Switzerland has always had a reputation for order, decency and an almost obsessive desire for security.

The Swiss are, for example, the most heavily insured nation in the world – a fact reflected in the number of insurance and re-insurance businesses based in the country – and have the highest per capita insurance spend.

These characteristics permeate every aspect of Swiss life and also percolate down to the business level.

Thus, the Swiss approach to business can be classified as orderly and thoughtful where pre-planning and risk-aversion are to the fore. The type of crisis management apparent in countries such as the UK, where the ability to deal with unexpected events as they occur is highly prized, would be viewed as haphazard and as showing a lack of control.

Although containing a sizeable number of Italian and French speakers, business comes very much before relationships in Switzerland. Respect is earned through the display of professionalism and technical competence rather than through the ability to cultivate the right quality of personal relationships.

Surprisingly, despite the regional differences which are more obvious in Switzerland than in most other countries, there seems to be a surprising degree of homogeneity in approach to business life throughout the country. The obvious exception to this homogeneity is in attitudes to communication, which are very much determined by the native language of the individual.

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