The Unspoken Truth about International Business

Language has been described as the mirror of culture. Language itself is multidimensional. This is true not only of the spoken word but also of the nonverbal language of international business.

Messages are conveyed not just by the words used, but also by how those words are spoken and through such nonverbal means as gestures, body position, and eye contact. These nonverbal actions and behaviors reveal hidden clues to culture.

Five key topics – time, space, body language, friendship patterns and business agreements – offer a starting point from which managers can begin to acquire the understanding necessary to do business in foreign countries.

Understanding national and cultural differences in the concept of time is critical for an international business manager. In many parts of the world, time is flexible and is not seen as a limited commodity; people come late to appointments or may not come at all.

In Mexico for instance, it is not unusual to show up at 1:45PM for a 1:00PM appointment. Although a late afternoon siesta cuts apart the business day, businesspeople will often be at their desks until 10 o’clock at night.

In Hong Kong, too, it is futile to set exact meeting times because getting from one place to another may take minutes or hours, depending on traffic.

Showing indignation or impatience at such behavior would astonish an Arab, Latin American, or Asian.

Perception of time also affects business negotiations. Asians and Europeans tend to be more interested in long-term partnerships, while Americans are eager for deals that will be profitable in the short term, meaning less than a year.

Individuals vary in their preferences for personal space. Arabs and Latin Americans like to stand close to people when they talk. If an American who may not be comfortable at such close range, backs away from an Arab, this might incorrectly be perceived as a negative reaction.

An interesting exercise is to compare and contrast the conversation styles of different nationalities. Northern Europeans are quite reserved in using their hands and maintain a good amount of personal space, whereas Southern Europeans involved their bodies to a far greater degree in making a point.

International body language, too, can befuddle international business relations.

For example, an American manager may after successful completion of negotiations, impulsively give a finger-and-thumb “okay” sign. In southern France, this would signify the deal was worthless, and in Japan, it would mean that a little bribe had been requested. The gesture would be grossly insulting to Brazilians.

Misunderstanding nonverbal cues can undermine international negotiations. While Eastern and Chinese negotiators usually lean back and make frequent eye contact while projecting negativity, Western negotiators usually avert their gaze for the same purpose.

In some countries, extended social acquaintance and the establishment of appropriate personal rapport are essential to conducting business. The feeling is that one should know one’s business partner on a personal level before transactions can occur.

Therefore, rushing straight to business will not be rewarded because deals are made on the basis of not only the best product or price, but also the entity or person deemed most trustworthy. Contract may be bound on handshakes, not lengthy and complex agreements – a fact that makes some, especially Western, businesspeople uneasy.

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Excerpt from Fundamentals of International Business, 3rdby Michael R. Czinkota, Ilkka A. Ronkainen, and Michael H. Moffett

Michael Czinkota (czinkotm@georgetown.edu) teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His latest book, forthcoming in October 2018, is “In Search for the Soul of International Business”.

 

 

Getting Closer with the U.S. on Trade Matter

 

Annäherung im Handelsstreit mit den USA

Der Handelskrieg zwischen den USA und der EU ist abgesagt. Ganz im Gegenteil wird über ein breites Handelsabkommen verhandelt. Das ist das überraschende Ergebnis des Besuchs von EU-Kommissionspräsident Jean-Claude Juncker bei US-Präsident Donald Trump. Beide Seiten haben etwas bekommen und auch schon einen gemeinsamen Gegner ausgemacht. Eine Einschätzung zu der plötzlichen Lösung gibt Michael Czinkota, Professor für internationale Handelsbeziehungen an der Georgetown University in Washington, im Journal-Interview.

Gestaltung: Robert Uitz-Dallinger, Andrea Maiwald

http://oe1.orf.at/player/20180726/520648/070820

NEW BOOK: “As I Search for the Good Soul of International Business and Trade” – PRE ORDER NOW!

My latest book is Fifth in my “As I…” series, “(Such as ‘As I was thinking,’ As I see it’..) this latest title is: .As I Search for the Good Soul of International Business and Trade”. I address the need to consider and focus on the good soul and how such consideration needs to reflect the spiritual and emotional links to core issues of international business and trade. I propose that a responsible focus on the soul  plays a key international role in strengthening freedom, progress and quality of life.

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“Redirecting Capital to Sustainable Investment” by Victoria Galeano and Jerry Haar

Published in the America Economia (March-April 2018), “Redirecting Capital to Sustainable Investment” discusses impact investing among Latin American businesses. To read this article in Spanish, click here

March – April 2018

 

Redirecting Capital to Sustainable Investment

Victoria Galeano and Jerry Haar

We are living at an unprecedented time in human history. Never before have consumers been so empowered to influence corporate behavior and firms’ impact on society and the environment. New market incentives driven by selective consumer groups such as millennials and women have begun to redirect capital towards enterprises the importance of being good corporate citizens.

To be a good corporate citizen is consonant with high standards of ESG (environmental, social, and governance). Many investors consider looking for ESG-oriented firms, believing they generate higher financial returns in the long term. More and more available information validates this correlation. For example, the Institute of Sustainable Investing’s extensive study of mutual funds found that sustainable investments in most cases equal or exceed the financial performance of traditional investments.

This has generated a search for sustainable investments and transactions of “green capital” and a proliferation of funds focused on sustainable investment. For example, the market for green equities reached a new historical record of over $200 billion in total issues in 2017. According to Bank of America, $21.4 trillion of global stocks embody ESG criteria.

There presently exist diverse strategies for selecting investments that incorporate ESG. In many funds, the selection process is based on monitoring sustainability indices. These indices compile a list of enterprises and score them based on ESG criteria. In the case of Latin America, the Inter-American Development Bank utilizes Index Americas, the first index to be launched by a multilateral development bank. Index Americas selects 100 enterprises that are both the most sustainable, and have the largest presence in the region.

It is noteworthy that the Latin American financial system has slowly embraced this worldwide tendency, and increasingly, pension funds and other investment funds are incorporating sustainability investments in their portfolios. The leading stock market in Brazil already has an index of corporate sustainability, and the stock markets in Argentina, Chile, and MILA (the integrated stock exchanges of Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru) are in the process of developing similar criteria. At the same time, Latin American businesses are more and more cognizant of the importance of incorporating ESG in their operations. Firms such as FEMSA, Cemex, and Banco Itaú are industry leaders in attaining high standards of ESG.

These enterprises do not only allocate resources to improve their technological systems and internal processes but also invest in broadening their knowledge base of sustainability. In response to this need, various universities have incorporated sustainability into their MBA programs.

Attaining high standards of ESG brings multiple benefits to companies and helps firms achieve larger goals in many instances. Recognizably, however, the proliferation of rankings and standards requires significant resources in the generation of reports, scorecards, and audits. Additionally, obtaining results will invariably require the reconfiguration of internal processes or investment in costly equipment and technologies.

Nevertheless, enterprises that are able to integrate ESG principles in their business models and continually improve their sustainability are those that will be able to generate long-term economic benefits while engaging in behavior that is healthy and beneficial to people, the environment, and society at large.

 

Victoria Galeano is the founder and director of PRISSMA, a consultancy specializing in the financing of sustainable projects and products.

Jerry Haar is a business professor at Florida International University and a global fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.