Business culture – Presentation
- North-American people usually have a smooth and jovial way of doing business. It is coming to switch to a more informal approach (like using first names) early in a conversation.
- The saying ‘time is money’ is taken very literal in North-America. Don’t be to wordy and come to the point. We recommend you to prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ (pitching your company and your products and/or services in 1 to 2 minutes in a very clear, enthusiastic and positive way, much more ‘boasting’ your company than you would in a comparable Netherlands setting).
- Be clear, ‘tell it like it is’: Indirect or vague answers can be seen as, insecurity, insincerity or distrust.
- Humor is very important, but avoid jokes about sensitive subjects like religion, politics or ethnicity. Even better: don’t bring these to the table at all, also not in a more personal after-business gathering.
- Despite the relaxed and jovial attitude, the US business partners are very phlegmatic and pragmatic. They feel at ease in conflict situations with an attitude of ‘take it or leave it’.
- American entrepreneurs are usually dressed in a very formal way. It is advisable for both men and women to wear a suit, especially in a first encounter.
- Be sensitive to cultural differences in communication. Realize that words don’t always mean what a literal translation would be. Responses like ‘that’s interesting’, ‘think about that some more’, ‘that is an original point of view’ in fact mean that what was mentioned is a bad idea and not liked.
- By same standard, a non-response on your follow-up e-mail usually means the other party is not interested; if they were, the standard response time is usually within 24 hours. You can send one reminder e-mail, but after that, any follow-up on that topic will most likely hurt any future contacts. Try to find a new way in.
- Face-to- face meetings are an important part of doing business in the United States.
- Confirm appointments always one day prior to the meeting and be on time, preferable a little bit early. American are punctual and meticulous. Don’t show up unannounced.
- Punctuality is also an absolute must when it comes to delivering goods or services. When there’s a delay, invoking force majeure is often not appreciated as an excuse.
- Voicemail is often used as a filter in the United States, which often results in the fact that no-one is responding to your call. Practice on leaving a powerful message behind on voicemail.
- Don’t make any appointments which can possible threaten the time off from your American partner. Know and respect the US and local public holiday scheme.
- In the US, corporate breakfasts and lunches are important to get connected and for the closure of deals. Often, most of the meeting will be “informal” with a brief business conversation at the end, which is then redirected to another time and perhaps other people to formally close the deal. A meeting always ends with informal conversation.
- Commitment will be formalized in great detail in official contracts. All financial agreements will be captured on a regular basis in detailed, binding contracts, drafted by specialized lawyers.
- Be sure to memorize the names of meeting participants, for when you say goodbye at the end of the gathering. Americans are exceptionally well trained in this, and this can prevent an embarrassing end to your meeting.
- It is very common to exchange business cards. Use if possible business cards printed om the smaller format according to American standards and pay attention to design and titles.
- The use of formal titles on a business card is common, but it is not recommended to use Dutch titles like drs., mr. Ir. or ing. on your business card. With the exception of the title of Ph.D., master degree titles are not mentioned or understood on the business card, only corporate job titles are used.
- Education tells something about your competences, but in the US it is all about what you have achieved, who you know and how you have achieved it (by yourself).
- Mention you first name on your business card, not just your initial. You’ll use initials for (a) middle name(s). After that you can mention your last name.
- American-English is different from British- English. Be prepared for misunderstandings, try to avoid them and in case of doubt: make sure you understand correctly.
- In the presence of Americans, always use the English language, also when you ‘just have a little conversation’ with fellow Dutchmen.
- When you use temperatures or sizes in documents, always use American inches, feet and Fahrenheit, so don’t use the metrical system.
- Make sure your website is accessible in the American-English language. Do not only use a Union Jack as a languages button, but also the Stars and Stripes.