As a professor, a renowned China expert, and a business strategy consultant active in more than 20 countries, Michael Enright brings a wealth of real-world experience to the D’Amore-McKim School of Business faculty.
“The School has a strong focus on experiential learning and on extensive interaction with the business community,” says Enright, who has 10 books, dozens of scholarly papers, scores of articles, more than 70 business cases, and hundreds of addresses to enior business and government audienes to his credit. “Because I bounce back and forth between practice and academia, part of my role is to help link what we do to issues that businesses care about.”
Enright, who recently joined D’Amore-McKim as the Pierre Choueiri Family Professor in Global Business, plans to bring this same practical emphasis to the classroom.
“When I give written assignments, I don’t read them as papers for a class. I read them as if they were reports to senior managers or the board of directors,” he says. “I run my classes like business meetings. I tell students that in the business world they often have only five minutes before the team or board needs to move on. This forces students to be prepared, clear, and concise in their communication.”
“My goal isn’t that they become good students, they already are, but that they become good professionals.”
China: A different business universe
With the recent additions of Enright and China expert George Yip, Northeastern has established itself as a powerhouse in thought-leadership on the world’s second-largest economy. Both men also add to the school’s expertise in emerging markets.
Enright, who lived in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, and has advised numerous companies and countries on their dealings with China, says that to be successful in China, Western business leaders must be aware that the Chinese economy operates on a fundamentally different set of underlying principles.
“The U.S. is a rules-based system where what is allowed is established by laws and regulations,” he says. “China is an interest-based system, where the interests of the government and the Communist Party determines what is allowed.”
For example, if there is a court case in China, a judge may conclude that the foreign business is correct according to the regulations, but still rule against them because the interests of the party supersede those rules.
“This complicates both negotiations and the implementation of the agreements reached,” says Enright. “The U.S. seeks to enshrine immutable rules and faults China when they agree and then don’t follow those rules. Conversely, China sees the U.S. obsession with rules as an effort to restrict China’s growth and development with excessive rules and procedures. Both sides view the other as not operating in good faith when in reality, they are being true to the system that underlies the basic beliefs of each country. This produces ill will on both sides.”
Rising tensions between the U.S. and China, and their economic importance, will make it even more critical that companies understand what drives political decision making in both countries.
Enright says another major feature of the international economy is the importance of family business.
“Outside of the U.S., Western Europe, Japan, a few other countries, and Chinese state-owned enterprises, the vast majority, even of large companies, are family businesses. This is true throughout South Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America Africa and the Middle East.”
“Family businesses face additional issues beyond those that others face in terms of management, governance, and succession. Western companies also need to understand these addtional dynamics when they operate abroad, particularly in emerging markets.”
He also believes the international business landscape is changing rapidly and companies must react.
“Nationalism, decoupling, U.S.-China tensions, and the covid crisis are affecting regulations, strategies, supply chains, distribution systems, travel patterns, public health, and economic health around the world. Companies that adapt quickly and strategically are the ones most likely to survive and thrive.”