Ted Dale and Ernest Gundling may share a passport nationality (U.S. American), but it was their love and fascination for Japan that really brought them together. Japan’s booming economy in the late 1980s and a lack of knowledge about Japanese culture in the U.S. became the foundation of Aperian Global as we know it today. One of the founders of the company, Ted Dale, had been born in Kyoto as the son of missionary parents, and experienced life in Japan as a foreigner until college age. The other, Ernie Gundling, set out to Japan as a Buddhist monk, a student of the Japanese language, and later to conduct field research through a Fulbright Dissertation Research Fellowship. At one point the two of them took a walk on the beach in Half Moon Bay, California, USA, to draw up the plans for a business that would focus on “helping people understand and interact more effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds.”
Ted’s motivation couldn’t have been more personal as he struggled with his identity, having grown up between two worlds, not knowing where to belong. Bootstrapping his first business endeavors under the name “Intercultural Training Resources Incorporated” in 1990, he began giving seminars on “How to work with Japanese” in Silicon Valley. Hitting a nerve at the time, Ted was asked by some of his early tech clients to create video training tools with a similar focus. During this (pre-Internet) time, he was introduced to Ernie, who was working for a consulting company that focused on U.S.-Japan business relations. Having many interests in common, the two of them eventually decided to join forces.
A video training series on Japanese culture became their first collaboration product in 1991. It was a collaboration that came together across a great distance: Ernie was writing the scripts while living in Japan, and Ted produced the videos in California. Subsequently, their company produced another successful video series on “Working With China,” and then “Working Globally,” which focused on helping Westerners do business in Asia. As the Internet became more available to mainstream users and businesses, Ted and Ernie were approached to create an online tool that could promote their message and help organizations navigate successfully in various cultural contexts. The idea for GlobeSmart was born!
Aperian Global’s flagship online learning tool – GlobeSmart® – was developed in the late 1990s with the help of two Indian web developers based in Des Moines, Iowa. Talk about walking the cross-cultural talk! The original version, which appeared in 1999, featured information on 10 countries. Meridian Resources, the name of the two founders’ business by that time, began to grow at a faster pace. Its first employee was hired out of Ted Dale’s former Alma Mater, the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Kris Schorno was the third person to join the organization, and she has now been with Aperian Global for 24 years.
The company eventually merged with Eaton Consulting Group (ECG) in 2005 to create a truly global business platform with representatives all over the globe. The two firms were highly complementary, as ECG’s presence on the East Coast of the U.S. and in Europe complemented nicely the work that Ted and Ernie’s Meridian Resources were doing on the West Coast and in Asia. One year later, the name “Aperian Global” (from aperire (Latin) = to open, to provide access to) was announced, and it became the new brand identity for the vision and mission that Ted, Ernie and all employees of the combined organization continue to share with their clients.
Both founders of Aperian Global are educators at heart. “Profit & loss, cash flow, strategy, human resources, and all else that comes with running a successful business, we had to learn it backward,” Ted notes. Ernie and Ted’s vision of making an impact has not changed. The goal is to support the process of more effective communication and interaction between people of different cultures. Since that day at Half Moon Beach, where their first ideas were literally drawn out in the sand with the vast Pacific Ocean to provide a sense of perspective, they knew that all products and services should be geared towards that vision.
But even after 25 years, Ted humbly adds: “We hopefully made an impact on a few people’s lives. But there is still a lot of work to be done.”