International – A Meaningless Term in Executive Titles

I frequently see executives with titles such as EVP of International Operations, SVP of International Sales or Head of International Markets.  These are among the worst titles a company could give an executive and an example of “Inside Out” thinking.  “International” is a relative term.  If you are in the US, “International” implies Canada, Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.   But if you are in France, “International” implies North America as well as the rest of Europe, Africa, Middle East, Latin America and Asia.  If you are in Japan, “International” implies the rest of Asia as well as North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. 

Americans are the Worst Offenders

I frequently see US companies using the term “International” to describe Non-US operations.  Strangely the phrase “Domestic” or “US” is not included in the description of the American operations.  The problem with using “International” is that most of these same American companies are expanding around the world claiming to be able to offer local products and services in every country as well as they do in the US.  What these companies do not realize is that the misuse of “International” titles positions themselves as US-centric firms.  What happens when the Head of International Sales walks into a Mitsubishi office in Shinigawa (Japan) to explain his or her role?  The executive has to explain that “International” in this context is from an American point-of-view.  The company has effectively positioned itself as a US-centric firm.  The sales executive now is in a defensive position having to over-emphasize how the firm has the appropriate depth of capabilities in Japan as compared to local Japanese firms.

What Should They Be Called?

If you are a serious player in markets around the world then you should have separate heads of Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific.  If you are in the process of expanding and only have one executive for all non-US regions then use “Head of Europe and Asia” or a similar title.

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