Lessons in international business – negotiations

17 10 2006

Observations on how to create trust, effective meetings and excellent negotiations with overseas customers, suppliers and partners.

  • Whenever you are involved in international negotiations or global meetings keep in mind that you might be working with the same person for the next 10 – 20 years.
  • Negotiations should be open and straightforward.  Hidden agendas will eventually be discovered and make the next meeting very difficult.
  • Negotiations should involve creating value for both parties.
  • Meetings are important moments where trust is being built and confirmed.  Be honest and clear about your desires.
  • Never agree to something you cannot deliver or perform.
  • Listen, understand and evaluate what your partner is requesting.   What are they saying, and what does it mean.
  • Be certain of what you are negotiating and agreeing to.  If not 100% sure, stop and request clarification.
  • Prepare for the meeting several weeks before it happens.  Refresh and add information weekly.  When you reach the meeting, you will be in control of the information and feel comfortable during the talks.
  • At the end of the meeting, write down the most important points or agreements, with names and dates, and have it signed by those present.  This little tip will save lots of time and trouble for everyone involved.
  • Any agreement must have 100% follow-through.  If for any reason problems arise in the follow-through, immediately contact and communicate the situation to your partner.

Related Links

How to negotiate with Mexican business people

Great international business trip results





Great International Business Trip Results

16 10 2006

In any international relationship communication and understanding are critical for success.

Problems created by; language, stereotypes, misinformation, lack of information, and cultural misunderstandings combine with normal business problems to create a complicated scenario for anyone involved in international relationships and global business.

Prepare your international meetings and business presentations using the following questions as a guide to organize your ideas and focus on actions that will produce positive results for everyone involved.

6 Questions – Create Great International Business Trip Results

  1. What does this organization know about me, my company and my country?
  2. What do they think they know about me?
  3. What can I tell them that they do not know?
  4. What do I know about my international partner, culture and country?
  5. What do I think I know about this business, culture and country?
  6. What can they tell me that I do not know?

1. What does this organization know about me and my company. When you walk in the room an opinion has already been formed about you, your organization, and your ability to perform in the future. These ideas are based upon facts, information and past experience.

  • What has been the history of our relationship in their country?
  • Who has been involved in our mutual business, and why?
  • What promises have been made and kept by both?
  • What promises have been made and not delivered upon?
  • What have the major problems and success been in the past?
  • Press and media, our organizations promotional material.

2. What do they think they know about me. Clarifying the unknowns or presumed realities in a relationship is crucial to success. These ideas may be very damaging and limit your ability to trust one another. What stereotypical behaviour can you avoid or prevent? What can you clarify or refute through information or actions?

  • Behaviour and reacts based upon past experience with your organization.
  • Rumour and innuendo, press and media reports.
  • Negotiation styles.
  • Business objectives.
  • Behaviour, goals and methods of doing business based upon country and cultural stereotypes.

3. What can I tell them that they do not know. Today’s business world requires trust, information and solutions. Reinforcing your need to work with your international partner, providing important information or solutions, and clarifying misunderstandings can only help the relationship.

  • Clarify or destroy cultural stereotypes.
  • Clarify business objectives and why they are important in order to reach these objectives.
  • Provide solutions and alternatives to existing situations and challenges.
  • Provide information of value for their business and strategy.
  • Clearly identify current or potential business problems.
  • Predict and have answers ready for their questions.

4. What do I know about my International partner, culture and country? What do I know is true and not innuendo or interpretation? The numbers, facts, information, agreements and past performance history of the business. Information about the country and the business culture.

5. What do I think I know about this business, culture and country? What preconceived ideas and stereotypes are you working with? What are you assuming and what has been proven?

6. What can they tell me that I do not know? What questions do you need to ask in order to verify information or create plans. What pieces of your information puzzle are missing? This is the time to get your questions answered, what are they?

Related Links

Cultural misunderstanding it can happen to you

Stereotypes and global business

Create great international business relationships

16 Essential questions – the international business traveller’s quiz

Lessons in international business





The power of something extra

5 10 2006

Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more that what they expect to get.” – Nelson Boswell

What defines an exceptional leader, a great manager, a super business, or remarkable experience? Something extra.

There are two words (one French and the other Spanish) that convey and represent the concept of something extra, lagniappe and pilon.

Lagniappe (hear it) is the word commonly used in Southern Louisiana and Mississippi. It’s defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as an extra or unexpected gift or benefit.

Pilon is the Spanish word used in the southern US and Mexico to describe a gratuity given by tradesmen to customers settling their accounts, it’s something extra, and not expected.

Incorporating something extra in our actions, results and as a business philosophy can be incredibly powerful.

Something extra:

  • forces creativity and innovation.
  • demands clear understanding what is expected of us by others.
  • focuses our attention of adding value, and not on cutting costs.
  • is positive.
  • is rewarded with good will and positive reactions.
  • will lead to continual improvement.
  • is fundamental to continued success.

Something extra is all about the little things and details.

Something extra is not just something “free”, it must arrive without anticipation, unexpectedly in order for it to be special and make an impact.

Something extra allows you to surprise the customer.

Something extra will make think about your results and expectations. It will make the difference between simple compliance and outstanding results.

Something extra will make you and your results different from all the others.

Embracing something extra and applying it on a daily basis, will make you great.

Giving something extra is not a difficult task. It’s all about applying small acts of innovation and creativity to your results, especially for routine and day-to-day tasks.

The power of something extra can change your life, your products, your processes and how others perceive you.

“If you want to be creative in your company, your career, your life, all it takes is one easy step… the extra one. When you encounter a familiar plan, you just ask one question: What ELSE could we do?” Dale Dauten

Related Links

Motivation – Heroic moments

What defines an exceptional leader





Create great international business relationships

14 09 2006

Working with individuals and ideas from cultures different from our own is complex, and filled with opportunities to misunderstand and offend everyone involved. It requires time to develop trust and understanding for all the players involved.

Take the time to learn how and why business is done in the country. Don’t judge the results based upon your culture and your country’s standards.

There is nothing more damaging to an international relationship than criticism based upon a lack of understanding. You must learn before you attempt to teach new ideas, strategies and procedures.

When doing business in Mexico remember that no matter what you feel or believe about your company’s products or procedures, Mexicans know their market and people better than you do. They know the correct business etiquette and the “invisible” cultural nuances that are required in order to do business in Mexico.

If you enter into business in Mexico with the idea that you are going to “teach the Mexicans how business is really done” I am confident you will suffer some serious problems.

Pushing procedures and business strategies into Mexico will surely cause divisions, it can turn into an “us versus them” situation for employees and customers.

I recommend that your focus be on learning and understanding how business in currently done in Mexico, and why. Once you have this knowledge, teach and explore your cultures and organizations solutions and strategies with your Mexican collaborators. I’ll bet the ideas will get modified if necessary, implemented and embraced quickly.

The creation of hybrid strategies, using elements from both cultures, will guarantee unification and understanding for everyone involved.

Before you start a revolution it’s essential to fully understand the status quo.

 

Related Links

International Business Tips

Stereotypes and global business

International business traveller – ambassador, explorer, map-maker





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





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.





International business traveller – ambassador, explorer, map-maker

21 08 2006

The critical roles played by international business travellers.

International business travellers play an incredibly important role as ambassadors, explorers and “map-makers” inside their organizations and with their overseas contacts.

Ambassadors, Explorers, and “Map-Makers”

Ambassador of your country and culture. During your trip your actions and reactions are being watched by others. They are trying to confirm, deny or create stereotypes of your country. Everything including your inter-personal skills, business negotiation skills and manners, the way you dress and eat, your choice of hotels, table manners, social skills, and the ability to make small-talk and conversation will be watched, examined and commented upon after you leave. Keep this idea clear at all time during your trip, it is important.

Ambassador of your company. Prepare and bring all materials required for the negotiations and business interactions. Project an aura of professionalism, a willingness to learn and share, and honesty. Create relationships with a long-term vision. You may be promoted or leave the organization some day, but your international contacts will continue to do business with your company.

Ambassador of you. International business is all about relationships, and your behaviour and attitudes are critically important as the liaison and trusted representative. Make promises you can keep, follow-through on the projects and projects. Project honesty and a concern for doing business and maintaining relationships. Your actions should focus on creating a climate of trust and open communication. Don’t try to be someone you are not.

Explorer. The international business traveller, technicians, and sales and business development executives have the added responsibility of verifying existing information, establishing new contacts that will be beneficial in the future, and discovering new ideas and opportunities. It requires an inquisitive character, a bit of courage and a spirit of adventure.

Map-Maker. Often neglected by organizations is the cultural, political and personal information gathered by international business people. This information (or data), should be gathered, filtered and consolidated, and available to the organization after every overseas trip. “Maps” should be made for future consultation and reference. The map-making role requires the separation of the facts from interpretation, personal anecdotes and opinions. This information becomes the foundation for all future strategic and operating decisions.

Related Links

7 Tips for International Business

16 Essential Questions – International Business Traveller’s Quiz

How to do Business in Mexico, Parts 1 – 28

International Business Trip Planning, Part 6





10 things you should do on Friday afternoon

18 08 2006

Friday afternoons are not known as the most productive times in an organization. Why not take advantage of Friday afternoon, and do the following:

10 things to do on Friday afternoon

1. Clean up your desk, file the important documents, throw out the rest. Make your desktop visible again.

2. De-fragment and tidy up your computer and files, backup important information. Boring, but has to be done right?

3. Make a list of the projects and tasks you wish to deal with on Monday morning. Make Monday easier.

4. Review your calendar and schedule for the coming week, confirm appointments and make sure you’re prepared for meetings and presentations. Be on time and prepared.

5. Return all pending phone calls that have accumulated during the week. Follow-up.

6. Clean up your email inbox. Follow-up, follow-through, keep the communication moving.

7. Smile a lot, get excited about the weekend. Think of the future, not the past.

8. Call your spouse, significant other or best friend. Tell them to get dressed up and go out to a casual relaxing place that you have not been to in a while. It should remind you why you worked so hard all week. Give yourself a reward. Enjoy it.

9. If you are in a leadership or management position. Get out of your office and walk around, talk to people about anything but work. Ask if they have something special or exciting planned for the weekend. Listen and learn.

10. Do small random acts of kindness for subordinates and co-workers, these might include; give out Milk Duds and Lemonheads, buy a lottery ticket for everyone, take the “front line” workers out for a drink. Random acts of kindness. No ulterior motives.

Related Link

10 things you should never do on Friday afternoon 





20 challenges faced by a family owned business

17 08 2006

Every business organization has a unique set of challenges and problems. The family business is no different. Many of these problems exist in corporate business environments, but can be exaggerated in a family business.

Family business go through various stages of growth and development over time. Many of these challenges will be found once the second and subsequent generations enter the business.

A famous saying about family owned business in Mexico is “Father, founder of the company, son rich, and grandson poor” (Padre noble, hijo rico, nieto pobre). The founder works and builds a business, the son takes it over and is poorly prepared to manage and make it grow but enjoys the wealth, and the grandson inherits a dead business and and empty bank account.

Prepare now and help your grandson avoid the poorhouse.

20 challenges for the family business

  1. Emotions. Family problems will affect the business. Divorce, separations, health or financial problems also create difficult political situations for the family members.
  2. Informality. Absence of clear policies and business norms for family members
  3. Tunnel vision. Lack of outside opinions and diversity on how to operate the business.
  4. Lack of written strategy. No documented plan or long term planning.
  5. Compensation problems for family members. Dividends, salaries, benefits and compensation for non-participating family members are not clearly defined and justified.
  6. Role confusion. Roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined.
  7. Lack of talent. Hiring family members who are not qualified or lack the skills and abilities for the organization. Inability to fire them when it is clear they are not working out.
  8. High turnover of non-family members. When employees feel that the family “mafia” will always advance over outsiders and when employees realize that management is incompetent.
  9. Succession Planning. Most family organizations do not have a plan for handing the power to the next generation, leading to great political conflicts and divisions.
  10. Retirement and estate planning. Long term planning to cover the necessities and realities of older members when they leave the company.
  11. Training. There should be a specific training program when you integrate family members into the company. This should provide specific information that related to the goals, expectations and obligations of the position.
  12. Paternalistic. Control is centralized and influenced by tradition instead of good management practices.
  13. Overly Conservative. Older family members try to preserve the status quo and resist change. Especially resistance to ideas and change proposed by the younger generation.
  14. Communication problems. Provoked by role confusion, emotions (envy, fear, anger), political divisions or other relationship problems.
  15. Systematic thinking. Decisions are made day-to-day in response to problems. No long-term planning or strategic planning.
  16. Exit strategy. No clear plan on how to sell, close or walk away from the business.
  17. Business valuation. No knowledge of the worth of the business, and the factors that make it valuable or decrease its value.
  18. Growth. Problems due to lack of capital and new investment or resistance to re-investment in the business.
  19. Vision. Each family member has a different vision of the business and different goals.
  20. Control of operations. Difficult to control other members of the family. Lack of participation in the day-to-day work and supervision required.




How impersonal is your life and your world?

15 08 2006

We live in an impersonal world. I hear this constantly and wonder exactly what people mean when they say it. Is this a warning, an observation, a criticism, a declaration of failure in their ability to create and maintain relationships?

The world has always been impersonal, it’s just not possible that millions of human beings will relate to one another with familiarity. It’s an impossible scenario.

So why all the focus on how impersonal our lives are lately?

Is it a cry for help, a diagnosis and awareness that something is wrong or could be better?
It’s because we have isolated ourselves, by ourselves.

Impersonal is what YOU make it, it has to do with your interaction and participation with others. You are in control, you are not a victim.

Our access to wealth, communications and easy travel have allowed us to travel and move our residence often and meet thousands of people throughout the world during our lifetime. This was not possible 100 years ago.

We no longer live in Norman Rockwell’s Main street America, in a small town, where we know the neighbors, the teachers, the firemen, clerks and shop owners. We didn’t invest enough time in a safe stable environment in order to learn about others and become secure with ourselves and diversity.

In today’s world it’s so easy to walk away from ideas, behaviours and people who are not like us. We can now live by ourselves, in our own little world, designed by us and just for us. The only problem is, we are social creatures and we do want others in our lives. We have created a dilemma by isolating ourselves.

It’s just common sense that this exposure to so many people we don’t know, and who don’t know us, is bound to create a bit of tension or coldness in our initial contacts. Depending on how you respond and interact with others, these interactions can remain cold and impersonal, or might warm up and become pleasant and more personalized.

Simple acts that allow others to let their guard down are all that’s necessary. A smile, a hello or thank-you, a question or comment that initiates a conversation is sometimes all it takes to break the ice.

Relationships are made and created through trust and time. It’s about giving your time, showing interest, and learning. You cannot expect to become best friends with anyone in a week or month, be realistic. You cannot create a meaningful relationship by watching co-workers or neighbors through your window.

Proof of how easy it is to begin a relationship can be found with the Internet, social networks, chat-rooms, etc. All you have to do is throw out a comment or question and in a matter of minutes be involved in communication with a perfect stranger. Why then the complaints about an impersonal world? What’s different when you are not on-line, and are face to face with another human being?

If you think the world is cold and impersonal, take a look at your actions and behavior and determine if you are actively participating to open the door in your communications and relationships. Does your world revolve around you, your problems and your little internal universe? I’ll bet you think the world is impersonal.

Are you interested in giving, sharing, listening, learning and accepting others and their diversity? I’ll bet you think the world is a pretty fine place to be.

Related Links

Lonely and have no friends

What happens when we have no friends

Social networks, are they a part of your life?