Is it just me, or does the world seem like it keeps getting smaller and smaller? You can get to any country in the world in about 30 hours, use free apps on your phone to talk to anyone, anywhere, and it’s never been easier to connect with fellow business people around the globe to achieve your company’s goals (including suppliers, computer programmers, investors, etc.). While virtual borders are getting easier to cross, there are still key points that you need to keep in mind when planning to conduct business overseas.
The convenience and capabilities of the Internet are incomparable, but there are some faux pas that even the savviest programmer can’t eliminate. For example, even online business is relational and each country has its specific unwritten codes of etiquette within its cultural heritage. The timeliness of an e-mail, the tone of your message, and even punctuality on a Skype meeting may influence how an overseas partner may view your competency in business. If you are communicating with someone in Japan, consider that they are from a very formal culture and will expect respect to senior associates, prompt correspondence, and they base most of their business connections on relationships.
Many times working with business suppliers overseas also dictates an annual visit to that country. When you are in India, use the greeting “Namaste” and join your palms together at chest level with a slight bow of the head. Once you enter the room of your meeting, you must always approach and greet the most senior figure first. Take the time to research and study whichever culture you will be interacting with and prepare accordingly. There are many websites that can advise you such as the U.S. Small Business Association or the U.S. Department of State. You can find out everything from how to get your passport to determining if the company that you are planning to work with is legit.
Beyond cultural differences, there are also legal issues that need to be addressed. Will you have to pay federal taxes on goods sold overseas? How do I obtain a business visa if my foreign business associates wish to visit the U.S.? Where can I find Country Commercial Guides (CCGs) which provide a comprehensive look at a country’s commercial environment using economic, political and market analysis? What countries are off limits due to international trade agreements? All of these questions and more can be found on the above government websites. You can also contact a private international or global business attorney to get more direct guidance and attention for your business ventures.
International business can be a lucrative option for your company when you consider that exports increased 0.2% to $198.5 billion and imports rose 0.1 % to $238.6 billion in August 2014. The risk may certainly be worth the investment if you familiarize yourself with the customs and laws of the nation you wish to do business with.