The Professional Expat: 10 Lessons Learned From Leading a US-based Business Abroad

Levi Strauss & Co.
December 4, 2014

The following is an excerpt from an article originally published on LinkedIn, where LS&Co. leaders periodically share their perspectives and expertise on business trends, industry issues, careers and the workplace. Have thoughts or reactions to this piece? Head on over to LinkedIn to share them.

My first European expat assignment began in 1998 while working for Nike—and it wasn’t exactly the smoothest start. To my horror, my checked bag never showed up and I was stuck at EuroDisney for the week.  I had to wear spare, slim-fit large t-shirts (I’m an XL guy), some women’s socks, and make do with a Mickey Mouse amenity kit. While blended into the casual setting of the meeting, I couldn’t help but wonder what first impression I was making to my new European apparel team, which I’d be managing for the next four years.

Thankfully, things went much better from there and the next four years in the Netherlands were some of the most memorable and rewarding of my career. I’m currently enjoying my second expat assignment, this time managing Brussels-based Levi Strauss Europe, while living in London. I’ve been traveling globally for most of my career; initially throughout Asia, Australia, India, Nepal, and extensively throughout Europe.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned? Visiting and working in foreign countries intermittently is very different from actually living abroad and managing foreign offices and teams on a daily basis.

Here are a few tips I’ve collected after 35 years that have helped me lead teams abroad and enjoy my international assignments.

Read Seth’s full post and 10 tips for leading global teams and working internationally on LinkedIn.