It is important to understand the business customs and culture of the country you are planning to do business with. This is something a lot of business owners tend to overlook. A lot of time is spent on market research and establishing contacts in the country. Whilst all these are important these alone are not enough. Understanding business customs will teach you about the business beliefs, business practices and motives and expectations of the country you are doing business with. With this knowledge you can shape your approach the right way and reap maximum benefits.
If you are not aware of the culture and the customs of the country you are dealing with then you might accidentally offend the people you are dealing with. You might not even be aware that you are doing this. You might think that you are doing business as normal but some of the practices you are accustomed to might not be okay with people in other countries. And we know that we all do business with people we like. So by offending people however good your deal or offer is you might lose out.
Body language also plays an important role. People in different countries interpret body language signs differently. So it is important that we don’t convey the wrong message or interpret the wrong message and in the process offend someone accidentally.
The ways the topics are discussed in a meeting are also different. In some countries the participants come straight to the point. In other countries it could be different.
If the language spoken in the country you are dealing with is different to the language you know then understanding their business etiquette becomes even more important. It might not be possible to learn the entire language but you can try to learn a few words (just to impress the other party). You should also consider hiring an interpreter or take someone you trust along with you to the meetings and other negotiations.
Documentation plays an important role in all business transactions. Something that might be assumed normal and does not require to be mentioned in writing in some countries might not hold true for other countries. In some countries you might need to get everything in writing. And the way you say it in writing is also important.
Some of the business transactions might not involve you to set up a base in the foreign country. You might actually do most of your negotiations and deals over the phone. Just because it’s over the phone don’t think you don’t need to understand the business culture of the country you are dealing with. Understanding the business practices and business customs and business beliefs of the country you are dealing with is a small investment of your time when compared to the benefits you will reap and the frustrations you will avoid.
You can now outsource a lot of your project management and business processes to countries like India and China. The employees of the businesses which handle your projects and business processes actually spend a lot of hours of training in the western business culture. The management realizes that this training is small investment towards maintaining good relations with their western counterparts. Similarly if you were going to do business in India or for that matter with any other country you should also spend some time understanding their business customs. This knowledge is the core foundation of all your business dealings with that country.