This book combines the tale of a family with 3 children �growing up together� while living abroad for a period of 19 years in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia with the story of conducting business in many different countries with their cultures across the globe. When on �assignment� abroad the family aspects and business life are often intermingled. This story addresses the family life initially which explains further the title of the book and then covers many important aspects of business success abroad and the lessons learned through multiple experiences in different lands. Family Tale The opportunity of a lifetime began when Brad and Mary Lesher along with the first two of their ultimately three child family packed up in Baltimore, Maryland and left for Tehran, Iran. This was a rather substantial �jump� in cultures for a first time foreign assignment. It turned out to be a magnificent experience, however, for at that time the general population in Iran was very friendly to foreigners and to Americans in particular. The climate in the country was spectacular for a rainy year would mean more than 5 days of precipitation that year. Tehran is at 5000 feet elevation like Denver, Colorado and the mountains surrounding the city were 14,000 feet resulting in the city being overlooked by blue skies and snow caps 8 months of the year. By the middle of our five year tenure in Iran the family was well immersed in local customs and culture. It was at this time that the Leshers began to realize that in living overseas how important it is to absorb local culture while in parallel remaining true also to your background and beliefs. In other words �enjoy the best of both worlds- don�t isolate yourself on American habits exclusively or �go native.� This became the tenet of their lives for all 19 years abroad and each of the family members adhere to that belief today. Further to the above point they believed in enjoying as much of the local foods as possible wherever they have lived. In the case of Iran there were many good dishes. The Persian melons are truly unique in the world, for instance. This brings us to the title of this book. As any expatriate assignee in a foreign land will tell you after a period of several years a family develops a craving for some of the �good old specialties of home.� This is true whether you are stationed in far off lands or even in the culinary capital of the world, Paris. In particular, the kids miss some of their old standbys. For Americans the �King� is Peanut Butter, for the French its Cheeses, the Germans Gherkins and Sausages and the Aussies their Vegamite. Since this entire book has many humorous incidents included in it, the author chose as an appropriate title the last words an American expatriate businessman might hear as he goes out the door to fly back to the U.S. for a meeting at home headquarters, as his wife exclaims �Don�t Forget the Peanut Butter, George!� After five delightful years in Tehran the Lesher family reluctantly left Iran and moved to Paris along with their newly arrived third child. The first two children were 8 and 5 respectively and began their elementary education at the American School of Paris. The family lived not far from Versailles and weekends were spent extensively on picnics at many beautiful and historic sites in the Paris environs. This established a solid base of experience in France and an introduction to French culture. After the four years of this assignment it was determined that it was time to return to the U.S. after having been abroad more than 8 years in total between Iran and France. The return to the states at this point was a good experience for it gave the family a chance to establish some more solid roots in the U.S. particularly since the children had been so young earlier and never had developed a U.S. base. They bought a house in Westport, Connecticut, which they owned for twenty years but only lived in for ten of those years due to further foreign assignments. The opportunity to return to France came just two years later in 1974 and was a relatively easy transition for the kids returned to the same school with a number of the same teachers and even some remaining classmates from the previous time. It�s the next seven years in France where the greatest benefits of living abroad as a family were reached. In 1974 the kids were fourteen, eleven, and six respectively and when we left France in 1981 they were twenty-one (in college) eighteen and thirteen. During the seven-year period we traveled extensively throughout Europe skiing and touring as a family. A bond developed as along with our children we �grew up together� and took full advantage of everything Europe had to offer. Three years later in Hong Kong the older two children remained in the workplace and College in the U.S. but the youngest came with us to Hong Kong and we repeated the bonding process while traveling together as a family throughout Asia and sometimes we were joined by the older two children on trips as well. The underlying message in the above family tale is that the extensive sharing of the experiences abroad enabled our family to develop a unique relationship and to this day our children are our �best friends.� Business Experience. This book details the author�s experiences and lessons learned during more than thirty years of working internationally on site in more than forty countries around the globe. It emphasizes that the key to success is to understand and respect the various unique characteristics and culture in different countries and then demonstrate that understanding without compromising fundamental principles or ethics. That may sound like it could be difficult to achieve but actually a proper approach can yield some surprising results. The lessons learned from these experiences should be of benefit to Business School students or business executives faced with the opportunity to go on an international assignment. The book includes many specific stories that are both informative and in certain cases quite humorous as it travels from Iran to Paris and to Hong Kong. The author contends that his first international assignment in Tehran, Iran, was an ideal forum for learning to bridge cultural and environmental gaps. Middle Eastern cultures and Western culture tend to be at opposite sides of the spectrum. In Iran it began with the basic questions of how business is conducted, i.e., �Who you know versus What you know.� There are detailed examples in the segment on Iran of how IBM met that specific culture difference. Another specific issue in business dealings is the question of �Flexibility.� This euphemism for bribery is sometimes used in the Middle East and elsewhere and international companies would upon occasion receive subtle hints or in some case not very subtle hints during business negotiations. When questions arise along these lines either from potential customers or in some cases employees IBM�s approach has always been to be perfectly clear up front that there is no latitude for even slight departures from sound business practices. There is a dramatic example in the book of how this posture and the well-established knowledge of how IBM does and doesn�t do business was of major benefit after the Revolution when the new powers to be stamped down on U.S. and other foreign companies. From the first day of the Revolutionary Government�s takeover the local IBM company and personnel were treated with unique respect as a result of long term business practices and tradition in the country. After Tehran the Leshers moved to Paris in 1968 and Brad began working with IBM�s operations in Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Once again, each country had its own unique characteristics. Even our own employees in those countries would tend to stonewall you if they felt that you were lumping them in one big bucket with the others as regards to their opinions, cultures and ideas. In the Eastern Bloc, Brad worked with Czechoslovakia before and after the Soviets ousted Dubcek. The second time around he found the populace totally devastated. In Hungary, on the other hand, despite the occupation the spirit of the people never diminished. In Bulgaria, the IBM operation functioned as a bicycle repair shop during the war which enabled the personnel to survive economically and kept the operation together. When the war was over IBM Bulgaria resumed operations with the same people and didn�t miss a beat. Yugoslavia was still under the Tito regime in the early seventies and was continuing to function well at that time. The author has cited these countries for it was very impressive to see how diverse each one was and yet working for common goals. The key to mutual trust was to understand their differences and demonstrate that understanding. This is the basic theme of this tale and is a very fundamental message to the international businessman. After a couple years back in the states, the Leshers returned to France for another seven years. During the initial part of that period Brad worked more extensively in France, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Once again these three major European operations were quite different from one another and by this time adjusting to and working with unique differences had become second nature to him and so he was accepted and was able to function successfully. Of all the different environments in Europe, the author lists the Italian one to be the most fascinating. Through the years one Government after the other in Italy would collapse and yet the business would continue to do well. The author finally concludes it must be a living example of �The Power of Positive Thinking.� In 1976, Brad assumed the role of pursuing and managing IBM�s business in the then Soviet Union. Although I had by this time had many fascinating jobs and experiences he considers this job the most fascinating of his career. He thrived on dealing with the Russians for although they were extremely difficult to finalize negotiations with, once you had concluded, �A Deal was a Deal� and they were absolutely impeccable business partners. They were highly sensitive to their reputation in business dealings since they were under fire on everything else from human rights to political ideologies. They always paid on time and in full. Unfortunately today�s Russia is completely different and in subsequent business dealings in the late nineties after he had retired from IBM, he would have been glad to negotiate once again with the old Soviet regime. After returning to the U.S. in 1981 the Lesher family got the opportunity for one more assignment and in 1984 moved to Hong Kong. Without beating the theme to death the reader can imagine the unique differences in a Korea to a Philippines to a Thailand to a Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. It was a great final assignment abroad. In summary, the basic premise throughout this book is that to be successful in international business you have to put in the time and effort to understand the unique differences country by country. Moreover, you have to demonstrate this understanding and your respect for the individual characteristics and people. If you do that, you will be accepted in each country and be successful in your endeavors. As a reminder �how not to do it� the author closes the book with the fundamental message best illustrated by the words from the Irish ballad, �Galway Bay� For the strangers came and tried to teach us their way/ They scorned us just for being what we are/ But they might as well go chasing after moonbeams/ Or light a penny candle from a star/ Don�t be a stranger!
Brad Lesher grew up in a small town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He attended William and Mary and graduated in 1957 with a B.A. in Business Administration. He joined IBM in Baltimore, Maryland that year. The following year Brad�s future wife, Mary Dyekman , whom he had met in College, also came to Baltimore with IBM. Brad and Mary were married in 1959. For several years Brad pressed his management to place him in a position for a potential international assignment and in 1964 opportunity knocked and Brad and Mary packed up with two children, Kim (4) and Mark (1) and moved to Tehran, Iran. It was the start of what became an extremely rewarding and exciting life abroad for parents and children alike. After five magnificent years in Iran, the family moved to Paris, France along with a new arrival, daughter Tracey. Although it was not known at the time, the family was embarking on the first of two Paris assignments which would be for 4 years initially and then after two years back in the U.S. a return to Paris for another 7 years. The family and particularly the children thrived on the experience of 11 years in France. Mark for instance, went to kindergarten in 1968 at the American School of Paris and then ultimately graduated from high school there in 1981. From a business standpoint although Brad�s initial background was in Sales and Marketing, the nature of the positions he held were basically General Management positions presiding over the performance of a country and later groups of countries. In Iran he was the Country General Manager with complete functional staffs and the ability to call on additional functional support from a higher headquarters. Later he had his own Area in Europe presiding over business in Austria, Switzerland, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. At one point, also, he was in charge of a dedicated business unit to develop IBM�s business in the former Soviet Union. In 1984 Brad and Mary moved to Hong Kong along with daughter Tracey who was a junior in high school. They enjoyed three exciting years in Asia. As Assistant General Manager for Marketing and Product Support in IBM�s Southeast Asia Region, Brad worked extensively in Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and of course Hong Kong. Upon return to the U.S. in 1986 Brad worked with Latin America. He never lived in a Latin country but traveled extensively in the territory and developed a keen understanding of the Latin markets and cultures to round out his experiences. Brad retired from IBM in 1994 after 37 years but then worked for another 5 years with two computer companies in Ft. Lauderdale, FL retracing his steps in Europe, Asia and Latin America setting up Distribution Channels. In 1999 Brad ended his 42 year business career and and along with Mary moved to Amelia Island, Florida.