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Business (Not) As Usual - Conducting Business Abroad

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I realize this is a departure from my usual verbosity, but I am extremely interested in opening a conversation around this topic. The topic: conducting business abroad. I've been to Europe twice in the last 4 weeks, and these experiences have opened up whole host of questions for me. The first trip was for pleasure, during which I was exposed to the expat life. The second was for business with Creative Realities, and I was struck by the multitude of differences between how Americans conduct business versus Europeans (in this particular instance Germans ' yes, I realize all parts of Europe are not equal'). The formality ' Herr, Frau ' the incredible deference, was eye-opening. I am far from a first-timer abroad but this was the first time I hopped across the pond with business on the agenda. And, in retrospect, I found that I was deferential in some respects but completely obstinate in others. For example, in the use of first names I stuck to my guns. Having been communicating with this team for almost a month over email, and having been on an imposed (by me) first name basis from day one, I did not change my behavior. This was not with selfish or disrespectful intent, but out of respect for consistency of delivery and also the congeniality we hope to convey in all of our interactions with our clients. It still leaves me feeling a little funny knowing that they would do otherwise. So here's where I would love some conversation, and more experiential evidence. What have your experiences been? Do you try and push your typical operating model onto the other or do you acquiesce? Where is the happy medium? Is there a happy medium? At the end of the day, does it matter? I ask that final question because ultimately, I think both parties in my most recent experience were accommodating and polite in all respects, and as such, no behavior was negatively construed regardless of whose norms it followed. What do you think? For full disclosure I do hope to personally benefit from the output of this discussion as I head back to Deutschland in a week, but I think and hope others will similarly prosper.

- Clay Maxwell (@bizinovationist)

Clay is a Business Innovationist with Creative Realities, an innovation strategy consulting firm. He is a frequent contributor to their Innovationist Blog where all things innovation are discussed. You can find out more about Creative Realities at www.creativerealities.com

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