Here are some quick tips to follow when doing business with Americans.
- Open and Honest
Generally speaking Americans tend to be more direct about how they feel or what they think about an idea, especially compared to their native speaking British counterparts. That being said, Americans may tend to be “politically correct” when giving negative (constructive) feedback. An example of a comment I’ve heard frequently is “I like the idea, I’m just not sure that it will work in the long run”.
- Enthusiasm and Innovation are valued
For Americans in a business environment, enthusiasm and having a “can do” attitude are essential. Having a “defeatist” or pessimistic attitude in the business world will generally land someone in the dreaded area of isolation. No one wants to work with a failure or someone who is seen as a “bad apple”.
To resolve this, there is no need to go overboard and respond with fake enthusiasm, just keep in mind that the possibility of success is the goal and stay open minded.
- Culture shock
It is not uncommon for Americans to not leave their country or venture too far during their holiday time simply due to the lack of time that they take off of work throughout the year. Most well intentioned and educated American business people may still lack exposure to outside cultures, which seems a bit strange to someone looking at America from the outside as the USA is considered a “melting pot” of other cultures. Regardless, I have a friend who works for a global company based in Berlin and he had to go through two weeks of Cultural Sensitivity training that he claimed helped him tremendously. Keep in mind that Americans doing business in your country may be a bit overwhelmed with culture shock.
- Giving gifts
While some cultures promote gift giving to establish and build connections, in the USA often this is forbidden. One reason for this is that an American business person does not want to be confused with someone who can be bribed or influenced with personal gifts. It may seem like a small innocent gesture to give someone a token of appreciation but doing so may make them feel indebted to you, so when in doubt, avoid gifts.
- Time is money
As mentioned in my previous article “The Culture of Time” which can be found here: http://englishinbudapest.com/the-culture-of-time/
American’s don’t like to waste time. Working in the evenings or on the weekends is not only common, but is generally expected. Don’t be surprised or offended if you get an email from your American business partner on a Saturday or Sunday. That being said, they will understand that this may not be expected of you in your culture so they generally will not expect a reply immediately unless you previously made arrangements to do so.
- Short term
From my experience, one detriment of the American business mentality is the focus on short term generally outweighs the long term view or goal. Many business people are looking over their shoulder to protect their position or job due to the competitive nature of American business. It’s not uncommon for someone to be put into a management position on a trial basis to see if they can achieve short term results before they are given long term security in their position or role. Keep this in mind and try to understand motives before making decisions.