Being culturally aware is an essential component of engaging in international business. Holidays, art, traditions and social norms encompass the culture of a group of people. In business, cultural awareness can be a bridge in understanding work when business collides with culture. Case in point, many American workers still adhere to the traditional 9am–5pm workday. However, working hours in Spain and other Mediterranean countries are from 9pm to 1:30pm with a break (siesta) until 4:30pm, whereafter the worker remains at the office until 8pm. An American entrepreneur in Spain might not understand this and assume the worst of the entrepreneur’s business ethic.
What is business management?
Mastering culture is a component of the emotional intelligence needed for success in international business. However, another component of building a company on the world stage includes knowing how businesses are managed outside the US, commonly called international business management.
Business management refers to the coordination and structure of business activities. Some of the activities include training and supervising new employees and helping a business reach its operational goals.
Business managers around the globe are typically very educated in business, with some earning graduate degrees. In fact, in today’s business environment, many professionals worldwide earn an MBA online to remain competitive, such as the one offered by Aston University.
How does business management differ across the globe?
Manager leadership style
In emerging countries (China and India), leaders focus on operational execution. These leaders adopt a hands-on management style, evaluating employee performance and operational performance. A 2012 Forbes article mentioned that much of this relates to cultural and economic issues. In a market experiencing rapid growth, the ability to respond quickly to demand impacts the ability to hire, train and oversee new employees. Furthermore, businesses in emerging markets are more focused on immediate goals and objectives as opposed to long-term goals, and changes in management are completed through a top-down process.
In some developed countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), leaders focus on becoming change ambassadors. Because they are countries with more developed economies, these leaders focus on a common goal, vision and long-term thinking. Furthermore, leadership focuses on the collective good of all stakeholders. Much of the reason behind this approach to business management is connected to the countries’ history and data that supports the idea that innovation thrives when the focus is on the collective good.
In the US and the UK, leadership styles are a hybrid. In the US, specifically, leaders are hard drivers that motivate their teams. Culturally, Americans are shaped by individualism and so individual accountability is a top priority. British leaders, on the other hand, are polite but very direct.
The team is just as important as the leader, and the way business teams operate varies, whether the company is in a developed or emerging economy.
The UK is home to the sixth-largest national economy supported by businesses that encourage punctuality and discipline in subordinates. Moreover, time management skills are important for all stakeholders to possess, whether staff, partners or clients.
Expectations for team members are to meet deadlines not without sacrificing quality work. In the UK, employees who arrive at work on time and deliver quality work exhibit manners, organization and commitment to their job. Professionals in the UK are also encouraged to work as a team, suppressing individual ambition for team success.
In Asian cultures, like Japan, much of business involves developing relationships before conducting business. For example, two businesses that want to collaborate with one another will first arrange an informal meeting over food and drinks. Here, the two leaders of the business can get to know one another. The point is for the two leaders to determine whether they can trust one another.
While relationships are very important, age and status are also important in this culture, with everyone in the business knowing exactly where they are in the hierarchy. Subordinates are expected to respect their managers. The status of an employee is dictated by the university they graduated from, their marital status and job position. In this country, a person’s background weighs heavily on business decisions.
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Like Asian cultures, the business culture in the UAE is centered on personal relationships, especially in Dubai. In a business culture that values personal relationships, face-to-face meetings are valued over emails and phone calls. An individual’s age, wealth and family also weigh heavily on someone’s position in the hierarchy and influence hiring decisions.
In business, employees in subordinate positions never suggest or give ideas to managers because it is seen as rude and disrespectful. Work attire is also very modest with most businessmen wearing an ankle-length shirt (kandura) and women wearing a long flowing black garment (abaya).
France and Spain
Unlike their British counterpart, the French and Spanish style of business management is relaxed. French deliberate while making decisions, and in turn, they expect their colleagues to be patient. They are very direct and ask a lot of questions, often interrupting one another, which in some countries might seem rude, but in France it means the person is actively listening to the discussion. They also are encouraged to take liberal breaks, for example, an hour-and-a-half at lunch.
Spanish businesspeople are more relaxed in terms of committing to deadlines because that is how it is in the culture, in addition to the fact that they take their time in doing their work, which is one reason that Spain is a leading country for expatriates. However, they do value individual work over teamwork, and often, leaders recognize individuals for their efforts.
These are a few of the countries with different business management styles. Regardless of the type of business management, much of it is a throwback from the country’s history or cultural narrative. In engaging in international business, the important factor is understanding these rules so as not to close the doors to lucrative opportunities before those doors are even opened.