If you decide to establish business contacts in the USA, it’s wise to find out about the customs there in advance. Here are seven practical tips that will help you make a good impression with your American business partners from the very beginning.
1. Be punctual
‘Time is money’ – for the Americans, this is more than just a saying: efficiency and punctuality are crucial. Arriving punctually for an appointment shows respect for your business partner from the very beginning.
The American business world is extremely focused on achieving goals quickly, so any waste of time, albeit only ostensible, can be annoying. Even when proposing your own ideas, in the United States it is more effective to focus on fast, short-term results and less on long-term developments.
2. Stay flexible
American businesspeople are results-oriented and it is advisable to be flexible – especially when it comes to schedules. Appointments very early in the morning and late in the evening can be the norm. Even if you are on another continent, you may need to adjust to local US business hours.
3. Get straight to the point
American business folk are generally friendly and polite, but they prefer business conversations that are clear, concise and direct, with short, concise questions and answers. A hesitant, uncertain attitude can be perceived as unreliable. So when it comes to presenting your product or service, don’t waste too many words and limit yourself instead to the most important things. Compliments are always welcome, but it is also advisable to avoid too much direct criticism.
4. Avoid physical contact
In the American business world, greetings that involve physical contact, such as hugs or kisses on the cheek, are not usual. A firm and assured handshake is more than enough. It is also advisable to maintain a certain distance from your conversation partner so as not to give the impression of invading their space. Nevertheless, personal relationships and a good organisational environment are important to Americans. For this reason, lunches, dinners and informal occasions for meetings and team building with colleagues are not uncommon.
5. Prefer formal dress to more casual clothes
Doing business in the USA can mean having to meet with potential customers several times. As far as the choice of clothes is concerned, it is usually better to dress formally and elegantly.
6. Learn golf
At business meetings it is not unusual to talk about golf (or other sports) at some point. It is quite common to play golf while discussing contractual or business matters.
7. Business cards
The exchange of contact details usually takes place in the USA when a later meeting is planned. Business cards are almost always accepted. But it can happen that your card is pocketed without being looked at and you are not offered a card in return. This is normal and completely acceptable behaviour.