As more businesses look to expand globally, it’s no surprise that high-level executives are increasingly interested in building the skills necessary for scaling companies on an international level. However, while most business leaders are savvy enough to know the importance of following corporate protocols, many fail to realize that knowing and adhering to local cultural expectations can be equally vital to the bottom line of a growing organization.
A recent article in Business News Daily profiles the international expansion of mobile accessories company, Cellairis, which is now opening locations in Jamaica, Mexico, Chile, the UK, and the UAE. CEO and co-founder, Taki Skouras describes his three recommended tactics for international success.
1. Researching the markets, opportunities and threats.
2. Having a dedicated team solely focused on international growth.
3. Staffing with bilingual employees and translators.
There’s no doubt Skouras’ advice is valid but something that he (or the article) doesn’t mention is how important it is to be culturally savvy before embarking on international expansion. Cultural agility is often overlooked when talking about global business practices.
Here are just five of our tips for working across cultures.
1. Learn as much as you can about the countries and cultures you’re working with. Focus on the societies’ cultural norms before you travel or meet with local colleagues, clients or partners. Understand how those norms play a role in the workplace and how you can create an action plan that will allow you to put your best foot forward.
2. Look before you leap. Initially, take a step back and observe how people interact with each other — making no impression is better than making the wrong one.
3. Identify the differences you observe. Compare how the behaviors you observe differ from the ones you expect, and leverage the behaviors you have in common to form strong relationships.
4. Avoid value judgments. There is no right or wrong approach when it comes to cultural norms. Take the perspective of your counterparts to understand how their world has shaped the way they approach business in order to start bridging differences.
5.Stay true to yourself. Remember that you don’t need to change your values or beliefs to do business globally, but you do need to employ a fair amount of empathy to be effective in the local context.
Have you ever underestimated the impact of culture? Based on your experience, what strategies for working interculturally have worked best for you?