Multinational Corporations

Multinational corporations (MNCs) have their headquarters in one country but their operations are in many countries. Of the ten largest multinational industrial corporations, ranked by 1985 sales, eight are American. The ten are (1) General Motors, (2) Exxon, (3) Royal Dutch / Shell Group (Dutch-English), (4) Mobil, (5) British Petroleum (English), (6) Ford Motor Company, (7) International Business Machines (IBM), (8) Texaco (9) Chevron, and (10) American Telephone and Telegraph.

In its early stages, international business was conducted with an ethnocentric outlook; that is, the orientation and type of operation was based on that of the parent company. The polycentric attitude, on the other hand, is based on the notion that it is best to give foreign subsidiaries, staffed by local nationals, a great deal of managerial freedom. It is assumed that nationals have the best understanding of the local environment. Region-centric orientation favors the staffing of foreign operations on a regional basis. Thus, a European view may be composed of British, French, German, and Italian influences. The modern multinational corporation has a geocentric orientation. This means that the total organization is viewed as an interdependent system operating in many countries. The relationships between headquarters and subsidiaries are collaborative, with communication flowing in both directions. Further more key positions are filled by managers of different nationalities. In short, the orientation of the multi-national corporation is truly and goes beyond a narrow nationalistic view point.

Multinational corporations have several advantages over firms that have a domestic orientation. Obviously, the MNC can take advantage of business opportunities in many different countries. It can also raise money for its operations throughout the world. Moreover, multinational firms benefit by being able to establish production facilities in countries where their products can be produced most effectively and efficiently. Companies with worldwide sometimes have access to natural resources and material that may not be available to domestic firms. Finally, the large MNCs can recruit management and personnel from a world wide labor pool.

Despite the increasing competition and the cost advantages of some foreign corporations, a number of US companies have done very well in the international environment.

Fortune studied a number of large companies that earn more than 20% of their revenues from overseas operations. The reasons for the success of these firms differ greatly. IBM’s size makes it possible to dominate the market. Coca-Cola is very adept at opening up new markets rather rapidly. McDonald’s on the other hand, does not rush into the market but carefully assesses the potential for success. Hewlett Packard and Boeing bring foreign managers to the United States to expose them to their organizational culture.

The MNCs that were studied structure their organization very carefully to suit the needs of each individual country. In addition, these firms are flexible in their product design and marketing. It should also be noted that the operations abroad were largely managed by foreign nationals.

Managerial Functions in International Business:

Evidence shows that management fundamentals may be applicable in different countries. However, the practice of carrying out the managerial functions of planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling differs considerably in domestic and international enterprises.

Planning requires setting objectives and then selecting strategies, policies, programs, and procedures for achieving them. A critically important activity for the MNC is the assessment of opportunities and threats in the external environment. This is a complex task even for a domestic enterprise, but it becomes much intricate when many different, ever changing world markets must be scanned.

External threats and opportunities must be matched with the internal strengths and weakness of the firm. For example, a poor educational system makes it difficult to find qualified personnel. Similarly, cultural orientation towards time will affect planning. Specifically, cultural attitudes that emphasize a short time perspective will not be conducive to long range planning. Finally, political and economic instability in a country makes it difficult to forecast and will discourage long term commitment of resources. —

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