Ben Beveridge, Inspiring Excellence Inc., Vernon, BC, Futurpreneur Canada Mentor, ben@inspiringexcellence.ca

When doing business with people outside your home country or culture, do your utmost to gain an understanding of best practices, customs, and protocols. Simply knowing how to behave in a manner that is polite and respectful will ensure that you establish a basic level of human understanding. Just remember that what is polite in one culture may not be in another.

Sometimes your best resource for this is closer than you think, as I learned the first time when doing business in China. I had the opportunity to work on a project that included the executive team from a Chinese company, as well as the local and regional government officials from their city. Having never worked in this part of the world before, and being under severe time constraints, I needed a crash course in etiquette, practice, and communication. As well as needing to understand the hierarchy, interaction, and status that had to be observed with the officials and their team. And to top off my learning curve, none of them spoke English, so everything was to be done through an interpreter.

When asking my associates how to tackle this challenge, I was very fortunate to be connected to a member of the Chinese Student Society at a local University. He was most gracious in guiding me through the formality of the business negotiations, gave me a quick, intensive understanding of the underlying social observances, and most importantly, accompanied me to the after dinner food and drink where the real trust building happened, and the business objectives were achieved.

My advice is to find someone that has already made the connection between the two cultures, and learn from them. You don’t have to travel to learn about a foreign business environment. You can engage people in your own community to connect on a deeper level, learn more about their world experience, and perhaps allow them into your world as well.

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