Australian businesses are increasingly recognising the need for employees to travel more. It’s important for these businesses to both educate their employees regarding international business etiquette and to make it easy for them to manage the expenses while on the road.
Murray Warner, business development director, Concur, said, “Working across different countries and cultures can be difficult as there is no universal business etiquette. Often, international clients or colleagues can be surprised by their guest’s style of doing business. It’s important to research the customs and expectations specific to each destination because getting it wrong can be perceived as disrespectful and can result in a lost opportunity.”
Concur has identified six key ways international business travellers can make a good first impression:
1. Take introductions seriously
In some countries, relationships can be more important than the business issue at hand, and business meetings are equally important personally and professionally. Workers should break the ice by offering personal information and by demonstrating a genuine interest in the people they’re doing business with. They should also take note of the difference in communication when first meeting new business contacts, then modifying their approach accordingly.
2. Respect business cards
Within Asian and emerging economies, including Japan, business cards are an incredibly important symbol. Representative of the individual, cards should be treated with similar respect and should always be presented with both hands and read silently while standing in front of the person.
3. Be on time
Cultural differences may include differing concepts of time and standards for punctuality. For example, in Central Europe, meetings usually begin at the specified time. However, in South America, appointment times are often malleable. Regardless of where business is conducted, it is always best to arrive on time. As the relationship develops, it may become more appropriate to adjust the arrival time to suit the hosts.
4. Stay awhile
It can be a sign of disrespect to leave an event early, particularly within Asian cultures. Leaving too early could be socially embarrassing and may result in the loss of a deal or relationship.
5. Bring a gift
Even if it is unexpected, bringing a gift will show respect, courtesy and appreciation to the host. More common in Asian cultures, gifts can be a fantastic tool to develop a relationship anywhere, especially if it shows a high level of thought and attention to detail.
6. Expect to socialise
In some countries advisors are expected to have dinner with colleagues or partners at a minimum, and this may extend to going out for drinks or even participating in sporting activities. This is important for the long-term success of the relationship as it lets colleagues or partners assess an advisor’s trustworthiness.
Murray Warner said, “Being aware of distinctions in other people’s cultures and customs and showing respect for these makes the people you are conducting business with in turn feel respected. It demonstrates that their international partners or colleagues are willing to learn more about them. It is this level of mutual understanding that can lead to a productive and successful working relationship.”
As international travel becomes increasingly important for business success, it takes up valuable time and resources. Keeping track of expenses becomes difficult when employees are travelling and, while most organisations are required to provide funds for certain items for employees during business travel, monitoring the way these funds are spent can be difficult.
To address this, businesses are adopting travel and expense management solutions. Automating many of the processes associated with conducting business overseas, cloud-based travel and expense platforms can also make managing expenses easier, integrating with other business systems to give an accurate and real-time overview of spending.
Murray Warner said, “Using cloud-based travel and expense management solutions frees up valuable resources, letting travelling employees build and maintain relationships anywhere in the world.”