Last night I attended an opening of Office Port-River Market. The owner, Shaul Jolles, is a good friend of mine and an immigrant from Israel. After a while we were having a conversation and in a fairly small circle, there were folks from Lebanon, Colombia, Israel, USA and frankly, I’m not sure where else. We didn’t mention it or talk about it…I just reflected on it while driving home.
It reminded me of a NAFSA panel that I was on last month at the Kauffman Foundation here in Kansas City. We spoke about the value of having international experience in today’s world; and in fact, how one might even be handicapped without it.
I was lucky and fortunate enough to spend a year in Costa Rica as a high school foreign exchange student. While I had no idea at the time that it was going to change the course of my life forever, it remains the defining life-changing experience in my life. Today, I have a Lebanese wife and friends all over the world. Our staff is made up of folks from many different countries and in 16 years of business, our company has yet to have a meeting on ‘diversity’; our staff would find it amusing, I’m sure. We live it…take it for granted…and it would be redundant to have a meeting to talk about it.
There are times when this diversity, especially with languages, causes us to move more slowly at first; it can be less efficient. But wow, the outcome is so worth it. The ideas generated…the diversity of opinions and different ways of looking at things are invaluable. I’ve often said that we are so much better and more capable as a result of the international experience that we have on staff.
As a result, today we seek out both international folks as well as those with international experience. The creativity it brings to the party is invaluable. And it makes us a significantly more formidable company.
Danny O'Neill is Bean Baron – and president/owner – of The Roasterie in Kansas City, MO. Last month he participated in a roundtable hosted by NAFSA and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Global Workforce Development: Connecting Business and Education to Compete in the International Marketplace, which brought business and higher education leaders together to share their predictions about the vital skills of the global manager of the future and how our campuses can prepare competitive graduates. Every year NAFSA hosts the largest conference in international education which attracts thousands of international educators from more than 100 countries – NAFSA's 2010 Annual Conference & Expo will take place in Kansas City, May 30-June 4, 2010.