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"Enabling Internationalization Excellence for Family Enterprises"

IFE, 2017

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“In communication, 10 % is words”

For my research, I interview founders of internationalizing small firms. As a norm, they struggle with the scarcity of time, money or other resources, but at the same time, they all seem to dream big and possess a rather solid belief in who they are and what they are doing. You may or may not relate, but at least it seems to be the case for the majority of small business owners, entrepreneurs, and managers in charge of operationalizing strategy that I meet and interview. And, what becomes vital for many of the start-up founders, investors too seem to somehow become spokesmen of those “dream big” ventures, sharing something of that initial belief.

A while back, one of my interviewees associated his way of getting forward with his pioneering, rather unusual business idea similar to that of a well-driven and impactful preacher.

“It relates to this uncertainty of your end result. That you have an unlimited belief in what will happen. You have no proof of that it will happen, but you believe. It is that you tell your vision to the investor. That it will happen. That it will succeed. You have great arguments for it. If you don’t have the will, it shows through you. Or if you listen to a preacher who doesn’t believe in what he’s saying, it shows through him.”

His analogies were interesting overall, but what got my attention was his meaning-making and significance of this above mentioned ‘belief’ quite neatly with the three rhetorical appeals of Aristotle:

“In communication, 10 % is words. Having ethos, pathos and logos, you are quite well off.”

He explains that logos means the words you speak, the logic of them. Pathos is feeling, meaning the feeling that is communicated through that speaking. In addition, you need ethos, the status – or that ‘who’s talking’ effect. He explains that “if a politician is talking in the clothes of a priest, he has no ethos because everyone knows he is a politician. They won’t believe him”.

This entrepreneur seems to have found his “calling”. Though it was evident that his path was paved with uncertainty and resistance, he was determined in getting across his message. For him, it is about having that impact on people:

“If you are an entrepreneur, it means that you need to have an impact on others, have an impact on your team. — If you don’t have the will, it is directly influencing your pathos and ethos. And at some point, the logic too gets affected. — It is really hard to fake it because it often shows through. You can see from a people if they really believe in it or not.”

Like in any human relationship, communication is a multifaceted event, including nonverbal and verbal aspects to it. Hence, we may learn a thing or two from this entrepreneur’s analogy of logos, pathos and ethos. In entrepreneurship, leading a company or getting across with our international partners, it is not only about communicating technicalities, i.e. technical details of products, business models or logics of cash flow. It is also important to communicate that feeling and personally meaningful dream, because, in the best case, that internally mobilizing drive can become contagious.

In addition, we may want to check our status every once in a while and become truthful in the way we encounter people – sharing vision and dreams becomes possible at mutually recognized grounds.

I wish you an impactful and inspirational month of May!

Satu