These mistakes may be innocent enough, but can carry substantial, financial repercussions and unintended brand erosion. Understanding cultural differences from both a business POV and a social POV is paramount to succeeding in global waters. If you are new to the challenge of pursuing business in foreign territories please be aware, the American way, is not the only way and in some cases can be shunned.
Example: An American executive who relocated to London for a Branding position was a novice to British culture. He was a bright, head strong, opinionated American who multi-tasked constantly, had a get-it done work ethic and would happily stay up all night to complete a project. However, he was not being received well. He quickly learned from a personal branding, likeability and efficiency perspective, it was incumbent that he rehabbed his professional personality. To fit in, he needed to adjust to the locale if he wanted to be welcomed by his British colleagues. He started with simple measures, lowering his speaking voice by several octaves. He then got in sync with the speed and efficiency of his colleagues. He refrained from making any comments on the British Aristocracy. Lastly, he became much less overtly assertive. He happened to be a quick leaner, therefore his challenges were measurably overcome in a short period and it made a substantial difference. He was still American, but he was no longer the stereotypical, over-the-top, unintentionally offensive American.
This lesson was repeated (although abbreviated) when he conducting branding excursions in Central Eastern Europe, Spain, France, Australia, Germany and other territories. Each country has it’s own set of business, cultural and social attributes. It is imperative to develop some cultural sensitivity and personal branding acumen before attempting to launch your brand, sale products, or increase awareness for a brand, product or service in different cultures.
Tips from a PR Expert:
1) Invest in due-diligence. Research the country’s cultural history.
2) Research, the company you want to do business with. Understand their past failures and success. What are their goals? What can you offer them?
3) Research the people you will be meeting with. Are they married? Are they single? What was their previous position? How long have they been at that position? This information can serve you well.
4) If you can, determine in advance their perspective on American’s.
5) Work hard, but smart. Be careful not to alienate colleagues, or put off superiors.
6) Understand the currency and the exchange rate so you can calculate quickly and efficiently, demonstrating (at some level) your understanding of their global trading system.
7) Research global shipping and customs guidelines for that territory.
8) Become your own Public Relations Consultant and brand yourself as one who is interested and understanding of their social and business culture.
In summary, and most of all, listen, restrain, adjust, assimilate and communicate best practices for that specific international territory. Demonstrating and communicating your understanding and respect for their culture and business methodology is key to success! If they do not connect with you, they will not connect with your brand.