Build business relationships
We all accept that networking is important in the business world. When you’re working across cultures, you need to develop relationships with your coworkers that can stand the test of differences in language and outlook. Sounds hard? Not when you genuinely want to understand how your coworkers look at life and you follow these key steps.
Go beyond the workplace
Americans and most Northern Europeans view business relationships as limited to the job. They are task-oriented, and any relationship-building is geared toward getting the job done. For people of many other cultures it is the person you do business with that matters. When they know what kind of person you are and trust you, they will be happy to do business with you, no matter for which company you happen to be working.
One Swedish company failed to close the deal with a Saudi partner, because, part way through negotiations, they moved their representative to another position, and someone else took over. The Saudi partners would not do business with the newcomer, because they did not know him.
Go beyond the workplace
The days when all Britons stopped work for teatime are gone. In Northern Europe and America, business comes before culinary pleasure, and if a meeting runs over lunchtime, sandwiches will be brought in while the discussion continues. Not so in all countries. In many places, eating out is an important way of building business relationships.
Going beyond the workplace also means showing interest in and concern for your business partner’s life outside work. Asking about family and spare-time activities with genuine interest shows that you value the whole person, not just what she can do for you in business.
The following examples illustrate the importance of eating out with foreign business associates:
The financial officer of a British business, while in France to discuss setting up a branch in Paris, was surprised when the country manager insisted on taking the company’s lawyer and accountant to lunch. Why waste time and money on a lavish meal and not even discuss business? The country manager knew that to have a strong, long-term relationship with these professional advisers, it was important to lay the building bricks by sharing a decent meal.
One harmonious working relationship between an Italian manager and a British consultant was nearly spoiled when the consultant’s plane arrived too late for them to have a proper sit-down lunch before heading off to work. The relationship survived, but the Italian manager was noticeably irritable all afternoon
Going Beyond the Workplace
Going beyond the workplace is especially important in cultures where knowing your business partner personally counts for more than knowing the reputation of the company he or she represents