Looking for New? It’s in another country

21 06 2007

Comments from yesterday’s post New is a requirement got me thinking about how living and working in another country moves your “comfort zone” and exposes you to lots of New.

There is a tendency to forget that this New soon becomes part of our routine and becomes integrated in our system of evaluation and processing of experiences.

Working internationally has been my biggest source of New for the past 30+ years in my personal and professional life.

It invigorates and challenges me.

It’s not always fun, or easy.

Living and working internationally has taught me:

  • Patience. It always takes more time than you think.
  • To listen before acting, reacting or responding.
  • To be humble. I don’t know it all, there is always something else to learn in order to understand.
  • To deal with frustration. When it’s not happening just the way you want it to, it means there is a different way to do it, find the alternative or live with the current situation, stop the whining and complaining.
  • New ways to solve problems. Not everyone culture approaches or attacks a problem the same way.
  • To analyze several solutions before making a final decision. What’s right at home may be 100% wrong in your current situation.
  • Most people are honest, fair and open, however being a strange face in a strange land brings out a certain criminal element that may find you irresistible (especially in the transportation sector).
  • People express themselves and their true feelings very differently, especially when it comes to solving conflicts.
  • Food ingredients and table manners are wildly different and can create physical and/or psychological reactions that were previously unknown to me.
  • There is no “right” way to live, solve problems or compete.
  • Politics and religion can be discussed, but should never be debated. Never.
  • Travel is not glamorous, restful, or easy. Takes a great deal of preparation, adaptation and improvisation to make it work.
  • Hospitality, manners and paying attention to detail are incredible important in making and maintaining relationships (host and guest).
  • Guides are important. These may be other business people, local residents, books or information about the people, place and culture. Learn, learn, learn and ask lots of questions, it pays off.
  • To be fair. Make deals and agreements as if you are going to be working with that company or individual for the next 20 years.
  • To see the “Big Picture”. Relationships, government policies, customs and cultural differences all interact and I begin to see larger issues being affected by my smaller decisions and preoccupations.

What about you?

What New did you confront, discover, embrace, enjoy or hate while living or working in another country?

Related Links

New is a requirement

International business tips

Cultural Misunderstanding- it can happen to you

Create great international business relationships

Great International Business Trip Results

16 Essential questions – the international business traveller’s quiz






Difference between a global, transnational, international and multinational company

18 06 2007

We tend to read the following terms and think they refer to any company doing business in another country.

  • Multinational
  • International
  • Transnational
  • Global

Andrew Hines over at BNET has brief and clear definitions of each of these terms, Get your international business terms right.

Each term is distinct and has a specific meaning which define the scope and degree of interaction with their operations outside of their “home” country.

  • International companies are importers and exporters, they have no investment outside of their home country.
  • Multinational companies have investment in other countries, but do not have coordinated product offerings in each country. More focused on adapting their products and service to each individual local market.
  • Global companies have invested and are present in many countries. They market their products through the use of the same coordinated image/brand in all markets. Generally one corporate office that is responsible for global strategy. Emphasis on volume, cost management and efficiency.
  • Transnational companies are much more complex organizations. They have invested in foreign operations, have a central corporate facility but give decision-making, R&D and marketing powers to each individual foreign market.

Andrews’s advice is if in doubt about the right term to use, try the generic term “international business”.

Related Links

Get your international business terms right

BNET





Determine cultural conflicts between Mexico and your home country

26 03 2007

This site will help determine possible cultural conflicts between your home culture and Mexico.

It compares 4 dimensions of cultural differences; Power Distance, Individuality, Uncertainty Avoidance and Masculinity.

From the site: “Welcome to the Intercultural Business Communication tool. This simple online tool offers a great resource for people wanting to get some intercultural business communication tips when working with people from different cultures. All you do is choose your own country and another country and we produce a graph that shows the the major differences between the two cultures. You then get some insightful intercultural business communication tips for working in or with that culture.”

Intercultural Business Communication Tool

It provides a comparison between the countries, and then provides tips in order to reduce or manage this cultural gap.

Very interesting.

Related Links

Intercultural Business Communication Tool – Kwintessential Language and Cultural Specialists

Geerte Hofstede, Cultural Dimensions

Cultural Misunderstanding- it can happen to you

Create great international business relationships





Using positive reinforcement to win customer loyalty

22 02 2007

We respond positively to positive feedback, recognition, and reinforcement of our behaviour and activities at work or home.

We get angry or lose interest in an activity, goal or organization if we don’t receive this “pat on the head” or “cheer-leading” on a continual basis.

Our customers also need reinforcement and recognition in order to maintain their motivation and good feelings toward your company or products.

What are you doing to make sure they get it?

Does the customer feel like you are just “going through the motions”?

Does it feel real?

Are you really showing that you care?

What sets you apart from your competitors AFTER the sale?

Related Links

27 Great Leadership and Management Ideas

The power of something extra

What defines an exceptional leader





Indirect messages and business etiquette in Mexico

28 11 2006

A comment from .hj highlighted an important issue when doing business in Mexico.  He wrote ” (Mexicans) will try to deliver a message using indirect messages and almost never telling things directly for it is consider unpolite”

Etiquette and formal behaviour is expected in Mexican business negotiations, especially with international clients or suppliers.   This will become more relaxed and informal over time, as the trust is reinforced and expectations are met on both sides.

It is all about mutual respect.

The formal rules and behaviours (etiquette) that enhance and create an atmosphere of respect have been broken down or eliminated in the USA, but in Mexico they are critical and very much a part of business dealings.

The Mexican business person does not like to create a confrontation or criticize openly, it is considered rude and ill mannered.  One should be very perceptive to what is being said by your Mexican partner, what is being avoided and the implications of each behaviour.

One should avoid open criticism of the Mexican partner.   They expect the same formality given to you, it is embarrassing and awkward if one begins to point fingers and rant and rave.

Make comments and observations about areas that need attention, strategies and solutions that must be adapted and challenges that must be met instead of criticism of past performance.  Discuss what is working and what isn’t working, but don’t personalize it.

You may not hear direct criticism of an idea or proposal, instead there might be suggestions of alternatives.

Your ideas, proposals and solutions may be greeted by nodding heads and smiling faces, but it may only signify that the audience is listening, and not in complete agreement.

Decision-making on sensitive or unpopular issues may be delayed and not openly debated.  Give your Mexican partner time to deal with these issues, and don’t force a decision in public.

If able to plan the meetings in advance, propose an agenda, and include the issues you need to discuss, or that require a decision.  Give them time to prepare for the meeting and the decision-making required.  Don’t demand a decision in an open meeting.

Lunches and informal settings are where the real business discussions and dialogues will take place, and even then, will be presented may be in a vague and non-confrontational manner.  Use these moments to explain and explore the ideas, benefits and alternatives.  Listen.

Present yourself and treat your business relationships as a well educated respectful gentleman, not like a threatening conquering warrior barbarian.  Participate, listen and react to business situations with poise, calm and politeness.

Related Links

How to negotiate with Mexican business people

Doing Business in Mexico – cultural tips

How to speed up doing business in Mexico

Speeches and Protocol in Mexico





Christmas parties and holiday business gifts in Mexico

27 11 2006

The month of December is Mexico is filled with Christmas and holiday parties and social events.

The population of Mexico is 95%+ Christian and openly celebrates Christmas in private industry and government displays. Be aware that there are other religious groups in Mexico that do not celebrate Christmas in order to avoid offending suppliers or clients.

These Christmas and holiday reunions are usually mid-day dinners or late suppers. There will be get-togethers for friends, business acquaintances, associations and any committees or other groups that you might belong to.

There is also the company Christmas party.

Failure to attend the holiday events are noticed and considered rude. It’s better to arrive and steal away early than to avoid the reunions all together. Remember Mexico is a very socially oriented culture, failure to attend and participate in the social events will not help you, it might work against you.

Corporate and business gift giving is very important, and in many cases expected at Christmas time. The low end gifts range from the traditional; calendars and pens, agendas, calculators or other promotional type gifts to the higher end: fine liquors (Tequila, Scotch whiskey, Cognac, Red wine), fine food baskets, electronic equipment (Palms, IPods, etc.), gift certificates to restaurants, etc.

Unlike the USA, it is common in Mexico to give holiday gifts to the decision-makers in the purchasing department unless the companies have a policy against it.

Cut flowers or live plants are not considered an appropriate business gift.

Holiday gifts are given to important (and not so important) clients or to key people in the clients organization with whom you have a personal/business relationship (for example the secretary who answers all your calls or the logistics person who solves problems all year long).

Some transnational companies have tried to limit and reduce the amount and quality of business Christmas gifts in the past few years. It is not looked upon kindly by customers who always reflect upon the amount of money they have spent with the supplier, and believe the Christmas gift is a “thank you” and recognition of their support and loyalty throughout the year.

Work begins to slow down in Mexico at the beginning of December, and after December 12 (The Day of Guadalupe) efficiency grinds to a halt. It’s impossible to get major decisions, and many times difficult to locate business owners and managers due to events and social engagements.

Most Mexican businesses (not in tourist areas) are closed during the week between Christmas (Dec. 25) and the New Year (Jan 1). The Mexican government prohibits highway transport of certain goods and tractor trailers during this peak family vacation period.

Related Links

How to do business in Mexico

Mexican official and unofficial holidays

Tipping guidelines for Mexico

Doing Business in Mexico – cultural tips

Advice on what to expect when doing business with Mexico

Corruption, bribes, mordidas, tips – doing business in Mexico





Mexican politics – what business people should know

22 11 2006

In order to begin to understand Mexican politics (an impossible task), it’s important to learn some fundamentals of the political system in Mexico.

  • There is no re-election for political officials for the same post in Mexico. Current office holders can sit-out a term and run again for the same office, or they can run for another political post.
  • The political parties control the selection of party candidates who run for office, at Federal, State and local levels. Political parties, and their leaders are very important.
  • In order to be remain in politics one must please both the party and the electorate.
  • The term for the President of Mexico is for 6 years, with no re-election.
  • The term for State Governor is 6 years, with no re-election.
  • The term for Senators is 6 years, with no re-election for a consecutive term.
  • The term for the Camara de Diputados (similar to the House of Representatives in the US) is 3 years, with no re-election for a consecutive term.
  • The term for local mayor is 3 years with no re-election for a consecutive term.
  • The term for State representatives and local elected positions is normally 3 years, with no re-election for a consecutive term.
  • Changes in the Mayor, Governor or President, cause major reshuffling of bureaucrats and administrative officials. This causes a slowdown or “unofficial” shutdown of some government offices between the election date and the date of the new administration start-up.
  • The lack of re-election encourages and favors the current politicians and parties in power to seek out projects with short term visible benefits. They are pushed to show successes, infrastructure projects or other tangible benefits during their term of office in order to get promoted and elected to future political posts.
  • In the Mexican states with stable, well defined political party tendencies and majorities, there is more focus on medium and long term projects and planning as the benefits can be attributed to the party.
  • If selling a long term project to the government, it should include short term benefits, or tangible results, so that the politicians involved can claim credit.
  • Never try and initiate the sale or negotiation of a major project to the State government during the last 6 months or year of a Governors term. It will be stalled, and you will have to “resell” it to the new administration.
  • Get to know as many local and State and Federal political officials as possible, in 3 to 6 years they are all sitting in different positions of power and influence in the government.

Related Links

How to do business in Mexico, Politics and Political Parties

How to speed up business decisions in Mexico

Patience, chaos and doing business in Mexico

Official websites of the Mexican states

Best States for business in Mexico – World Bank Report 2007