From Wall Street and Manhattan to the oil fields of Texas and the skyscrapers of Dallas, doing business in America is something many companies are ambitious to achieve. America has always been billed as the ‘land of opportunity’ and is still portrayed this way in popular culture. Certainly, American business has been used as a plot device in famous soap operas and on the big screen as well but away from entertainment aspect, these provide the perception that when it comes it comes to business, America is the place to be. The risks and the competition may be huge but so are the rewards for success. So, what we need to do is find out where to separate myth from reality and as the American’s might say, ‘Get to what’s real.’
Focus on the realities
Too many people arrive in the United States totally unprepared. Perhaps it’s because we’re able to speak the same language and we share a lot of cultural references that people are lulled into a false sense of security and forget that they are actually there to conduct business. That’s why it’s best to get rid of any preconceptions you may have that America is the land of free-wheeling capitalism as red tape and the complexity of doing business are as real in the US as they are in any other territory. It would be no harm to outsource the initial stages to a company who have their feet on US soil and local knowledge so they could do the groundwork for you.
The Market Itself
Firstly, the economy is actually very healthy. It began an upward trend under the Obama administration and has continued on a similar trajectory ever since. Barring anything major, there is no reason to suspect that the future isn’t very, very bright. Secondly, The United States consistently tops charts for its overall competitiveness and ease of doing business. This is largely because America has a defined regulatory environment which makes it a tempting and conducive environment to starting a business. Further to this, U.S. business culture encourages free enterprise and competition. What’s more, with a stable democracy and transparent legal system, all companies, regardless of national origin can compete on an level playing field.
Business Etiquette in the US
American meetings can be formal or informal depending on the domain you’re in and where in the country you are. Regardless, there are some commonalities no matter what the situation.
The Americans like to greet with a handshake – firm and with eye contact. You will be expected to shake hands with everyone you’re introduced to. A meeting will normally start with a little small talk just to put everyone at ease but once the business starts, the Americans are very straight talking, Yes means Yes, No means No.
US executives are also not afraid of confrontation yet this is not to be taken offensively. The whole purpose of a meeting in America is to facilitate making a deal so as long as you never take your eyes off the objective, meeting should be fine.
It’s also worth noting that in American negotiations they often ask for a lot more than they truly believe they’ll get. This is so there is always a little wriggle room in negotiations.
If you were entering a European market, the first thing that we would tell you, (after, study the local market dynamics) is to look at the local culture. Every region and territory is different. There are different laws and taxes and subtle nuances in the way things are done, particularly with regard to business. Now, the same is true in the USA. What you have to bear in mind though is that the size of the country means that the nuances, laws and taxes can change from state to state. This is one of the main reasons it is always useful to have a team on the ground, who are local, know the territory and the domain you work in. It will help you enormously.
If you’d like to see how we could help you gain a foothold in the US market, get in touch. We’re always happy to jump on a call.