Learning How to Bow - Understand and Succeed at International Business

Your company or boss is sending you to Russia, week after next , to present a proposal to an agency.  Wow, this seems absolutely wonderful, traveling internationally ...you should be more than excited!  You are smart and decide to look up on the Internet some ideas. Then the more you read, the more you begin to feel inadequate. So much to learn, "how to sit, how to stand, how to shake hands, what colors to wear, how to look subdued, how and when to use some basic language to communicate, how to read street signs - how, how, how...

Not so easy anymore, is it? We will discuss many countries so you can appreciate what is truly takes to master international business.  Over my 35 years in the aerospace, science and technology industries I have worked in, negotiated contracts and sealed many long term relationships within six continents and across thirty-five countries. None of this was easy, but it was completely rewarding. 

So you might be wondering if the first example above of the employee going to Russia is going to be successful? The answer is NO! It will take many more meetings and patience before any trust is established to consider a business relationship. This will hold true for all of Asia as well. Generally, all business culture follow the way the government is set up. If dictatorial, then it will take you sometime to get to the absolute decision makers while you are building trust --up and along-- the way.  Mature International business is a calling, not a simple business task. You must be well trained, tested and prepared to succeed or your next meeting simply will never come.

I used Russia as one of my startling examples just to shock in the reality of working among a world of people who do not believe what you believe and wish for their world to be absolutely respected by any outsider. Coming to Russia in Nike T Shirts and flashy clothes would be the biggest mistake of your business career as I will explain. So there I am in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow sipping my espresso when I hear behind me this argument that went nearly exactly; " What do you mean we can not see the manager? We flew all the way out here for a meeting to close this account and obtain an equipment order and we still have not met any directors? Well did you have the names of these Directors and plans already made..said the Russian representative to the High Tech equipment sales manager? Well, er..NO...but that is of no matter we should have been automatically positioned there! "I am sorry, but you have shamed our customs here by your behaviour and the firm wants you escorted out of Russia immediately and not return! You will stay in your rooms tonight and will be driven to the airport and walked to the gate and onto the plane in the morning!", Sorry, but this is final!"

Well, I had to turn around to see who these folks were because the conversation, while loud and foolish, was certainly captivating. So I took one last sip of my espresso, turned around and just about fell out of my chair. They were both dressed in IBM blue pin stripe three piece suits, with white shirts and bright red ties, gold watches and rings, simply the largest attraction I had seen in Moscow in weeks. This was not a meeting, this was a ridiculous side show put on by two clueless "senior" salesmen, and also representing our country's best and brightest.

I was ashamed to be in the same room. That hour I swore to make sure that no one in our US firm ever flew internationally for any type of meeting or project work without first being fully trained in all aspects of working within the culture and always representing the US well, as mature ambassadors. This is the first stage of understanding--What am I up against? You and your company must first appreciate that your business presence in any another country means something far greater than a meeting and air miles rewards. International Business (IB) is a serious undertaking and if your company does not understand this yet, then if you are ready, you should become this well trained person. IB work is highly rewarding if you are well trained. You will be treated well, respected and sought after internationally  to be the main person,  if you decide to do what it takes to learn and master the world of IB.

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