Americans value straight talking and getting to the point above diplomacy.
Respect is earned through conspicuous achievement rather than through age or background.
Self-deprecation is often misunderstood by Americans as a sign of weakness. Sell your plus points.
Humour is frequently used in business situations but is unlikely to be appreciated when matters become very tense.
Remember that time is money in the States – wasting people’s time through vagueness is lack of a sense of purpose which will not produce good results.
Compromise is often sought – at the brink. This can often equate to the end of a quarter or financial year.
Do not be offended by seemingly overly personal questions.
Dress code in the States is very variable – check on the appropriate mode before departure.
Short-termism is endemic. Structure any proposals to emphasise quick wins rather than long-term objectives (although these should also be included.)
You may encounter an American is best view to doing things – be prepared to counter this with quantitative and qualitative counter-arguments.
Many Americans never leave the States. Be prepared for a parochially American view of the world.
Enthusiasm is endemic in business. Join in. Do not exhibit a jaundiced, old world approach as this will be interpreted as defeatist.
New is good. Change is ever present in American corporate life and therefore so is the easy acceptance of new ideas, new models etc.
Gift giving is unusual in the States and many companies have policies to restrict or forbid the acceptance of presents.
Americans tend to work longer hours and take fewer days of vacation than their European counterparts.
Try to be punctual for meetings – if you are late apologise.
Despite the seeming lack of hierarchy within an American organisation, the boss is the boss and is expected to make decisions and is held accountable for those decisions.
Americans often socialise with work colleagues outside the office – and this often includes the family.
Titles are an unreliable guide to relative importance within an organisation due to their proliferation.
Business is a serious thing in the States and it is important that you are seen to be serious in your intent and commitment.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
One of the paradoxes about the States is that we all know it from the media, films and music and we all form an internal image of the country and the way things are done there. The problem is that when you start to do business in the USA, you find that your internal image is a far cry from the reality you encounter on the ground. We go to the states with a million preconceptions, only to find them all challenged during the cut and thrust of normal business activities.
People often arrive in the States with the notion that it is the land of free-wheeling capitalism, where everything goes and red tape has been eradicated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Doing business in the States is as complex and challenging as in any other new international market. You need to do the same amount of initial research and strategising when entering the USA market as you do anywhere else in the world.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – many have and suffered the consequences.
At Global Business Culture, we are often amazed that clients feel they need to gain a better understanding of Chinese or Brazilian business culture but that the USA will somehow be easy or in some way ‘business culture free.’ Like all countries, the USA has a distinct and formidable business culture which drives most strategy and day-to-day interactions. Of course, there are some distinct regional differences but there are also States-wide attitudes that are well worth understanding and which will make your business dealings in the States more successful.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of business culture in the USA in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: