporate responsibility seriously. And now there is a triple bottom line. Previously, all approaches have been passive. Today, we’ve entered into an era when companies deliberately may harm their short term returns because a message or act stands against their corporate values. Take the recent pullouts from corporate partnership agreements after Donald Trump’s remarks on Mexicans for instance; or Starbucks Race Together Campaign, companies are beginning to develop competitive advantage through corporate activism.

There’s this view of “alone together,” but at the end of the day you still have to live or die with your choices.

It could be an interesting time of social choice. The freedom to choose to do nothing or do something is the most profound right we have. Your value system matters most when it’s least convenient. Remember corporations have trillions of dollars that can be moved out of an area and change the whole economy in a moment’s time. However, consumers have a choice, too. Imagine what can happen when you harness that power to choose. The country has an opportunity to say what the next decade is about.

LESSON #4: Consider the Long-Term Approach; It’s Not “Development at Any Cost”

The reality is that national development is on a 10-year-cycle. However, if you’re a politician making a platform for things to be done in 10 years, you’re not getting reelected. There is a difference between maximizers and optimizers and those who only focus on short term objectives. In the meantime, bridges are collapsing, Amtrak suffers, schools are doing poorly and then there is climate change. The American dream is becoming a fleeting dream.

However, Disparte states that we should not take on development projects under desperate measures just because it may be working for another society or nation. For an example, let’s look at China and their high-speed trains or the European rail system compared to Amtrak. We like the benefits for some things working but we don’t want to pay for it. We should not import Chinese or European infrastructure until we do the research that supports the work.

What we gathered by tapping into Disparte’s lessons of corporate leadership applies well beyond doing business as corporate brands and entities.

Dante Disparte is available for bookings through DCG Speakers. Contact us for more information.

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