My friend's Berlin office struck me as odd when I walked into it for the first time. The top consultant for foreign investment in the Middle East didn't have the usual round conference table. Instead, he had two long sofas facing each other.
At first, it seemed awkward. I wondered where the deals were made? Did he have another room somewhere that I couldn't see?
Then I realized this setup was one of his secrets to success.
Negotiations with those in the Middle East don't happen around conference tables or on the links. They happen sitting directly across from one another, drinking tea, and talking business. My friend had arranged his office to accommodate the culture of those he was making deals with.
Simple practices like this can be the dividing line between success and failure when making deals abroad. Here are 5 actions you can take right now to help with your global business ventures:
1. Adapt your cultural practices
Like my friend in Berlin, adapt your business practices to fit those from different backgrounds or cultures. Whether it be making decisions over late night drinks or during afternoon tea, adapting to cultural norms is critical for ensuring deals are made.
Along with this, it's important to approach negotiations with an open mind. Respect and be empathetic to those from different backgrounds than yours.
2. Make friends abroad
Develop relationships with those who live in countries you want to do business in. Take trips and meet with government officials and community members.
When visiting, act like an anthropologist. Be curious and ask questions. This will help you establish credibility.
For example, if you're doing business in Central Europe, you need to come to the table having done your homework whereas, in Israel, the details are expected to shake out after the idea is initially discussed.
3. Leverage relationships at home
There's a good chance that people in your own network have done business in countries or cultures you want to target. Seek these people out and use them as cultural ambassadors to be successful in that global environment.
Invite them to impart their wisdom and contacts. Don't be afraid to "ask dumb questions." Learn from their mistakes and experience.
4. Keep up with the times
Successful global executives are avid consumers of global news. They pay attention to things such as conflicts, elections, and natural disasters.
This habit can help make sure you don't try to schedule a meeting during an important holiday or run into travel restrictions due to political unrest.
5. Know how money talks
We all know the phrase "money talks" but, it can speak in different languages. To be successful globally, you need to know how money is handled, transacted, and the expectation for how it will be used to secure a negotiation.
What's considered a bribe? What's considered an appropriate gift? Is money wired? What's the state of the currency? You should be able to answer all these questions before trying to make a deal in another country.
Successful global executives learn everything they can about the country they want to do business with. Knowing whether to kiss, shake hands, bow or offer tea, coffee, or scotch can go a long way in making sure deals are made.