Doing business with different cultures can be a rewarding challenge
Doing business with different cultures can be a rewarding challenge

It is challenging to do business abroad with people from different cultures. If you enter into a business relationship without an open mind and a certain awareness of cultural differences, you can find yourself in a sticky situation that could have been easily avoided. There is no reason to step on toes if you follow some simple guidelines.

Here are 6 proven approaches that will help your business foster strong sustainable relationships with peers, partners, team members or clients from other cultures or nationalities.

  1. Relate to each person as an individual and not as a stereotype. Understanding the values, expectations and beliefs that drive behaviors in different cultures should inform your actions, but not dominate them. Focus on the individual and apply what you know and have learned in the context of that individual. Native culture doesn’t determine everything across the board but it does shape quite a bit of a person’s root perspective and personality.
  2. Understand the hierarchy: what decisions can be made at what levels as it may be at a different level than in your own organization. The decision making process may be done more quickly or more slowly. In cultures where status is of more importance than in United States, such as Spain or Greece, decisions are made nearer the top of an organization. In many Asian countries, decisions are filtered at each level of the company, taking more time as it moves upward.
  3. Identify if their management style is more masculine or feminine. Is the company’s culture assertive and competitive like many German companies or modest and caring like many Danish companies? Such an understanding will affect the style of negotiation and the type of relationship.
  4. Understand if they have a short-term or long-term perspective towards business, as this will affect the way and the speed at which projects are assessed, justified and decisions are made. Asian cultures take a much longer view than many Western cultures. For example, the period over which a project is considered and weighed can be greatly extended.
  5. If you are unsure what is appropriate, be more structured and have more explicit communication. In such cases, more tends to be better than less. Although it is important to note that this is not everyone’s preferred style, it will avoid holes in the understanding and a lack of clarity. For example, although the Japanese have a much more implicit communication style than the British, they will still find it easier to filter too much information than having to ask you to expand.
  6. Assume nothing―a smile and handshake are not necessarily an agreement, “yes” can mean “no”, unsmiling may not mean unfriendly, and silence may not imply disagreement. Ask questions and be ready to be flexible. It is much easier to change your own behaviors than influence someone else’s. A simple shift in perspective can turn a failed business venture into a true success.

By following these simple introductory guidelines, you can help your company or business venture achieve the international success you desire. The goal of the international tax team at LSL CPAs is to help clients succeed in this way while making sure they remain in compliance with laws and regulations both in the United States and beyond.

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