Successful global business through cultural awareness
The more businesses do to understand and appreciate the cultures and histories of their trading partners, the more opportunities they will find.
Some use the word globalisation to describe the future. But global business is not just on the horizon, it’s already upon us. The key to success in global business is not merely the identification of opportunities in emerging and thriving markets; it’s much more complex than that. One universal element of success is an acknowledgment of the cultural diversity of our world.
Unfortunately, this is one of the most underestimated factors in global business. Cross-border transactions tend to be initiated with a market opportunity and then the negotiations and financial analysis begin. There may be countless meetings, phone calls and emails back and forth before a deal is consummated. Or there may be a flurry of activity but the deal cannot be closed because there are too many walls that cannot be taken down.
Increasing your global success rate
How can walls be turned into tables? How can we increase the success rate on international transactions? Some actions to consider:
- Research and respect the culture before you enter the country.
- Create a pursuit team that is empathic and understanding, in addition to being opportunistic.
- Give the pursuit sufficient time and allow for flexibility.
Too often, we rush to ‘close the deal’ without doing the all-important research in advance. There are many simple business customs and traditions that are very clear if you seek them out. Knowing them before you arrive on the scene can make or break your ability to move forward in a particular country.
Details make the difference
Attention to detail is key when conducting business overseas. For example, when conducting business in Germany, it’s best to understand that the country is rich in technical knowledge, structure and logic. If you keep this in mind when preparing for a meeting with a traditional German company, you’ll know that it’s best to be punctual, prepared and to send a well-structured agenda in advance.
For companies wishing to do business in the US, it is important to remember that American corporate culture is truly 24/7. When a US executive sends an email, it’s not uncommon for that person to expect a reply or call within 12 to 24 hours. Anything less may signal a lack of commitment.
American business culture is perceived as fast paced, opportunistic, positive and sometimes aggressive. However, it’s important to note that regional culture and business practices can differ widely. Relying on assumptions and generalities can be damaging.
Many cultures can be more traditional. Japan, for example, can be seen as having a deep history and respect for authority, hierarchy and leadership. In Japan, you may find companies that are more interested in the relationship than the opportunity. Completing a transaction in Japan may take longer than in other cultures, but once it is established, the relationship may continue for years to come.
Get started on your homework
With so many opportunities in many different locations and cultures, it can seem daunting to understand and truly appreciate what it takes for a business to succeed in the global marketplace.
However, any amount of time devoted to planning for cross-border business will be time well spent. Research a country before you pursue a new customer or acquisition target. Respectfully approach members of the business community that you know or can be introduced to. In most cases, natives appreciate the gesture and your genuine curiosity will help you avoid common pitfalls.
‘Deep dive’ on specific countries or geographic regions can help uncover some of the traditional business customs, share common mistakes and help avoid issues for future business transactions.
We can all turn walls into tables when we invest the time to appreciate the centuries of history and rich culture among us.
For more information, contact:
T +1 410 308 8179