Recently I had the pleasure of chatting with Craig Shim, Director and Founder of Alphacrane Intercultural Specialists. Craig has over two decades of global marketing and cross-cultural consulting experience. Previously based in Asia for 14 years, he was an advisor to multinational corporations, foreign embassies and various agencies of the United Nations. In Australia, he provides cross-cultural advice to organisations including Air New Zealand, Boeing, BP, Nike and Mastercard.
Locally, Craig is the Chairperson of the Cultural Inclusiveness Committee within The Hills & Districts Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Future Leader of Queensland Leaders as well as a member of MBRIT.
Nette: Tell me what your business Alphacrane Intercultural Specialists does?
Craig: We’re a locally-based consultancy specialising in cross-cultural business and communication skills. Through our intercultural business coaching, training programs and consulting services, we help clients understand deep-rooted cultural differences between business mindsets, communication styles, values and attitudes – all of which can make or break meaningful business relationships. The majority of our clients are professionals in multinational companies who lead international teams, manage global mobility, or who are involved with international trade and investment attraction.
However, over the past two years, we have also been engaged by a growing number of councils to develop Asia-Ready tourism programs. That’s not a market we intentionally chased, but as my background was in tourism and because much of that experience was living in Asia, I suppose my industry colleagues put two and two together and started recommending me through their networks. Isn’t it interesting how opportunities crop up when you least expect them!
Nette: That is a fascinating business name and there must be some significance behind it. Can you tell me about that?
Craig: When I returned to Australia and established my own business, I wanted a name that reflected my Asian heritage and that aligned with my outlook on life. So the crane (bird) seemed a perfect choice – throughout Asia it represents happiness, new life and eternal youth. However, the eternal youth part isn’t what you might think. For me, eternal youth simply represents the curiosity of a child, which I believe is a vital quality in Cultural Intelligence – always being culturally curious rather than only seeing the world through my own cultural perspective.
As for the “alpha” part of Alphacrane, truth be told, I ran out of word combinations that hadn’t already been registered as a business name!
Nette: What was the path by which you came to this field?
Craig: Growing up in the Whitsundays in a mixed-heritage family and interacting with foreign tourists on a daily basis, I was always fascinated with different cultures and overseas travel.
After university, I took up a 10-year tourism marketing stint in Singapore and Indonesia. I eventually returned to Queensland for another decade, but grew even more curious about international cultures, and eventually returned to Asia.
In China and then Myanmar (Burma) my career transitioned to corporate consulting, then morphed into cultural consulting. I was fortunate enough to run coaching and training programs on behalf of the United Nations and for foreign embassies. Exposure to the world of diplomats and cultural diplomacy was an eye-opener for me, and at that point, I knew I had found my calling as an interculturalist.
NG: Craig, did you always want to do this type of work and be in your own business or was it something that evolved?
Craig: I’d never heard of the profession “interculturalist” until I started working with diplomats. So, no, it wasn’t a childhood dream of mine.
However, from an early age I intentionally made a series of life and career choices revolving around travel, lifelong learning and working with people from diverse cultures. In hindsight, it seems that all these experiences led to a point whereby I felt confident enough to dedicate a career to helping others develop their intercultural skills.
As for opening up my own business, that was a partly out of necessity. When my wife and I decided to return to Australia, I realised there were no other companies in Queensland that specialised in intercultural business skills. And so, the other reason for starting my own business was opportunity – there was a gap in the market, and I decided to be the first to fill it!
Nette: There are so many interesting parts of your work but what is the most rewarding aspect of your work? And are there any particular challenges in your work that you can tell me about?
Craig: There was a country manager I was coaching who had just arrived in Australia on a global assignment from Asia. She seemed uneasy with her new Australian team. When I asked about it, she revealed that a staff complaint had been made accusing her of being too demanding. Using cultural self-assessment techniques, I was able to help the country manager realise there was a series of critical cultural misunderstandings being played out, initially triggered by her practice of sending out emails in the evening (a common practice in Asia). Without realising it, she had started off on the wrong foot in winning the trust and confidence of her team.
In just one intercultural coaching session, the country manager went from being frustrated to a feeling of relief. She could finally make sense of the team dynamics and now felt empowered with the cultural skills necessary to establish a rapport with her Aussie colleagues.
These are the type of client transformations that make my work so rewarding – helping people overcome their professional (and often personal) frustrations when dealing with colleagues, customers and clients from different cultural backgrounds.
NG: What’s next for you?
Craig: This year, my Melbourne-based business partner and I will launch an Australian-first cultural competency accelerator program for international students.
Without adequate cultural orientation, international students are at risk of poor academic performance, social isolation, missed employment opportunities, and vulnerability in terms of personal safety.
We believe our program will improve international student satisfaction regarding the quality of their Australian experience, inside and outside of the classroom.
For assistance in the intercultural sphere contact Craig Shim of Alphacrane Intercultural Specialists on +61 (0)481 387 625 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
or find out more at www.alphacrane.com.au