As would be expected, Belgium is very heavily reliant on international trade and foreign investment. Its geographic location and prominent position within the EU structure has made the country and Brussels in particular a haven for inward investment.
The cosmopolitan nature of the business environment has obviously had an impact on the development of business structures.
Traditional Belgian companies, controlled by French-speaking Walloons, were characterised by vertical hierarchies with all decision-making functions centralised on a strong leader – somewhat like the French model (see country profile on France.) Yet the enhanced business-status of Flanders, which demonstrates a more Dutch-like penchant for an egalitarian approach, coupled with the influence of external Anglo-Saxon business models has helped Belgium to move towards flatter, more open organisational structures where the emphasis is placed on quicker information flow and delegation.
As the country is currently going through this change process from strict hierarchical alignments to a more matrix approach, it is dangerous to make any assumptions about a potential client or collaborator in advance. Do the necessary research before entering into negotiations.
It is interesting to contrast the approach of the Belgian government with that of its southerly neighbour, France. Unlike the heavily interventionist French governments, successive Belgian governments have refrained from direct involvement in industry – other than in helping restructure areas badly affected by the demise of more traditional, dying industries. The Belgian government has tried, through the use of tax incentives and other measures, to foster an environment beneficial to the development of a flourishing private sector economy.