United State population is 325 million persons while the number of consumers in the rest of the world is almost 7 BILLION. Further, our nation’s annual economic growth was only about 1.2 percent this past year. So, why does that matter? Any business with such a low annual growth rate may be on its way to disappear.
What things we should do when conducting business in another country? Develop relationships with people in the company as well as in the business community. When I was CEO of a company in Bogota, Colombia, I joined the local Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations which increased our company’s local visibility and sales opportunities. I also made it a point to greet our employees every morning; fortunately, they saw It as being especially respectful. Regarding management, I spent time really getting to learn about their personal lives. I also asked about their experience, roles and relationships in the business community
Different countries may have fewer business laws than our nations. How should USA business persons function in those countries? Obviously, they need to ask questions about bribery and corruption. When you are representing an American company, you also need to operate from American laws. Also, regarding bribery and corruption, no matter what the local business standards are, we need to learn about local business corruption laws.
What are some of the cultural differences that we need to prepare to deal with? Foreigners are likely to have a different sense of urgency and timing. For example, the Spanish word for tomorrow (Manana) is a special Latin America attitude as an excuse for not getting things done on time. When the manager is saying, “This is important,” it means a level of urgency. The manager may need it now, but employees may think they have more than a week to do it.
Low levels of accountability. Many foreign employees may not view themselves as accountable. So, you may need to educate them regarding about what it really means to be accountable, and how it will make their work (and their future) better.
Directness vs Politeness. We Americans are often too direct in our communications. In some cultures, such as Latin America, it is always important to express politeness and pleasance first. When talking business, they may feel it is another way of showing respect. We need to educate our company’s headquarters about local cultures and how they have impact on our business.
Celebrate with the employees. Shortly after becoming a CEO in Latin America, I found that two of the employees were retiring. To honor them, I held a celebration involving everyone in the company, and also inviting the local press. Since it was a nice celebration, I also asked our promotion company to get it to appear on TV news. They did, and it was great publicity.
Health & Safety factors may be different. I discovered that the employees were using a solvent liquid considered unhealthy and dangerous. To protect the employees, I changed it with a liquid solvent that would never hurt them.
How can a business executive prepare for foreign terrorism? In my book, George, experienced terrorism in the city where the plant was. Revolutionary snipers started shooting people, starting fires, and causing chaos throughout the city. George’s employees felt threatened but, fortunately, the plant they worked at was far from downtown.
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