It has been said that Britain and the USA are two countries separated by the same language. Many assume that Brits and Americans are similar due to their colonial ties and special relationship but actually they are often more than just an ocean apart. Since independence in 1776, the United States has developed its own identity and ways of doing things. Compared to the Brits, Americans’ communication style and attitudes are more direct and open and this affects doing business in the USA.
Americans tend to be very easy to deal with due to their open nature. They have a very strong work ethic and are not afraid of taking risks to succeed. Success is often measured in terms of profit, so when conducting business, they will tend to prioritise tasks over relationships. Just as former US President Calvin Coolidge once stated, “The business of America is business.”
As the world’s largest economy, America’s influence on business culture around the world is unmistakable. There are boundless opportunities for others to achieve their very own ‘American dream’. An understanding of this young diverse culture as well as knowledge of American business etiquette is essential for anyone doing business in the United States.
The following tips will help you to maximise any opportunities of doing business in the United States.
- Be punctual. Arriving late to appointments can be considered disrespectful.
- Meet deadlines. In the United States ‘time is money’ and Americans place great emphasis on getting the best results in the shortest period of time possible.
- Be polite. Politeness is highly valued in the United States and Americans will expect you to match their level of politeness.
- Participate in small talk. Americans like to create a comfortable environment before doing business by chatting for a couple of minutes.
- Always remember to shake hands when greeting American counterparts. It is customary to begin and end business meetings or negotiations with a brief but firm handshake.
- Americans are known for their openness and are often not afraid to share details of their personal life with you. Following up about an event they went to or a family member they told you about is appreciated and will help you build a stronger relationship with them.
- Remember to minimise physical contact. Americans respect other people’s space and privacy and are very protective of their own ‘personal bubble’.
- If you are working on a long-term project in the US, don’t be surprised if a colleague or counterpart invites you to their home for a meal or BBQ.
- Address colleagues with their appropriate title at first, but don’t be surprised if you are invited to call someone by their first name soon after meeting. Colleagues will almost always refer to each other by their first name.
- Don’t be offended if your American colleague seems frank. Americans like to get down to business and don’t like to ‘beat around the bush’ when it comes to negotiating. They are often blunt which can be perceived as rudeness by certain cultures.
Considering and respecting the top tips for doing business in the US above is the first step towards building effective relationships with your American counterparts. Participating in a cross cultural awareness training course such as Doing Business in the United States will give you a deeper insight into the cultural differences you may find in the US and it will improve your ability to anticipate and manage them effectively.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2011