By Sara Haq W’06, Founder and Principal of SH International
In October, I had the honor of giving a guest lecture at the Wharton School to sixty students on emerging markets and multinational entrepreneurship. These were students of the Emerging Economies class of Wharton Professor Philip Nichols. My hope is that these students learned something from the lessons I shared from doing business across five continents. I know I got a lot out of the experience, including:
Greater understanding of my company’s target market
These students were young, bright, and keen to make their mark on the world. Some of them will end up as global entrepreneurs, just like our clients. So their concerns were a good reflection of those of our client base.
They asked questions regarding the ethical considerations of doing business as an American abroad, maneuvering murky regulatory environments, and working abroad as a woman. This gave me a chance to reflect on including more material addressing these issues into the trainings we provide to entrepreneurs building multinational businesses.
Validation of ideas
The students were particularly interested in how I had managed any instances of bribery during my overseas business adventures. Given the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, morality aside, getting involved in bribery can land you in jail, on top of significant financial penalties. I shared with them my theory on how to deal with bribery pragmatically (yet legally), instead of simply wishing that the world would be a different place.
After the class was over, Prof. Nichols—the bribery and corruption expert himself—told me that he found my theory so interesting that he intended to present it at a conference in Basel the following week! Prof. Nichols taught me in this very same class more than a decade ago. It was incredibly encouraging to have my ideas validated by someone who has inspired me and witnessed my professional growth.
As an advisor, building credibility with your clients is very important. However, just as important is building credibility with yourself. You have to be confident that you have valuable knowledge to share, and this exchange with Prof. Nichols helped reaffirm my value to myself.
Inspiration to keep giving and connecting
Every time I reconnect with the Wharton community, I come away invigorated and inspired by the incredible knowledge and energy exchanged within the community on a daily basis. So naturally, I take every opportunity to be involved. This Spring, I will visit Wharton again as an Entrepreneur in Residence: if you are on campus and thinking about building a multinational venture, I cannot wait to meet you.
Bio: Sara Haq W’06 is Principal of SH International LLC, which helps entrepreneurs build profitable multinational businesses. She has extensive on-the-ground business and finance experience across Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. She is a sharp negotiator and takes pride in being both business savvy and street smart. She speaks French, Spanish, Arabic, Turkish, Hindi/Urdu, and native English. She was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware and currently lives in Washington, DC. Learn more about her company SH International on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.