Tag Archive for Korea consulting franchise

A Global Approach: A Roadmap For Korea Management Teams

Feedback on my writings, including my most recent book Korea Perspective is  always welcome. My readers have considerable first-hand experience working for and interacting with Korea-based companies so their input is appreciated and highly valued.

Southerton Korea

The following is a paraphrase of comment from one reader.

After reading Korea Perspective, I can only agree with your very accurate analysis. Leadership within Korean companies is crucial, since very little action is left to lower level of management. For example, the Western reflective behavior, as you describe in your book, is not encouraged by the leadership. The focus is solutions and quick action.

The comment further notes:

I think a good topic and matter to be studied more is how Korean Companies can really expand and/or consolidate their overseas business without considering a change in their leadership. Unfortunately what I have experienced is if this leadership is ONLY Korean these big companies will face hard time in the future, of course against American companies but I would say also with Indians and nowadays Chinese.

A Roadmap for Korean Management

Mindful of these remarks, in this series of commentaries I depart from a previous focus that has shared insights to non-Korean global teams working for Korean companies.

Instead I provide a roadmap and best practices to their Korean management and overseas divisions. This includes new Korean brands eager to launch their products and services outside Korea. The series is also applicable to those established Korean brands already in overseas markets who could benefit from benchmarking “what works” and “what doesn’t.”

Frankly, too often I see the same missteps re-occurring. What is frustrating is to witness challenges one company endures in their market entry only to see the same (something or other but without repeating “challenges” repeated as another new Korean brand goes global.

So what are these common missteps and how can they be addressed? That is goal of this commentary.

Challenge #1 Dispatching a Korean team to spearhead local U.S. or overseas operations outside Korea.

When expanding into new oversees markets, all companies need to have their HQ operations represented in the local markets. The Korean model for overseas markets has evolved– improving some over the years. In the best cases, the major established brands have recognized and learned through trial and error that key local leadership and teams, especially sales and marketing, need to be non-Korean and industry veterans.

In addition to local teams, they may still assign expatriates, called ju jae won. In the larger overseas subsidiaries, these Korean expats are assigned to the major departments, including sales, marketing, HR, and product development, along with engineering, and design divisions. In many, if not most, cases these expats are not assigned manager roles but operate as a “shadow management” with considerable oversight of local operations.

For westerners unfamiliar with the Korean model, this “oversight” usually translates into the Korean expats requiring signing off on all decisions—trivial to substantial. This can be a huge challenge when newly assigned expats have little specific background in or knowledge of the host country’s operations and market. Cognitively, the Korean teams recognize localization is needed but, especially if under pressure to perform, may defer to their Korean company procedures and cultural norms. In other cases, Korean firms have also initially resisted local management guidance and followed what they felt would be the best approach. Sadly, the Korean-led teams perform poorly and eventually yield to the local teams.

That said, it seems to be common practice that new Korean brands with little overseas experience follow a path that rarely is successful–feeling their best approach is to dispatch HQ personal to the new market and let them figure it out. In many cases those assigned are among the top employees in the Korean HQ operation—knowing their company and its product well. However, to succeed in the West an entirely different set of skills is required. Foremost is a strong knowledge of the industry—one acquired over decades.

All said, the most effective model is to hire a strong local, non-Korean management team but not constrain them with a Korean “shadow” management team that must approve or sign off on all the local decisions. This includes the Finance team assigned to the local operations but always independent of operations and reporting to their own teams in Korea.

Why? To be truly effective, local teams must be empowered to act based on their experience and judgment. Layers of approval may be commonplace in Korea but slow down the process in overseas markets, especially when the Korean support teams have little or no experience in that market or try to operate the business as they would in Korea. Inevitably, the work stalls, frustrating and demoralizing the local teams.

In part 2 of Challenge #1, we will discuss an option in lieu of dispatching a team from Korea. Should the hiring of local Korean Americans with the assumption they will be able best represent the brand in America be considered as an option?



Korean Business Expert Don Southerton Releases Ground Breaking Book

Korea Perspective offers a road map to avoid common pitfalls while overcoming challenges, addressing issues that frequently surface with Korea.



Golden, Colorado (PRWEB) February 02, 2015
Korean global business consultant Don Southerton has released his latest publication, titled Korea Perspective. Southerton notes, ” As a result of my interacting with Korea facing business on an almost daily basis, Western overseas teams, as well Korean leadership and teams, have openly shared their challenges and pressing concerns. In turn, I have worked to provide them with a framework, strategy, and solutions. This book is based on these daily interactions.”

The intended audiences, the author points out, are Westerners employed by Korean-based companies outside South Korea, firms providing services or products to a South Korean overseas subsidiary or operations and global companies that have significant business with a Korean company.

Southerton adds, “All in all, this book offers a road map to avoid the pitfalls, navigate around the roadblocks, and thrive.”

Korea Perspective is available through Amazon Kindle, Nook and most popular booksellers.

About the author
Don Southerton has a life-long interest in Korea and the rich culture of the country. He has authored numerous publications with topics centering on culture, new urbanism, entrepreneurialism, and early U.S.-Korean business ventures. Southerton also lectures extensively and writes and comments on modern Korean business culture and its impact on global organizations.

He is a frequent contributor to the media (WSJ, Forbes, CNN Fortune, Bloomberg, Automotive News, Korea Times, Korea Herald, Yonhap, Korea Magazine, and FSR) on Korea facing business and culture. He heads Bridging Culture Worldwide, a Golden, Colorado based company that provides strategy, consulting and training to Korea-based global business. An avid martial artist, Southerton has pursued the study and practice of Korean traditional arts for more than forty years.
The author is available for media interviews.



Golfsmith Korea Virtual Tour

Very cool. Golfsmith Korea virtual tour, Lotte Premium Outlet Paju. A BCW project.







Korean CEO Tenure

By Don Southerton, Editor

I often share that non-family Korea CEO tenure being considerably less than their overseas operations.

By comparison internationally the non-Korean CEOs tend to stay in the job lots longer … and a more performance based model.

Of course, the organizational dynamics in Korea with everyone in the ranks ever-moving upward forces those at the top out to make room for the next generation.

This excerpt notes CEO tenure at many of the top Korean Groups.

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) — The average term in office of South Korean CEOs is 2.63 years, shorter than the minimum three years endorsed by the country’s commercial law, a finding by a local corporate research firm showed Wednesday.

The report was compiled by tracking the tenures of 576 CEOs at listed companies belonging to the country’s 30 largest conglomerates from 2000 onwards, CEO Score said. The results exclude chief executives who actually run the conglomerate or are family members of these tycoons.

The data showed that 367, or 63.7 percent of the total, stepped down in less than three years, with 102, or 17.7 percent, staying on for less than a year.

CEOs at Hyosung Group had the shortest term, 17 of them staying on the job for an average of 1.7 years during the measured period.

Mirae Asset and CJ had 1.79 and 1.97 years, each.

Others such as Kolon, Hyundai, KT, GS, POSCO, Doosan, Kumho Asiana and Dongbu had CEOs staying for less than 2.6 years on average




It’s That Time of the Year, Again: Christmas in Korea

By Don Southerton, BCW Editor

Korea Christmas Greeting



With the year end, Korean Groups are finalizing annual end of year reporting, restructuring, promotions, and new assignments.

Some Korean team members already have begun to share news of the re-assignments, others will find out in the coming days.

Meanwhile expect some change both at senior leadership and across the teams. Those receiving promotions should be congratulated–promotions bring considerable status along with a boost in wages.

On a more personal level…
As the holidays approach, you may wish to greet Korean colleagues with:

Sae hae bok man i ba deu say yo! (Seasons Greetings)

Hint: Break the greeting into: sae hae bok—mahne—bah deu say yo

Sae hae bok man i ba deu say yo! works well both in person, in a card, or an email. It is a common seasonal greeting actually good into the New Year.

If you have a specific questions, feel free to contact dsoutherton@bridgingculture.com






A New Case Study: Korean Brand Market Entry

By Don Southerton, BCW  Editor

We provide both strategy and support for bringing brands to Korea, and Korean brands to the US and the international market. This Case Study shares a snapshot of some of our recent work in progress.

For more details, please just email us or schedule a time for a call Dsoutherton@bridgingculture.com


Don Southerton Korea Market Entry Mad For Garlic




Coming to America: Mad for Garlic

By Don Southerton, BCW Editor

I am very pleased with the November issue of FSR Magazine. The high profile food industry publication highlighted Mad For Garlic as one of  three international brands entering the US market.

Coming to America By Kirsten Ballard

November 2013

Don Southerton Korea market entry Mad for Garlic
Chef Jungmo Ahn at Mad for Garlic prepares the restaurant’s signature Garlic Foryou Steak. 

First known as the melting pot, and then the salad bowl, the U.S. offers a variety of markets and tastes for international dining concepts. U.S. chains continue to expand internationally, but innovative international concepts are filling niches and gaining popularity here as well.

Mad For Garlic, a Korean restaurant focused on garlic-centric foods, partnered with Bridging Culture Worldwide, a global consulting firm, to make its transition to the U.S.

“This is much different [than a Korean restaurant], it is an Italian garlic concept that originated in Korea,” says Don Southerton, CEO and president of Bridging Culture Worldwide.

Mad For Garlic, which has signature dishes such as Dracula Killer, Garlic Snowing Pizza, Garlicpeno Pasta, Mushroom Risotto, and Garlic Steak, expanded through Asia and the Philippines, and now is seeking franchisees for U.S. markets.

“Korean brands are highly regarded,” Southerton says. “The reception has been phenomenal.” However, Southerton stresses the importance of researching real estate opportunities in each market. “[Before coming to America] the idea needs to be polished and successful, the most successful in its current market,” Southerton says.

Already having success in this country is Mari Vanna, a Russian home-style cuisine concept that has opened in Washington, New York, and, most recently, Los Angeles.

Named for the fairytale grandmother of Slavic folklore, Mari Vanna’s ambiance is a mixture of grandma’s house and garden party, with fairytale design elements that are meant to bring back memories of the diner’s childhood.

The Los Angeles eatery marks the sixth location of the international chain, spearheaded by Russian hospitality group Ginza Project.

“You have to learn the flavor of the area. You have to know everything when you open the restaurant [in a new city] in terms of competition, what the customer wants, and how to market,” says Tatiana Brunetti, Mari Vanna and Ginza Project partner.

“You learn something new at each location. As we are going forward, we learn as we go.”

For instance, she says people in Los Angeles “like more light, the colors of material more bright,” so the Los Angeles design boasts brighter colors and a more airy feel than the London location.

Mari Vanna serves traditional Russian fare, including braised veal with homemade noodles and svekolnik, a chilled borscht with sour cream and diced vegetables, as well as desserts like the Napoleon cake and kislitsa, chilled slices of orange-zested cream sprinkled with caramelized nuts.

Unusual house-infused vodkas, such as pepper, cucumber and dill, and sea berry are a hallmark of the Mari Vanna restaurants. In addition to these, the Los Angeles location offers house-infused tequila—with flavors like red pepper, pineapple, and mixed berry.

“Everyone has a memory of going to grandma’s,” Brunetti says, and through the whimsical design, Mari Vanna brings customers back to their childhood, whether they grew up eating Russian fare or not.

Another concept that has come to America intent on expansion arrived when Dario Wolos literally drove his restaurant, Tacombi, up to New York from Mexico. The taqueria restaurant, which has been in the U.S. for four years, expanded from a food truck to a full-service restaurant, and Wolos is looking to open a third location.

Healthy home cooking and unique design set Tacombi apart, and Wolos stayed away from the cliché idea of a Mexican restaurant, instead bringing a true taqueria experience to the U.S.

“In New York you get boxed into 15-foot locations,” he says. But after a year of searching, he found a large, open space where he could create the Tacombi experience.

Source:  FSR Magazine




Golf, Songdo, Mad For Garlic, Cars and New Media

By Don Southerton, Editor
From my previous post, I’m back from attending the PGA’s President Cup in Ohio. In 2015, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea will host the event. Look for updates as they unfold.

Over the years, I have worked closely with the developers of Jack Nicklaus Golf Club, NY-based Gale International on their Songdo, city of the future. My cover story on Songdo was recently highlighted in Korea magazine. I see Songdo as ever evolving and becoming a knowledge-based forward thinking hub of East Asia.

Songdo Don Southerton

Over the past two years I have also advised top North America golf retailer Golfsmith International on entering the Korean market, plus I am working closely with Korea’s Mad for Garlic on opening in the US and the ME.

Don Southerton Mad For Garlic

What stands out is…US brands and concepts do well in Korea, and Korean brands do well here in North America.

Hyundai Motor Don Southeton

BTW I still work extensively across the Hyundai Motor Group supporting Hyundai, Kia Motors, Hyundai Capital, Hyundai Glovis—to name but a few. In addition, I support a number of key digital and media partners, which over the years has become one of my areas of expertise. Take Note: I see digital and new media work culture as edgy and very cool.

That said, regardless if its golf, forward leaning Songdo, garlic inspired cuisine, cars or new media–Culture– plays an incredible role. Sharing and communicating the nuances in workplace culture allow projects to move forward smoothly with no delays. In the worst cases, and without a strategy, coaching and support, expectations are not met, projects stall, deadline come and go, and often employee turnover is high with costs escalating.

When needed, my role is to provide support, strategy, coaching and training.

Pretty much here 24-5



Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea and 2015 President’s Cup

President’s Cup

I attended this year’s President Cup in Dublin, Ohio with my friends at Gale International. They are developers of the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, which will be hosting the 2015 Cup. We have high expectations for the event in two years.

Don Southerton at 2013 President’s Cup Songdo Booth

The Details

The Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, located in the Songdo International Business District (IBD), Incheon, Korea, has been selected as the host the 2015 President’s Cup.

The Incheon City skyline is visible from Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, site of the 2015 Presidents Cup.

July 31, 2013

AKRON, OHIO – At Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, where Jack Nicklaus is tonight receiving the Ambassador of Golf Award, Nicklaus joined PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem to announce that Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, located in the Songdo International Business District (IBD), Incheon, Korea, has been selected as the host course and Incheon City as the host city for The Presidents Cup 2015 when the event makes its first trip to Asia.

Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, which is located 40 miles west of Seoul in the country’s largest economic development zone, celebrated its opening in September 2010 with the Champions Tour’s first official money/official victory event held in Asia. The course hosted the Songdo Championship in 2010 and 2011, and the 2012 Korea Women’s Open on the KLPGA Tour.

Mayor Song Young-Gil of Incheon City expressed his excitement and was delighted with his city being selected as the host city of The Presidents Cup 2015. “We are extremely pleased and honored to be the first city in Asia to be selected as host of The Presidents Cup,” said Mayor Song. “Along with the upcoming 2014 Asian Games, Incheon City has certainly put itself on the global stage as a choice destination for major international events, and we look forward to welcoming participants, sponsors and dignitaries from around the world to our great city and country.

“Incheon City will work closely with the PGA TOUR, Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea and others to make The Presidents Cup 2015 a resounding success.”

Finchem said, “Just over three years ago, we announced The Presidents Cup would be played at Muirfield Village Golf Club in 2013.  Today, we further strengthen Jack Nicklaus’ commitment and connection to The Presidents Cup with the announcement that the course he designed at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea will in 2015 host the event for its first foray into Asia. Like Muirfield Village, Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea is Jack’s vision and an impressive venue in its own right. We are thrilled to take The Presidents Cup there, which is not only a milestone in the event’s history, but also a significant step in further elevating the game of golf in Korea.”

Nicklaus said, “We’re very honored and proud that Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea has been selected for The Presidents Cup 2015. We have always felt strongly about JNGC Korea as a host venue because of its location in the Songdo International Business District, its proximity to the Incheon International Airport, the quality hotels nearby, and the club’s proximity to a large population area. The facility itself also makes for an ideal location to host The Presidents Cup. We’re very pleased that the PGA TOUR felt the same after evaluating its options throughout Korea.

“Everyone has worked extremely hard to get us to today. I want to extend my congratulations to Mayor Song Young-Gil and the host City of Incheon; the membership and staff at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, as well as the development team from Gale International, especially Stan Gale. I would also like to recognize Chairman Roy Ryu, who has been instrumental in bringing The Presidents Cup to Korea. His vision and leadership were critical throughout the entire selection process. In the end, we’re delighted that the PGA TOUR selected the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea. We think they will present a great event. This will be a tremendous opportunity to showcase on a world stage the beauty of Korea and the country’s passion for the game of golf. Having been fortunate to be involved in several Presidents Cup matches in the past, I know how uniquely special this event is and how it represents to a global audience all that is great about the game of golf.”

Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea features a par-72, 7,413-yard Signature Golf Course designed by the Golden Bear, and offers world-class amenities, including an award-winning, 60,000-square-foot clubhouse. For The Presidents Cup 2015, the course has undergone some minor renovations and the holes rerouted to accommodate hospitality and the match-play format. Songdo IBD is a joint undertaking by Gale International, POSCO E&C, and Incheon City and a model of international collaboration. Songdo IBD is globally recognized as the world’s foremost smart, sustainable city-scale development. In 2012, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) selected a site in Songdo as the home for the GCF Secretariat.  It is believed that many of the sustainable infrastructure and technological innovations being pioneered in Songdo will be applied to GCF-funded projects in developing nations.

“To build a truly global city, we engaged the world’s leading design, architecture, engineering and technology firms,” said Stan Gale, chairman of Gale International and Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea. “Working closely with our partner POSCO E&C, we selected Nicklaus Design to create a sporting venue worthy of hosting professional golf’s most prestigious international events. As a direct result of Jack’s consistent leadership and hands-on oversight, the JNGC Korea was selected as The Presidents Cup 2015 host location. The PGA TOUR’s decision is emblematic of Incheon City’s global appeal and a reinforcement of the importance of the great game of golf in the Republic of Korea and Greater Asia.”

Previous international venues for The Presidents Cup include: The Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (1998, 2011); The Links at Fancourt, George, South Africa (2003); and The Royal Montreal Golf Club in Montreal, Quebec, Canada (2007).  Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Prince William County, Va., hosted The Presidents Cup in 1994, 1996, 2000 and 2005, and TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif., was the host site in 2009.  Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, will host The Presidents Cup the first week in October.

In 2011, K.J. Choi, K.T. Kim and Y.E. Yang competed in The Presidents Cup, marking the first time more than one South Korean qualified for the International Team in event history.




Mad For Garlic looks West–UK News

The UK food and beverage (F&B) media has done a great job sharing news of Mad For Garlic’s launch.  Special thanks to Big Hospitality.com  and ‘Hospitality and Catering News’

Hospitality and Catering News


Mad For Garlic looks West for international growth

Mad For Garlic, one of Korea’s most popular restaurant chains with 27 outlets and a further 4 across Asia, has announced plans to bring its handcrafted artisanal Italian cuisine into the US, EU and ME markets.

In recent years, South Korea has become well known for its remarkable economic growth and a cultural trend called ‘Korean Wave”, with Korean cultural exports and innovations including cuisine, film and popular worldwide.

Italian cuisine with a Korean twist

Originated in Korea in 2001, Mad for Garlic’s creative preparation method of removing the garlic’s pungent smell and its unique way of cooking Italian cuisine with a Korean twist have won the hearts of both garlic and non-garlic lovers. Mad For Garlic is known for its unique and innovative menu with garlic-specialized Italian cuisine served in an atmosphere of medieval European rustic tavern.

“Mad For Garlic is now ready to expand our base of operations to new markets outside Asia,” said Director of International development, Ted Park. “We believe the world is ready for Mad For Garlic – we offer about 50 menu items and every dish has something in common – they are all about garlic. Mad for Garlic aims to present customers with an exquisite harmony of garlic and wine by pairing quality wines. “

Looking for developers in the UK and…

To spearhead its North American, Middle East and Europe expansion, Mad For Garlic has partnered with Bridging Culture Worldwide (BCW), a global consulting firm that focuses on Korea-facing business ventures.

“Mad For Garlic is currently looking for developers in the United States, the UK, Europe, and the Middle East, and we are thrilled to assist in finding the right partners for the brand,” said Don Southerton, CEO of BCW. “If a developer meets our criteria, which includes the financial resources to fund a multi-unit development plan, we’d love to talk further about Mad For Garlic.”

Specific franchise requirements may vary from country to country. Mad For Garlic does not grant franchise rights or explore joint venture agreements without meeting potential partners in person. For more information contact Dsoutherton@bridgingculture.com.

About Mad For Garlic

Since its establishment in 1995, Seoul-based SUN AT FOOD and its leading brand, Mad for Garlic has set the highest standards in culinary excellence and innovation. SUN AT FOOD is a global dining company and has received numerous accolades through the years for its outstanding performance. For more information click here

About Bridging Culture Worldwide

Bridging Culture Worldwide focuses on global Korea-facing business services. Based on over 3 decades of experience, it provides cross-cultural insights to global teams and management. Bridging Culture Worldwide core services include: Market entry, Consulting, Strategy, and Research. For more information click here


Don Southerton,