Planet Aexus – USA


While the USA is a relatively “young” country, certainly by comparison to its European counterparts, its history is incredibly detailed, and its culture intrinsically linked to the European continent. In fact, it was actually Dutch and British settlers who shaped the America we know today.

Ever since Columbus discovered the new world, the USA has been ever present in our lives. It gained independence in 1783 after a bloody and bitter war with the British. The American constitution was originally signed in 1787, although it later had 27 amendments added to it. Since then, the USA has been the world’s most dominant force both politically and economically. It has promoted its values of liberty and democracy both domestically and abroad.

More recently though, other countries have come into the economic fray and while they are not threatening the US, they are exerting some pressure. This is particularly relevant in that the US does not have a free trade deal with the EU, which represents a market that is bigger than its own. While a deal, free trade or not is likely to be struck in the future, there are already bilateral agreements in place.

Principal Industries in America

The biggest contributors to America’s GDP are real estate, local and state government and insurance.

Other Important Industries

For the last few years, the American job market has been growing and while the emerging industries are not necessarily new, they are major contributors to the economy. These include jobs in the healthcare sector along with related businesses, non-durable manufacturing and technology. We tend to think of the US leading the way in the technology sector because of the coverage it gets but it is still very much a growing economy.

Doing Business in America

With its worldwide appeal and perception as “the land of opportunity,” many companies are keen to break into the American market. Among the challenges you may face though, number one is likely to be location. It’s all too easy to think of the US as a single entity but it really isn’t. Each state can have different laws and taxes, and don’t forget that it is such a huge land mass that the changes in climate can be significant as well. Normally, you’d want to be in an area that best represents your offering, but, in the states, the business landscape is constantly changing. For example, if you are in the tech industry, Silicon Valley isn’t necessarily the place for you as new tech hubs are starting to grow all the time, with Dallas, Boston and Austin being among the top ten.

The economy is good and is on an upward trajectory that seems to contradict recent events. What’s more, this is set to continue and when you’ve got a country where the appetite for tech can’t seem to be sated, there is perhaps a level of potential that’s too good to overlook. One idea would be to have a team on the ground who understands the local dynamics and could scope out the best opportunities for you before you commit to an expensive relocation.

The View from the Ground

When describing a country and its culture, you can write down all the facts and figures you like but if you want the full story, you need to get the perspective of someone with a lived experience of being there. That’s why we’ve asked James to give us his take on what it’s like to live and work in the USA.

I lived in Spain for a while and probably what I missed most about the US is that I could buy everything I wanted in one store. We have these big markets like Walmart obviously but in

Spain it’s more of a family-based thing, nothing is open and even if it has the opening hours on the door, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s open. I missed that convenience, and I also missed the sports back home. I could watch it online but it wasn’t the same. I kind of missed the lifestyle a little bit too. We’re a very spoiled country on account of the fact that if we want something now, we can get it now and I had to adapt to that. So, I kind of missed that part, but there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t miss you know. I loved being in Spain and want to go back some day. For sure, I’m an American at heart but I love to travel. I like to see other countries and learn about other cultures. When travelling, you learn a lot about yourself too.

So, in terms of other differences, European customer service is a lot worse than US customer service, especially in Spain. That’s because it appears like they really don’t care. You’ve got a lot of roadblocks to get through to be able to talk to the right person. In US customer service, at least Apple, Ford, and some companies like that have dealt with this over time to where they’ve gone through the computer system, and people have complained so much that they’ve created a way to fix it. In Europe though, I’ve noticed that it’s kind of a little bit behind. In the Netherlands and Germany, things are more developed. In Europe, some things are impossible. I tried to return a watch one time to a really cool, stylish company and it took me like a month just to talk to somebody. Apple on the other hand is excellent at customer service. You’d think they’d be terrible but if you have a problem, you call and they answer the phone.

There are lots of misconceptions about the United States, but one of the biggest and one that’s potentially damaging to business is the idea that you can just go there and be successful immediately. It seems like there’s a plethora of opportunity, you know, a land flowing with milk and honey if you will, but it’s really not like that. Another one of the misconceptions is that people in the US are all the same. Well, that’s certainly not true. In fact, we are just as diverse as Europe. We all have different cultures, different backgrounds. The language is of course English but with different accents and dialects, it’s not the same from one town to the next.

America has changed a lot through the decades and it’s not the same as it was in the seventies or eighties. Everything now is a little bit more integrated, and even with the Native Americans now, you know, in the past, we were really hard on them and didn’t give them equal rights and now they have more rights than everybody else. We’re trying to compensate for marginalising races and some people see it as overcompensation and are getting mad about it.

We have a history that’s different. We’re an independence-based nation. Europe is a mix with a long history and culture, but here you’ll see that some American companies will only reach out to other American companies. They will only want to work with American companies. We’re dealing with that, but what we’re trying to do since the world is becoming more integrated is say, “this is the technology and this is better than that, so just forget about where it came from.”

As for our relationship with other countries, we really like the Canadians. Obviously, we wish we had the healthcare they have, and we wish we had the economic stability they’ve enjoyed. It’s like Canada’s like the US but without all the problems.

For some, as yet unknown reason, I never get along very well with Argentinians. They seem to be a little selfish and they’re always right all of the time, if you know what I mean. It’s not that I have a problem with South America, I really don’t. In fact, I love the place and have been all over it. My girlfriend is even from Paraguay.

From a business standpoint, we never have any cross-cultural issues when selling. This is especially true in the last ten years or so with the power of the Internet, everybody moving everywhere and remote work. If a person from Texas wanted to sell to somebody in New York, there would be no issues at all, even though we are quite a divided country at the moment. In fact, we’re such a business-driven country that we can’t be shut down. We’re all about work. Even when we just started coming out of the first wave of Covid, we all just focussed on work. Maybe, when I was younger, there was even more division but now with Biden being elected and a few more progressive ideas going through, I think it’ll get better. I’m from Oklahoma, which is a red state, a republican stronghold but like yeah, I don’t think any of that is really affecting business too much.

The media has a role to play in this though and sometimes I think they stoke the division. If you look at how they reported responses to Covid restrictions, you would have thought the virus didn’t exist in Texas. The republican Texans weren’t going to let a virus affect their liberty. In reality, that was not the case. I went to Texas – everybody had a mask on. Later, I went to Colorado, a much more liberal state and nobody had a mask on. So, I think you need to take all of the stories you hear with a pinch of salt. As you probably already know, the media in the US is so power hungry and money driven that it will be adjusted to an audience that will lap it up. It’s not about the truth. In fact, the truth is irrelevant when you compare it with ratings. What’s more, because certain media channels speak to the viewer’s own prejudices, they will take that as validation of their opinions and believe whatever this channel puts out. But I don’t think this is a problem with business and especially international business. Because international partners are not directly involved in the divisions, they are not affected by it. That’s why nobody should be put off. America is definitely open for business.

Business Etiquette

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 firm handshake 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, any 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 wiggle room in negotiations.