An economic and political powerhouse, the United States is unmistakably a prominent business player. A nation founded on the fundamental principle of equality, the US is a multicultural salad bowl of diverse cultures, ethnicities, religions and races. Its vast and disparate geography breeds regional subcultures and identities which mean there is no stereotypical ‘American’.
Considering the volume of exposure many of us have to certain aspects of American culture, when doing business in the United States of America it is important not to fall in the trap of feeling it is already familiar. Just like any other country, it is imperative to understand the cultural concepts behind the surface in order to harness the many benefits of doing business in the US like those highlighted below.
Speed and Accuracy
The well known concept ‘time is money’ is taken extremely seriously in the US. Punctuality is an essential part of American business etiquette and deadlines are strictly adhered to. North Americans emphasise getting the best results in the shortest time so when doing business in the US you can expect things to get done quickly and efficiently.
Hard Working and Dedicated Employees
An individualistic culture, the US prizes qualities such as initiative, independence, self-reliance and personal achievement. Personal competence, professionalism and accountability for individual performance are also highly valued. These qualities have stemmed from the concept of ‘The American Dream’ which is founded on the belief in the US that hard work deserves success and financial prosperity.
Despite the vast array of differences present in American society, equality forms the pillar that many social relationships are based on. One’s position in US society is determined by achievement rather than ascription due to status or age. When doing business in the US, you might initially be surprised by the seemingly informal working environment where conversational tones are employed and people are addressed by their first names. This originates from a lack of formality that is often associated with authority in other countries, but does not translate to unprofessionalism or a lack of hierarchy.
Openness to New Ideas and Opportunities
In the US, open communication seems conducive to innovation and improvement. Challenging the status quo, new ideas and progress are all actively encouraged. Additionally, employee progression in the US is encouraged and tracked by systems of continual feedback, measurement and evaluation.
Clear Rules and Instructions
As a low context culture, the United States tends to utilise communication for the exchange of information, facts and opinions. The majority of information is communicated verbally and the responsibility of making sure that the meaning is understood lies firmly with the speaker. Therefore, instructions are often delivered in a very clear, unambiguous and explicit way. Equally, a lack of formal status-driven conversational structures means questions can easily be asked and conflict is dealt with openly. When doing business in the US you should feel confident that you know where you are, what you are doing and what is expected of you.
In today’s globalising world, difference is strength. Nowhere can this strength be harnessed more than in the US, which is home to approximately 307 million people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Immigration from virtually every corner of the world has assured the unique cultural diversity of the US, moulding the country into what it is today.
It is clear that international organisations can greatly profit from the above benefits of doing business in the US. However, doing business in the United States effectively requires efficient strategies that maximise the ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of American society. International organisations regularly doing business with the US or employing American counterparts should have a series of Intercultural Training United States of America courses to ensure they understand the subtleties of American business and social culture on all levels. Recognising differences is only the first step. Businesses will profit immensely from developing the intercultural skills of their employees through cross cultural training coursesthat will help to successfully harness cultural differences in the US.