Tell us your name and a little about yourself.
I am currently the founder and president of Dean Foster Global Cultures, a consulting organization based in NYC. Prior to that I was the founder and president of DFA Intercultural Global Solutions, and founder and Director of Berlitz Cross-Cultural. My first company was Cross-Cultural Consulting Associates. With these businesses I have been dedicated to providing information and training on the cultural requirements for success when working and traveling in countries abroad. I have written five books (Bargaining Across Borders, McGraw-Hill; The Global Etiquette Guide to Europe, The Global Etiquette Guide to Asia, The Global Etiquette Guide to Africa and the Middle East, & the Global Etiquette Guide to Latin America, all John Wiley & Sons), am the host of my “Oops, Your Culture’s Showing!” podcast and have lived and/or worked in over 100 countries. I was born in New York City, and currently live in the Nation of Brooklyn, where it’s very green and life is urgent and filled with the most interesting people on the planet.
Why did you become an entrepreneur, speaker, author, etc in the first place?
Frankly, I didn’t know there was any other way! A few years after college I was, in fact, a teacher with the NYC public schools, but I always knew that, in the parlance of my generation, “doing my own thing” was inevitable. When I was teaching, I was also developing a career in songwriting and performing, which is about as entrepreneurial as you can get. Once I got my Master’s degree in cultural anthropology, I knew that I had to find a unique niche in which to operate, otherwise, I was going to end up in academia or on an archaeological dig, both of which sounded appealing in the short term, but which I knew would never fulfill me long-term, soulfully or financially. And I knew that there was a vast need for cultural information at a time when US companies were just starting to look to markets abroad for new opportunities, and there was no organization that was fulfilling that need that I could have worked for. So I started my own.
I take a deep breath, first, and recognize it. Most of the time, if I am fearful or apprehensive, it doesn’t manifest in obvious “fight or flight” ways, so I need to examine what is making me less functional, anxious, irritable, prone to procrastination, etc. Then, once I recognize that this is often a fear response, I can deal with it. One way is to remind myself that nothing lasts forever, so whatever is causing the fear of the moment will, even if I did nothing, eventually resolve itself one way or the other, and that gives me the strength to step in and try to resolve it as positively for myself as I can.
Tell us, how do you deal with rejection?
Learn from it. There is no such thing as failure. You are either succeeding or learning and either way you win. You fail only when you refuse to learn from rejection. I search earnestly for the lesson within every rejection, so I can get back up and do it right the next time.
What’s the name of your company? What exactly does your company do, how do you help people?
Dean Foster Global Cultures. We provide the cultural information and skills that individuals and organizations need to navigate cultural differences abroad. We provide these services through training, information, books, blogs, podcasts, keynotes, etc., and our target markets are companies working or looking to work in other countries, or individuals traveling, for business or pleasure, abroad.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
At the beginning, the biggest challenge was having to educate prospective clients to the reasons why they needed our services. Competition is a great thing for companies with a new idea, because it helps educate the market to the services you are selling. The problem was that we had no competition when we started, so we were the only ones out there explaining why developing cultural competency was critical to global success. Most of our first clients came to us because they had already stubbed their toe around some kind of cultural issue that was costing them money, time, headaches, etc.. But waiting for a prospective client to have a bad experience abroad was a slow way to get a company off the ground, so we had to learn how to talk about our product to people who couldn’t imagine why they needed it…until they did!
Become the absolute best at one very special thing, and never walk away from it. It’s your baby, and you can never give that up.
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?
Anyone who has overcome obstacles not of their own making, and who has required the world to meet them on their terms.
Name a person who helped you along the way?
Ellen Raider. She took me on as an apprentice to her small consulting company, because I had this crazy idea, and she saw value in it. And when we started to have clients respond, instead of taking me into her organization, she kicked me out, and told me to do this on my own. How did she know all that? Her trust in me was a profound gift I have never forgotten.
What do you see as your greatest success in life, so far?
That I have managed to somehow be the love of someone’s life, and have worked through the challenges of personal relationships to have a wife, a daughter, a son, and even some grandchildren. Starting three companies, writing 5 books, managing a podcast and blog are easy compared to personal relationships!
How can people contact you?
What book would you recommend and why?
Sapiens. It’s probably not the best – or the most important book I’ve read, but it’s very, very good. It seems like the best book I’ve ever read is usually the most recent one I’ve finished.
What’s a personal self-talk, mantra, affirmation or self-belief that contributes to your success?
“I am worthy because I am.”