Understanding and Embracing Cultural Differences in Expanding Overseas
This week has been full of travel, deadlines, meeting with clients, both new and current, as well as being fortunate to meet with colleagues I’ve worked alongside for many years in London.
Among the many meetings was one that revolved around the difference in culture between the UK and US, and how that impacts a businesses decisions and therefore success when a UK business enters the US. It’s an area that comes up frequently and can be discussed at length by the owners of businesses before entering new markets.
As most people know there are 50 states and most, if not all, are staunchly patriotic; but that tends to be where the greatest similarities end. In this meeting it become apparent to me that this is no different to the UK.
Business v Personal cultural differences
But having had time to reflect on all my meetings this specific meeting kept coming back to me as it actually became apparent to me that although cultural differences should never be overlooked or ignored, a businesses ethos and approach to how they do business can and should be their biggest differentiator in the market, particularly those industries that are service led. The businesses culture should therefore be that overarching theme to how to make your business succeed in the new country as it is usually what differentiates you in your current marketplace and is likely to be similar in your new market in the US.
My advice to clients in this situation is to have the courage of their conviction for the US market. It is apparent that the staff that are hired in the US, their own personal work ethic and how they treat people as well as how you treat them is key to ensuring success.
I think many people take this for different culture in different countries, states, counties or even cities, towns and villages; but it is actually a culture that a business can cultivate for itself and I don’t believe that such a culture is geographically dependent. It’s dependent on its leadership and its people that they hire and then subsequently cultivate and allow to grow.
The specific meeting that made me reflect on this was one of the more enjoyable meetings I had in London with two people from Stockport, one from Yorkshire, one from Southern California (VERY important clarification amongst Californians – even single states can be split!) and one from Essex.
The reason it made me reflect was that each person in that meeting came from very differing backgrounds, cultures and upbringings; but it appeared to me that we all shared a common outlook on work ethic and morals and how to treat people. This just illustrated for me the long held belief that for business purposes the culture that businesses look to cultivate is just as, if not more, important to its succes as that of understanding the differing cultures between the UK, US and their counties and states.
I have some graphic art on my walls from renowned UK graphic artist Anthony Burrill that states:
WORK HARD AND BE NICE TO PEOPLE
It’s a simplistic approach I take with me that summed up the meeting very succinctly.