With the North American economy in a shambles, many entrepreneurs will begin looking to tap markets abroad, while others will begin to source supplies overseas in order to cut costs.
No matter what prompts you to explore international business opportunities, one thing is certain: you’ll have to adjust your style to suit the business norms and practices of your host. In his book How To Negotiate Anything With Anyone Anywhere Around the World, employee- and management-development consultant Frank Acuff offers five steps for managing the shock of doing business with a different culture:
- Find a cultural mentor: Consult with businesspeople who have had successful and unsuccessful negotiating experiences in the country you plan to do business in. The differing viewpoints will provide a more balanced notion of the host country and its negotiators—and prepare you for the business challenges that lie ahead.
- Be flexible and patient with yourself and your hosts: Expect events, services and a wide array of issues to flow far less smoothly and predictably than they do at home. The greater your ability to cope with delays, setbacks and misunderstandings, the greater your chances of success.
- Withhold judgment about the new culture and its people: When dealing with a different culture, subjective first impressions may be anything but accurate. Take time to understand your surroundings and appreciate your differences.
- Recognize that negative feelings are normal: It’s nearly certain that at some point in your dealings overseas, you will be annoyed or disappointed by what transpires. Remember that you won’t be the first businessperson—or the last—to experience such emotions.
- Keep a sense of humour about yourself and the situation: Taking things into proportion and maintaining a positive attitude in a difficult or frustrating cross-cultural conundrum can often mean the difference between sealing the deal and letting it slip away.