South African vs US business terms

South African vs US business termsThis post is a continuation of the guest lecture I gave at GSU. A group of MBA students are planning to visit South Africa to meet with South African companies. I gave them this introduction to business terms used in South Africa.

  • In South Africa revenue or sales is called turnover. I’ve been in a number of business meetings where South African businesspeople proudly mentioned their company’s high turnover. (Turnover in America typically refers to employee attrition).
  • In South Africa the CEO is referred to as the Managing Director or MD. CEO is used more frequently in South Africa these days.
  • A director in America is typically a level below a VP, however in South Africa a director usually refers to a board member, i.e., a very senior position.
  • In America a loan is typically referred to as a note.
  • In South Africa the word scheme doesn’t have the same negative connotation as it has in America. Share plans are frequently called Share schemes.
  • In South Africa employees are retrenched rather than laid off.
  • In South Africa people will check their diary instead of their calendar to schedule a meeting.

During the next installment I’ll give you a few fun general terms that are used differently in South Africa.Do you have an interesting story to tell when you used a word that people in a different country didn’t understand or misunderstood?

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South Africa by Numbers

This post includes a part of the presentation I gave at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business on June 13, 2007.South Africa by Numbers:

  • 6: The number of time zones during day light savings that South Africa is ahead of ET. 7 time zones during the winter.
  • 11: The number of official languages in South Africa: Sesotho sa Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, SiSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu
  • 45m: The South African population. 26th most populous country in the world.
  • 9: Number of states or provinces in South Africa.
  • +27: South African dial code.
  • 20%: 20% of the world’s gold is mined in South Africa.
  • $570bn: South Africa’s GDP (PPP). 18th in the world. Ahead of countries like Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden.
  • 5.3m: The number of South Africans infected by HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, number one in the world. This is almost 12% of the population.
  • 2010: In 2010 South Africa will host the Soccer World Cup.

You may find more information on South Africa on these sites: South Africa Info, Wikipedia, and CIA Worldbook.

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Guest lecture @ GSU Robinson College of Business

I’m giving a guest lecture to MBA students at the Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University in Atlanta on June 13, 2007. The topic will be the difference between doing business in South Africa and America. I will add an outline of the presentation to this blog in the next couple of weeks.If you have any comments, suggestions and ideas please leave a comment.

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IT Matters and my top 10 list

Georgia Southern UniversityOn October 26, 2006 I had the privilege of presenting a guest lecture to the students at the College of IT at Georgia Southern University (GSU). I would like to thank Dr. Sonny Butler for inviting me. Below are the 10 main points I presented. My purpose was not to promote any specific technology or company, but to give the students a couple of life lessons based on my IT background and business experience.#1. Never stop learningNo, you don’t know everything after you earned your IT (or any other) degree. Never stop reading. Read IT books, business books and blogs. I recommend that you also read outside your field. For example I’m currently subscribed to The Futurist magazine.Futurist Magazine It’s a great way to expand your horizons. Tip: Every year randomly pick up a magazine or book from the business section at your local bookstore.Attend conferences, and again sometimes attend conferences outside your field.Join a mentor group or a technology peer group. I belong to Vistage. It’s the largest CEO group in the world and I’ve learned a bunch from my peers, including CEOs from a flooring company, a cosmetic dentistry, a not-for-profit organization and a chicken feed additive company. All non-IT focussed organizations — go figure…Lastly, visit other countries. You will definitely gain new insights, broaden your experience and come back to the US with a new appreciation for how privileged we are in this country.#2. Be pragmaticI was very much in love with the technical betty of both OS/2 and Smalltalk. Very soon after leaving university I realized that a technically superior product doesn’t always win in the marketplace. For example: I still think Smalltalk is the best programming language, but so what. Most of my career I programmed in other languages, e.g., C++ and ABAP (SAP’s programming language). Don’t forget your principles, however when it comes to technology be pragmatic. Fortunately Smalltalk influenced Java and also influenced programming paradigms like SAP’s Webdynpro methodology and Ruby/Ruby on Rails.#3. IT is still relevantIT is still relevant and will continue to be relevant during our lifetimes. Most productivity gains still come from improvements in technology. I think that we are only at the beginning of the impact that cheap, high bandwidth, allways-on Internet access will have on consumers and the global economy. Think about the impact of Skype, Jajah, mobile devices and soon WiMax. Btw, cool technology like iPod is great hardware, however software (iPod’s software and iTunes) continues to be the secret One laptop per Childsauce. IT is also making a big difference in uplifting the third world, e.g., MIT’s one laptop per child initiative. See my previous post on (RED).#4. India and China…and Eastern Europe, Russian, Bulgaria and Estonia… The world is flat and IT jobs (and lots of other jobs) will go off-shore. If you haven’t read “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman then you should read it now.I also recommend “Commanding Heights” by Yergin and Stanislaw. It chronicles the raise of free markets over the last 100 years. Fascinating stuff, really!I told the students that the best way to deal with the off-shore phenomenon is to make sure you remain relevant and learn new skills, e.g., project management, presentation skills, and writing skills.#5. Where will my IT degree take me — a technical or business career?You can take a technical track or move into a business career. For example, I have a Masters in Computer Science and started my career as a programmer. After a couple of years I became a consultant and eventually moved into a management position. I recently completed a 8 year tenure as the CEO of an IT consulting company. I think you can earn good money pursuing a technical career as well as a business/management career.IT Consulting is another very lucrative option, however it involves a lot of air travel and it will impact your family life. I recommend you consult while you’re not married and use the opportunity to see the world!

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