Cultural Differences in Business

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Nowadays, in a totally connected world, it is not possible to have a successful business without being aware of cultural differences.

We have two important aspects to analyze, that are related of cultural differences.

The first one is the analysis of the internal business environment, and the second one is the approach to the external environment, local and global, to sale our products or services.

It is important to have a multicultural work environment, because it allows the development of different perspectives and powerful brainstorms about the solutions of problems.

People with difference cultural background, usually, have different mental models and different approaches to problem solving, which creates a great potential and leverages the team work and results.

Also, it helps to avoid misunderstandings, when dealing with particular issues, about a product or service that doesn't satisfy clients' needs in a specific region or country.

The second aspect is related with doing business globally.

What induce more noise in international negotiations are the cultural aspects, which are misunderstood and confused with Ethical differences.

The cultural aspects that need to be highlighted are: the protocol, the religion, the use of colors and their meaning, the corporal language, eating habits and gifts.

There is, also, another perspective about different cultures, which is from Geert Hofstede, and analyzes the Cultural Dimensions. They are: Power Distance Index, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance Index and Long Term Orientation. One possible use of his method is exactly in International Businesses. The score of dozen of countries is available on his web site.

One thing must be extremely clear: Business is Business and Ethics is Ethics.

The gray area that many people try to develop and to blame cultural aspects does not exist. The gray area used as excuse to failure or to allow, or endorse, unacceptable ethical situations must not exist.

A common idea that I read a lot, it is that bribery is expected and usual in some countries. Bribery is wrong in any place of the world. It is difficult to me, to believe that are some people, serious people that endorse that practice and say that it is usual in some places.

To exist bribery, we need to have at least two actors, the one that donates and the receiver, what happened was a long and old process, where the powerful offered advantages, gifts and bribe to have their interests attended quickly, and that process in some world regions become more usual. It is easier to buy the guy than to explain what I want.

Another point that I read, it is that each country makes or interprets their business ethical standards. I believe that it is, also, not true. Each country has a level of corruption contamination, that should be the reference. An observation, corruption is not only a characteristic of poor countries. We find it, also, in developed countries, and frequently.

So, Ethics is one thing, business rules and cultural aspects are another.

Cultural aspects and how to deal with their particularities, depends on the study and interest of each one that wants to develop international business, and it is needed, before making suppositions about it and delegate that responsibility to ethical differences.

To kill, to steal and to harm others aren't a moral acceptable behavior in any place in the world. Business rules are made by the human beings and followed in a moral or immoral way, as their conscience and education says.

Mario luis Tavares Ferreira is a seasoned senior manager, entrepreneur, with a broad technical background, developed two high tech start-ups, developed business in half dozen countries, has active participation on diverse Linkedin groups and is developing a non-profit project to leverage SMB and Start-up development. For more information please visit my website at  globalentrepreneurship.wordpress.com.

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