Strategy and expansion are terms of endearment in business, once again. A positive shift, that has business leaders evaluating Mexico. Today’s Mexico: a growing country the World Bank is ranking 13th among largest economies in nominal terms and 11th in purchasing power. Intrigued by these statistics? If your organization is looking beyond the border for expansion opportunities, join me as I interview Melissa Lamson, a global insider you need to know. Her credentials which include: recognized author, international speaker; and award-winning business executive; have sent her on assignment across 40 countries in addition to Mexico.
Q: Ms. Lamson, to orient the audience on your industry reach, can you give us insight into which global organizations you have been working with?
Ms. Lamson: Definitely, I have had the pleasure of working with leaders at: Cisco, LinkedIn, Lufthansa, MTV, Porsche and several other organizations, to develop global mindsets – while bridging communication across cultures. In between traveling to the next destination, I have authored three books: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture, #Cultural Transformation Tweet with advice from Silicon Valley business leaders, and my next book that comes out in September of this year, Why European Companies Fail in the US Market and How Yours Can Succeed.
Q: How important is business etiquette today? Can you give us an example or two, of when it improved the bottom line for your clients?
Ms. Lamson: Good business etiquette is critical. Here are two examples: first, a large Information Technology (IT) firm, based in Europe, was having retention problems in their Indian subsidiary, when they realized that the expectation was that celebrating successes was quite normal in India in business; even extended families were invited to the firm to socialize and celebrate with the employee. Retention has significantly increased and the firm is able to recruit more successfully as the subsidiary grows. Next, in the Middle East it’s critical to drink tea when offered, it’s a sign of respect and trust-building, and shows your willingness to build a relationship before getting down to business. An oil company in the US called their joint venture success, “The tea party” when they signed a deal for over 250 million dollars.
Q: If you had a client expanding their business in a region such as Mexico, what are 7 business etiquette rules that they could start using right away?
1. Engage a trusted, mutual person, to make introductions. This action can ease uncertainty, that could slow or end initial business discussions.
2. Realize, that Mexicans may not make eye contact during initial meetings. Why? This is a sign of respect and should not be taken as an affront. As a reminder, standing with your hands on your hips suggests aggressiveness, and keeping your hands in your pockets is impolite.
3. Emphasize trust, by shaking hands while exchanging verbal promises before finalizing the details in a contract or business agreement. As a reminder, men will shake hands upon meeting and departure and may wait for a woman to be the first to offer her hand.
4. Established in a business relationship? Remember to socialize, get to know the person, ask questions about where they’re from, and discuss what they care about outside of work. Generally, business lunches or working breakfasts, rather than dinners are the preferred form of entertainment. They are an essential part of business which will help build a personal relationship.
5. Secure an optimal time for business appointments which is between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm with the late afternoon as a second choice.
6. Understand that gift giving to business leaders is not required. Although small items with branding for an initial visit are appreciated. If flowers are appropriate, keep in mind that: yellow – represents death; red – cast spells; and white – lift spells. Avoid giving gifts made of silver, as they may be associated with trinkets sold to tourists.
7. Focus on positive topics of conversation (after business meetings wrap up) that include: Mexican history, art, culture and museums. Topics to avoid include: earthquakes, illegal aliens, poverty, and the Mexican-American war.
Q: Ms. Lamson, this has been a fascinating interview. I look forward to speaking with you again when you are back from the next business trip. In the meantime, how can readers learn more about you and the Lamson Consulting group?
Ms. Lamson: It was a pleasure and your readers can learn more by visiting our web site. We also publish a monthly newsletter with current research and tips for cross cultural business etiquette that readers can sign up for at the press page.