Meetings in Switzerland come in all shapes and sizes, but the larger the meeting is the more formal it is likely to be.

Formal meetings will be very highly structured, following an agenda in a linear-active way. There is a little off-the-cuff deviation from the pre-determined approach. It is expected that people will arrive at the meeting well-prepared, with sufficient information to hand to allow them to debate any particular issue in detail. Punctuality is important and one should not be accused of stealing other people’s time. Without wanting to appear to be stereotyping, the need to be aware of time-related concerns is paramount in time-dominated Switzerland.

As Swiss companies tend towards specialisation and compartmentalisation in the allocation of roles, it is common for meetings to involve a wide variety of interested parties – each of which brings to the meeting, his or her specific knowledge. People are expected to speak in detail and at length about those issues which relate to their own particular area of specialisation but are not so much expected to interject in areas which less directly relate to them.

Although somewhat non-confrontational by nature, the Swiss still expect people to be prepared to debate and defend their own points of view in a robust and detailed manner. Such direct debate should not be confused with aggression or ill-feeling.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Switzerland

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Overview

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 Switzerland. 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 Switzerland 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:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips