Strategically positioned at the heart of Europe and a key player in both the EU and NATO, Germany has the fifth largest economy in the world. Its strongest exporting sectors – chemicals, vehicles, machinery and household goods – set standards of quality and efficiency not just within Europe but globally, making doing business in Germany a priority for international organisations worldwide.
While politically Germany is a federation of regions, each with unique traditions and customs, German business culture is characterised by a set of core drivers that affect business interactions with German nationals in a number of ways.
Task Driven and Fact Focused
German businesspeople will usually prioritise tasks over relationships so the German workforce tends to be very committed, focused and professional. This is evident in the extremely high standard of technology in German flagship companies. When doing business in Germany you and your organisation can count on dealing with highly skilled individuals who will give their best to ensure all objectives and deadlines are met. All aspects of operations undergo careful planning which greatly reduces risk and uncertainty of doing business in Germany. Furthermore, the general preference for hard facts and extremely linear and logical thought processes when making decisions and planning guarantees end products of the highest standard.
Direct Communication Style
German business culture relies on a direct style of communication. As a result, while German businesspeople can be perceived as blunt and possibly rude, when doing business in Germany you will almost always get a prompt and honest answer to your questions. What may be perceived as a direct criticism should be instead seen as a constructive and objective comment, aimed at the project in question rather than the person responsible for it. Meetings, negotiations and other business interactions with German nationals will develop in a straightforward manner. Emphasis is usually placed on reaching a common solution that is at once technically efficient, cost effective and satisfying to all parties involved.
Excellent English Skills
Whatever the position of your German counterpart within the organisation, he or she will most likely be highly proficient in English. This helps eliminate the cross cultural risks of not sharing the same language when doing business in Germany, so global organisations relying on English as an international language can profit from the excellent English skills in Germany. Although they tend to have excellent English skills, your German business counterparts will appreciate you speaking German, particularly if you are selling them your product. As the famous German Chancellor Willy Brandt once said “If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen!”
The benefits of doing business in Germany stem from its strong economy and business sectors, the high level of skills of Germany’s workforce, as well as from the core values of German business culture. If your organisation is doing business in Germany, its success will depend on a sound understanding of these values and on the ability to decipher their influence on business interactions which you can gain through cross cultural awareness training courses and initiatives.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2010