Latest Op Ed: How to avoid cultural mistakes while doing business abroad


Latest Op Ed: How to avoid cultural mistakes while doing business abroad

Many thanks to Quartz for publishing my latest Op Ed. An abstract is below & here’s the full text. An equally appreciative shout-out to our BU which helped with introductions, editing and distribution.

This is based on three of my recent trips to France, China and Japan earlier this year to meet with companies about their business strategies and/or to write new case studies.

Though there is an obvious upside to doing international business, for the men and women hopping on long-haul flights, it sometimes feel like more of a burden than a benefit. From missing a cultural cue and insulting a host to fighting jet lag for days, the reality is that you’ll rarely find yourself on business cruise control.

Those who succeed in the international business world have thicker skin than most. They’ve also embraced a few simple mindset shifts that make a difference. When done well, you’ll ensure the effort made abroad is worth the challenge, yielding returns that impact both the bottom line and your company’s cultural adaptability.

Mindset shift #1: Over-communicate to communicate

Though you may log plenty of hours with your business contacts, the assumptions that you make about a trip or a deal may not be the ones your business contacts make.

I learned this the hard way once when I was in France. I needed to get on a train to Paris in order to make an afternoon flight to Boston, and I assumed nothing important would be scheduled the morning of this final day, To keep everyone fully informed, weeks prior I had emailed my flight schedule. Either no one read it, they believed work came first, or they assumed I could find another train. Quel dommage! What a pity, indeed, when it came to my travel expenses.

These kinds of mistakes are the reason that it’s so essential to make sure you’ve covered every last detail. Some cultural norms lead people to eschew conflict while others simply hold the idea that the things that haven’t been discussed will be dealt with in due time.

Leave nothing to chance when it comes to general relationship management, travel, or the status of a specific deal.

Latest Op Ed: How to avoid cultural mistakes while doing business abroad

About Author

Greg Stoller is actively involved in building entrepreneurship and international business programs at Boston University in the Questrom School of Business. He teaches courses in entrepreneurship, global strategy and management and runs the Asian International Management Experience Program, and the Asian International Consulting Project.

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