Although Australia is relatively geographically remote and has a small domestic market, it is economically successful and its citizens have a comparatively high standard of living.
Due to its small domestic market, Australia needs to trade actively on the international market place and Australians know this – they are open to new ideas from overseas.
Australians prize their egalitarian approach to life- people should not try to make out that they are better than others.
This egalitarian world view is mirrored in many aspects of Australian business culture from corporate structures to management and communication style.
On the whole, Australian corporate structures are matrix oriented, without too many layers of management. A hierarchical approach tends to sit uneasily in egalitarian Australia.
Managers try to develop a matey relationship with their colleagues and would be viewed negatively if they tried to seem aloof from subordinates.
Everybody expects to have an input into the decision-making process even if, in the final analysis, the boss still makes the decision. If the boss makes the decision with no prior consultation, it unlikely that people will be very keen to ensure implementation.
Decision-making meetings can be quite animated and it is expected that people will say exactly what they think without necessarily having to defer automatically to the boss viewpoint.
Although Australians will say that they value punctuality as a professional necessity, do not be surprised if people appear five to ten minutes late for a meeting.
Some small talk is usually engaged in before the meeting proper starts. This stage of the meeting is, however, rarely protracted (five minutes or less.)
Australians tend to plan in less detail than certain other countries (Germany or Japan for example.)
The object of a meeting is often to explore the various possibilities available at that time, in order to determine what detailed actions may need to be taken after the meeting
Agendas are often produced at meetings but will not, necessarily, be strictly adhered to. Some deviation is allowed if it is felt to be constructive deviation. This is viewed as pragmatic.
Australians like to be viewed as good team players and will try very hard to play the role.
Teams are best managed by somebody who wants to be part of the team, rather than somebody who wished to be seen as apart from the team.
A team leader should view themselves the first amongst equals.
Australians like people to say exactly what is on their mind. Hiding your views behind diplomatic language can be seen as evasiveness.
Never try to hard sell things to Australians who will probably view such an approach as bragging. Such an approach will invariably backfire in Australia.
Humour is an oft-used communication device in Australian business circles. It is difficult to envisage many situations where the use of humour would be deemed inappropriate.
Business attire in Australia tends towards the formal with suits and ties the norm for men in management positions in major cities.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Australia. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Australia and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: