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Finding Global Business Success Through Cultural Awareness
You can learn the hard way, or you can learn the smart way. But one way or the other you will probably learn that the starting time for a 10 a.m. meeting in Frankfurt or Hamburg (or almost any German burg for that matter), is not 10 a.m., it’s 9:55 a.m. If you’re on time, you’re probably late.
With any luck, that’s a mistake you’ll only make once. But if you do your homework before stepping into an unfamiliar business culture, you may not have to make it at all.
Knowing cultural differences, no matter how small, can enhance your ability to connect with a business associate, understand his or her needs, and form a mutually beneficial relationship.
Research and respect are just two elements of success on the international stage, but they can be important ones. Too many times we take an aggressive American approach, rushing in to close the deal without doing the all-important research in advance.
Many simple business customs and traditions are not difficult to discover, but you have to be proactive and seek them out. Knowing them before you arrive on the scene can greatly enhance your ability to move forward in a particular country.
Our friends in Germany give us another example: When you call a meeting with a German associate, a detailed agenda will be expected with the invitation. Without it, your get-together (which you should arrive for at least five minutes early) may not accomplish all that it could, or it could take longer than you would like.
In my own experience, I don’t know of a business transaction that fell through because someone forgot the meeting agenda, but knowing what is expected of you makes a difference in what you say and do, and how others react.
When you’re seeking new business in another country, create a pursuit team that is patient, empathetic, and as understanding as it is opportunistic. Give the team plenty of time and flexibility; our 24/7, get-it-done-now, multitasking business attitude may not sit well in some foreign lands. We have to be willing to adapt to and embrace diversity, not the other way around.
How we can help
If you’re thinking about adding or expanding a manufacturing facility or a sales presence in another country, we can help you lay the groundwork through our affiliation with Nexia International. This network of professional services firms allows us to call on the experience and insight of businesspeople on the ground, doing business in almost any country you choose. And we can provide this assistance long before you ever board a plane or send an email to a prospect.
Likewise, foreign companies seeking to establish themselves in the United States can tap into CLA’s global concierge services to answer questions and resolve challenges on everything from accounting, taxation, and entity formation, to banking, facilities, and human resources. We are a single resource to help you simplify complex issues and make your expansion a smooth one.