The International Entrepreneur – Cultural Tips on the United States by Becky Park DeStigter
This is Segment #3 in a series on cultural tips for doing business around the world. This week, I am featuring my home business culture – the United States.
What do you see as unique cultural characteristics of Americans that comes out in the United States’ business culture?
There are many cultural characteristics that color American business. First, Americans are the most individualistic culture on the planet. In business, this surfaces when Americans seek individual achievement instead of group success. Individuals are responsible for their own actions, including how we evaluate an employee’s job performance (Management by Objectives). Second, Americans have a special relationship with time. Most of the world views
Americans as very rushed in all activities, including closing sales. This view of time causes Americans to seem highly directed and single-minded. And third, Americans extend trust to others early in a relationship and then typically watch to see if that trust is well-placed. Most other cultures are slower to trust, but then continue to trust long-term. The risk with an American is to lose their trust. It is hard to regain once lost. I have a blog post about American cultural characteristics that provides a more comprehensive list of American cultural traits- http://www.the-international-entrepreneur.com/?p=128
What are the United States’ most competitive industries in world markets?
There are a lot of different ways to measure, but from my perspective I would say aerospace/defense, high tech (software, bioscience, alternative energy, etc.), professional services (finance, accounting, legal, etc.) and higher education. Now that said, competition in all of these industries is growing stronger. Without government support I fear that the US may continue to comparatively drop in some of these fields.
What’s the best way to find potential American business contacts?
American businesspeople are often approachable in a variety of settings. I suggest going to in-country industry trade shows, if possible. In this environment, businesspeople are looking for new contacts and meetings are easily arranged. Unlike in many business cultures, Americans do not require an introduction from a trusted source. In fact, many business relationships are forged after one party contacts the other after finding them in an Internet search. If you do this, make sure to include information about who you are and why you are contacting this person. Introductions can also be made through your country’s official consulate or trade organization with an office in that location.
What do you wish people knew about doing business in the United States before they arrive in country?
I wish that people understood how diverse we are as a people. There is not one business culture, but many. I wrote a blog post about this if you want more information: http://www.the-international-entrepreneur.com/?p=449.
I find that especially Africans and Middle Easterners expect that all Americans live a lavish lifestyle with many servants and lots of disposable income. In fact, only a very small fraction of Americans have employed servants. And while Americans may proportionately have more disposable income than many other populations that does not mean that they spend it in similar patterns to especially Africans and Asians.
Lastly, American business expects a larger than normal amount of record keeping, especially of financial data. This means that Americans also expect foreign partners to track similar information and be able to provide that information in reports. Here’s a blog on this topic: http://www.the-international-entrepreneur.com/?p=414.
From your perspective, what’s the business climate like for entrepreneurs (supportive vs. unsupported, culturally accepted profession vs. not accepted, etc.)?
The United States has a relatively friendly and open business climate towards entrepreneurship. There are many university, government and non-profit programs supporting entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is particularly prevalent in population segments that traditionally have had a difficult time getting fair treatment in more established companies (women, minorities, etc.). Americans tend to idolize highly successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Meg Whitman. While the American government is trying to figure the best ways to encourage and support entrepreneurship, it often has policies that inhibit it. Countries like Israel have government programs which are much more effective.
The Cultural Tips Series has now been to Israel, Uruguay and the United States. Where would you like us to explore next? Please comment and let me know!