International Business – cultural mistakes

31 10 2006

Good advice for international travellers, on how to avoid being seen as the “ugly American”.   Are you the ugly American by Erin Richards, Budget Travel.

Remember that every action, comment, reaction, criticism and gesture is being watched and evaluated by your hosts, counterparts and clients when you are in their country.

Look for and work to find the similarities in your cultures and interests.

Humility and and stopping to think before acting will go a long way toward improving your relationships and international cultural and social skills.

Related Links

Cultural Misunderstanding- it can happen to you

International Business Tips

Great International Business Trip Results

16 Essential questions – the international business traveller’s quiz

Lessons in international business

Stereotypes and global business

Are you the ugly American





How to create an international business travel destination file

31 08 2006

The international business traveller has a lot of work to do before each trip. The preparation of the journey can be complicated and usually requires quite a bit of time in order to finalize visas, appointments, hotels, transportation, and tickets and connections.

I highly recommend an international travel destination file be created and maintained for the countries and business destinations that you or your organization travels to.

This should be updated each time someone visits the destination. This important accumulated business travel information will save time, money, trouble and aggravation for everyone required to travel in the future.

Notes should be written during the trip and a final executive summary presented and filed at most 5 days after your return. This is not a personal travel diary, and should be focused on providing practical useful information for the next person who is required to visit the destination on business.

The file should contain the following information and observations:

  • Is a visa required?  Contact information for the embassy or consulate, required information that must be submitted and the time required for the process from start to finish.
  • Travel agency and airlines used. Comments and observations about flights, connections, and prices.
  • Information about hotels that you have stayed in, names, addresses, telephone and fax numbers, email. Comments about the cost, distance to clients, pros and cons. security and other observations.
  • Alternative hotels to consider for the next trip and contact information.
  • Airports, names and airport 3 digit code. What services are available at the airport, money changing, auto rental, taxis, airport taxes upon arrival or departure, how far from the city or hotel, other comments.
  • Restaurants, recommendations, places to avoid, addresses and contact information.
  • Information and comments about business manners; the way people dress, gift giving, what NOT to do, other observations.
  • Cultural tips and observations. What and when do people eat. Tipping, what is correct. What to do or where to go in your off time.
  • Weather and climate. Recommendations for how to dress and what to pack.
  • Information about average costs, hotels, meals, transportation, and other related business costs
  • Other observations: What would you do differently and why? What would make the trip better or more efficient the next time? Recommendations for the next traveller from your organization.

The institutionalization of this information will result in more efficient planning and execution of travel plans, better administration of costs and time, and more satisfaction for the international road warriors in your organization. They can dedicate their time to getting work done, and not about travel worries.

Related Links

International business traveller -ambassador, explorer, map-maker

16 Essential Questions – International Business Traveller’s Quiz

7 Tips for doing business internationally

International Business Trip Planning, Part 6

International Business Trip Planning, Part 5

International Business Trip Planning, Part 4





How to negotiate with Mexican business people

25 08 2006

Mexico has a culture that embraces and enjoys negotiations. From the schoolyard to the local markets to the executive boardrooms, negotiations are an important part of everyday life for Mexican citizens.

Mexican business people are good negotiators and enjoy the process.

You can expect tough negotiations if you are doing business in Mexico. Tough negotiations in the sense that they will question everything, and spend a great deal of time trying to get you to accept their point of view or conditions. The arguments may be based on emotions or facts, or both.

You should always come into the negotiation very well prepared. Know what you want, and have the evidence to support your claim. Your arguments, supported by facts, will be heard and processed by your Mexican counterparts. If facts are presented that are new, take the time to verify the information and sources before you reach a conclusion.

Negotiations in Mexico can be compared to the first round of a sporting event, both sides desire to “win”, but rarely do they burst onto the field with all their energy in the first 5 minutes. The process of “feeling out” the opponent, observing their strengths and weaknesses, are critical to understanding how to develop a winning strategy and understanding what you are up against.

Mexicans are often seeking a long term, stable relationship with suppliers and clients. Focus your negotiations and decisions on creating a long term business relationship and strategy with your Mexican counterpart.

Your ability to negotiate will be a reflection of your company, your character, and your abilities as a business person. Take your time, don’t get emotional, support your arguments with facts, and be consistent with your demands or desires over time. The negotiation process is helping to build trust and credibility, it’s important to build solid foundations for your future relationship.

Don’t be in a hurry to end the negotiations. The Mexican culture is more permissive about time and deadlines than you find in USA or Europe. If you are in a rush, you will lose important negotiating power.

Always start your negotiation with some margin and leeway. It will always to be to your advantage to “give” a little before the negotiations are over. It may take 4 hours for you to “give in”, but the gesture will be seen as your willingness to do business and enough for the negotiator to claim a little victory. Everyone wins.

Write down your final agreement, and the results of your negotiations and have both sides sign and retain a copy. This simple step will avoid any language, communication or interpretation problems that may develop in the future.

Related Links

Meeting People in Mexico – kiss, shake hands or hug

Before you go on a business trip to Mexico

How to do business in Mexico, parts 1 – 28

16 Essential Questions – International Business Traveller’s Quiz





10 Things you should never do on a Friday afternoon

24 08 2006

To complement my list of 10 things you should do on a Friday afternoon (Link), here are some of the activities that should be avoided on Friday afternoons.

Things you should never do on a Friday afternoon

  1. Initiate a major project
  2. Schedule any type of meeting or seminar with customers or employees
  3. Give an employee review
  4. Make important strategic business decisions
  5. Ask people to work extra hours
  6. Give bad news to the office, your team or co-workers
  7. Raise your rates or product prices
  8. Obsess about or relive any failures that occurred during the week
  9. Go out for a 3 martini lunch and come back to the office complaining
  10. Give the boss an ultimatum or try and force a decision

Related Link

10 things you should do on Friday afternoon





Meeting people in Mexico – kiss, shake hands or hug?

22 08 2006

What is the correct method to greet a business acquaintance in Mexico?

For a first time meeting with a business contact in Mexico a handshake is the appropriate greeting, eye contact is important, say your name, followed by the presentation of your business card. This applies to men and women.

When leaving the meeting or event it is appropriate and expected to shake everyone’s hand and say goodbye individually. This is also true for social situations.

If the business relationship has developed over time, you may find that upon arrival your host will hug you (un abrazo), giving 2 or 3 firm slaps on your back, followed by a handshake. This is a sign of confidence and friendship. This is also used when saying goodbye, especially when leaving on a trip, or when you will be separated for a long time.

Greeting women is a bit more complex. In developed relationships or personal relationships, an “air kiss” is common and expected. This is a swift encounter, cheek to cheek, and only on one side of the face. It may also be accompanied by a handshake. This greeting is common between women.

A man should always rise from his chair whenever a woman arrives at the table or is introduced.

My advice is to avoid the “air kiss” until you are approached, and it is obvious that the woman (or man) is comfortable with the kiss greeting. A handshake is the appropriate and “safe” greeting for all business and personal situations with women.

The kiss has no sexual connotations, it is a greeting of familiarity, but until you feel comfortable with it, and understand it’s use, best to be conservative and put your hand out.

Watch how others Mexicans greet one another. Learn to distinguish the differences in how business people, workers, friends, and family have different greetings.