Exploring New Borders

By: Lynée Miller, February 27, 2017

Congratulations! Your company is ready to go global. Now what?

Introducing a product or service into different parts of the world takes the business of relationship-building to a higher level. When your organization embarks on global expansion, it provides for a wealth of opportunities but it also presents new challenges. You may need to travel far from your corporate headquarters and negotiate with those from other cultures. While this may seem daunting, there are skills that can help you stay focused, maintain simple business principles, and increase your communication effectiveness.

Though each culture has its own traditions, there are universal guiding principles for expression through body language and gestures. Past that, education is key. Focusing on the following concepts will help you provide effective content delivery, thus influencing the direction your new relationships will head.

                Respect – Don’t try and change your own culture, but do learn about, respect and adapt to the cultures of those you are engaging with, especially when traveling abroad. Generally speaking, international clients do not expect perfection from foreigners, but they do appreciate those who make an effort to understand their country’s conventions. Putting forth some energy in this arena helps build durable, lasting relationships. By overcoming cultural barriers such as language and customs, you will be a step ahead of others who might experience miscommunications during business deals.

                Curiosity – Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Curiosity is a valuable asset, especially in international business exchanges. Listen closely to what your client values. While observing your client’s culture, note how people interact. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; your client will appreciate your interest and awareness. There is no such thing as over-communicating when working on productive and enduring relationships.

                Flexibility – Be completely prepared to be versatile; things don’t always go as planned. Conducting yourself with “grace under pressure” is a wonderful way to win over those with varying expectations. For example, people from different parts of the world have diverse approaches to business negotiations. Some desire nothing but the facts straightaway. Others won’t consider discussing the facts until a trusted relationship has been established. In a typical American business deal, the parties like to clarify objectives from the start, push for concessions on both sides, and obtain a rapid conclusion. Chinese business leaders will typically have meetings for information-gathering purposes, then make their final decisions elsewhere. In Singapore, businesspeople prefer to soften their counterparts with entertainment and personal rapport. Then the negotiations begin.

Firms that can compete globally by exhibiting respect, curiosity, and flexibility will have a distinct advantage over those who do not understand the importance of building relationships across cultures. No matter how many new borders your business dealings may take you to, your success boils down to sensitivity and effort. After all, it is one world.