Swiss Meetings

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

Switzerland must rank as one of the most politically and economically stable countries in the world. It has for years managed to deliver ongoing prosperity for its highly educated, multi-lingual population and, although the country did feel the impact of the banking crisis, the long-term signs seem very positive.

Switzerland is a land-locked country yet despite that seeming disadvantage it is an extremely successful export economy with sector strengths ranging from advanced manufacturing through to high-end financial services. As well as being export-oriented, Switzerland has also been able to attract massive levels of inward investment through a combination of fiscal incentives and a very high standard of living.

Recent years have seen large numbers of immigrants entering Swiss society and whilst this has led to some internal tensions, it has also allowed Switzerland to benefit from the arrival of highly skilled workers who have helped Swiss industry remain at the forefront of innovation and productivity.

Switzerland is a high-cost, high-skilled economy which must be an attractive proposition for many international organisations who are looking to grow their business by entering new markets. Don’t be put off by the seemingly high costs – Switzerland is worth a closer look.

However, Switzerland is a culturally complex country – as you would expect from a country with four official languages. Before starting to do business in Switzerland you would be well-advised to develop a good understanding of the significant cultural differences you can find within the country. Don’t be fooled by the fact that so many people speak good English – their fluency in English doesn’t mean they don’t think, act and behave in a Swiss way.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Swiss business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

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