Sharing The Culture Mastery Story with a LAMA

When explaining themselves to the market place, companies today have multiple avenues to be heard, seen, or experienced. For The Culture Mastery these channels have mainly been social media – if you’re not doing so yet, we encourage you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Medium – our Podcast as well as webinars, speaking engagements, or professional articles and leading publications like Harvard Business Review, Trade Ready, or the Huffington Post.

When digital media startup LAMA reached out to us for an interview, our interest was quickly piqued. LAMA’s model is quite unique, as their mobile app shifts the immediacy and sometimes nerve wrecking experience of a live interview situation to the person being interviewed. Their editorial team creates a set of questions for every interviewee who can answer those simply by recording them with their phones – at their own time and in their favorite environment. The LAMA team approached TCM founder Christian Höferle to talk about how we serve our clients and our company story. You’ll find the full interview on the LAMA website or on their mobile app (available for iOS and Android).

Q+A 1: Christian, would you please introduce The Culture Mastery and what led to your founding the company? What led to your move from Germany to the United States?

The Culture Mastery is a boutique consulting firm. People come to us if they want to improve how they work across borders, be that political borders, or mainly cultural borders. If you work in a global context, and chances are you are because you’re watching this video on this platform, you will have noticed that what worked at home – with your own people – doesn’t always work abroad when you’re working with people who think differently, who go about problem-solving differently, who communicate in a different style, and who build relationships in a different manner. That’s what we do. We help global clients adjust their work profile, their behavioral preferences to that of a new culture. We help them understand the culture that they’re entering. And why do I do that? It has to do with the fact that I moved from Germany to the U.S. a long time ago. I was here in the United States as a foreign exchange student in my teenage years and I came back in the early 2000s with my family. Since both my wife and I were born and raised in Germany and we both have a history of living in the U.Ss as kids and teenagers, we thought: hey, let’s give this a try. Let’s be expatriates for a while. It’s been 15 years now we’ve made the United States our home.

Q+A 2: What has been the feedback from clients of The Culture Mastery? What are the main challenges facing the clients who seek your help?

What most of our clients need when they come to us is, they need to get their staff prepared and confident to work outside of their natural cultural zone. Outside of their native waters, if you will. There is a famous quote stating that “fish do not see water.” However, if a fish leaves the native pond and swims into different waters, the different quality of the water will surely register whit the fish; and that’s what most of our clients are experiencing. So they come to us to help them get their employees and their team members ready to be successful, to be functional in a different cultural environment. And the feedback that we have been getting in the past, well it’s been 10 years now, has been overwhelmingly positive. We have trained hundreds of people going from the U.S. to Germany from France to Brazil, from Indonesia into the United States, across the world. Seeing people entering this challenge, or their professional new adventure, seeing them do that with much more confidence and much more savvy – that makes my day, that makes our day, because we know we’ve done our job.

Q+A 3: How did you establish the initial service offering of The Culture Mastery? How has the service offering grown or shifted since the company was founded in 2008?

The initial idea of the business was to serve incoming international companies which had invested in the Tennessee Valley, in the Chattanooga, TN area, where I used to live. I was an immigrant entrepreneur in the Tennessee Valley; mind you that is not New York, that is not Miami, or Chicago, L.A. or San Francisco. This is the deep, well not the Deep South, but the southern United States, Appalachia, if you’re familiar with the area. All of a sudden they had a strong influx of European, mainly German, companies. Too large German investors put down factories on a greenfield with a combined value of more than $5 billion and they also brought in lots of expatriates who entered the United States for the first time or who may have been to the U.S. before as tourists or as visitors. But they had never lived and worked in the U.S., especially not in a fairly rural area, which at that point had not been very international. So that’s what triggered our services. It was mainly destination services – that means expatriate support, holding people by the hand, doing all the government administrative stuff, getting the driver’s license, Social Security Number, bank account, all the logistics that come with moving. It has since evolved more to cultural training and coaching, and we worked with lots of international companies that have nothing to do with Germany or the U.S. So we are a truly global company, even though we’re based in one location. And the service offering has morphed from a more logistical to a more educational field. We help people cross cultures with more ease and make them more culturally competent. 

Q+A 4: You also have a podcast! Could you please tell us a bit more about the podcast, who the guests have been, and what the feedback from the community has been like?

Yes, I have a podcast. It’s called The Culture Guide Podcast – available on iTunes, Stitcher, and all the other platforms. What triggered this podcast was that in a previous professional life, I used to be a journalist. I did interviews like this – just that I was sitting on the opposite side. WIth the podcast I am combining my journalistic interests with my current passion. This means I’m finding people who have successfully crossed cultures, who have made mistakes in doing so, and – more importantly – who have learned from their mistakes and are willing to share them with the audience. We’ve had people that I would consider experts in the field, like authors of books like The Culture Map, Erin Meyer or Global Dexterity by Andy Molinsky. So we’ve had some “industry-famous people” and we’ve also had the “regular people.” Those who have been expatriates themselves, who have chosen to live a life abroad and are making it work, people who are third-culture kids, who grew up with two or more cultures, people who live in a cross-cultural relationship – all of those types of cultural intersections. On the podcast I want to hear their stories, I want them to share their challenges, their mistakes that they made and how they overcame it, so the audience can hopefully learn something from it. The Culture Guide podcast. Hope you check it out.

Q+A 5: What’s next for your work with The Culture Mastery, as well as your podcast? What are the main trainings, partnerships and projects you’ll be focusing on in 2019?

Our goal for the future, for the immediate future, is to expand our footprint even more. We began small, in the southern region of the United States, expanded nationally across the North American continent, now we have associates and partners in South America, in Europe, in Australasia, and in Southeast Asia. We’re not in Africa yet, maybe 2019 might be the time we enter the African market. I’d be excited about that. Obviously, I can’t talk about upcoming client projects, but one of them I’m really excited about. Keep your fingers crossed it will work out, or, as they do in Germany, squeeze your thumb. Cross your fingers, squeeze your thumb – there you have a cultural difference! We’re working on a project that includes a company from Finland which will be building a new plant in the United States and they will be sending people, no, not to Finland, but to Russia where they also have a plant and where they’ll train their new American hires. That will be a really interesting project. Finland, U.S., Russia super stoked about that. The podcast will continue as is. If you feel like you are a perfect candidate to be a guest on the show, we would love to talk to you. Reach out to me! I’m sure you’ll figure it out here on this platform. We’re going to keep plowing on, we’re gonna keep chugging on – much more training and coaching programs. Coaching is expanding rapidly in our field, especially senior executives realize that coaching has a much more long-lasting sustainable benefit to them. So check out the website, you’ll find the coaching programs there.
And just remember: If you don’t get culture, eventually culture will get you. 


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