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Business Etiquettes
 
 
 

General

Americans are usually direct. They value logic and linear thinking and expect people to speak clearly and in a straightforward manner. To them if you don’t “tell it how it is” you simply waste time, and time is money. If you are from a culture that is more subtle in communication style, try not to be insulted by the directness. Try to get to your point more quickly and don’t be afraid to be more direct and honest than you are used to. Americans will use the telephone to conduct business that would require a face-to-face meeting in most other countries. They do not insist upon seeing or getting to know the people with whom they do business.

Meeting & Greeting

The hand shake is the common greeting. Handshakes are firm, brief and confident. Maintain eye contact during the greeting.

In most situations, you can begin calling people by their first names. Most people will insist that you call them by their nickname, if they have one. In formal circumstances, you may want to use titles and surnames as a courtesy until you are invited to move to a first name basis, which will happen quickly.

Business cards are exchanged without formal ritual. It is quite common for the recipient to put your card in their wallet, which may then go in the back pocket of their trousers. This is not an insult.

Business Meetings

Arrive on time for meetings since time and punctuality are so important to Americans. In the US, people are extremely punctual and view it as a sign of disrespect for someone to be late for a meeting or appointment.

Meetings may appear relaxed, but they are taken quite seriously. If there is an agenda, it will be followed. At the conclusion of the meeting, there will be a summary of what was decided, a list of who will implement which facets and a list of the next steps to be taken and by whom. If you make a presentation, it should be direct and to the point. Visual aids should further enhance your case. Use statistics to back up your claims, since Americans are impressed by hard data and evidence.

With the emphasis on controlling time, business is conducted rapidly. Expect very little small talk before getting down to business. It is common to attempt to reach an oral agreement at the first meeting. The emphasis is on getting a contract signed rather than building a relationship. The relationship may develop once the first contract has been signed.

Business Negotiations

Expect negotiations to be direct and to the point. Small talk and pleasantries will sometimes be exchanged, but do not be surprised if the discussion moves directly to business. Americans tend to be skilled negotiators, especially at the highest levels of business and commerce. Great weight is placed on the spoken word, but expect a thorough and exhausting intervention at some junction by the attorneys to document agreements.

Meals & Entertainment

All meals are often the occasion for business deals and conversation. Follow your host's lead, but do not be surprised at the overlap of business and social activity. This extends into leisure activities such as golf. Typically, the host will pay for entertainment. Many businesspeople will take pride in hosting their guests and will pay for all activities on the initial round of meetings. It is not unusual for alcohol to be served in large quantities, but non-participation is perfectly acceptable. In general, and especially outside of the largest metropolitan areas, American cuisine and preferences in foods are more narrow than in much of the rest of the world. Drinking alcohol is commonplace in the US, but avoid overindulgence. In business settings, it is entirely optional and a matter of individual choice. Simple, informal toasts involve raising a glass and saying "Cheers”. At more formal gatherings, glasses are raised in response to a speech, and a group response is elicited. Meals are typically served in courses. Except at a formal dinner, it is common to have two courses, either an appetiser or salad and main dish or a main dish and a dessert. Occasionally meals are served buffet style for medium to large gatherings. It is appropriate to eat everything served to you at a meal, and your host will be pleased if you enjoy it. If you don't like the taste of something, deal with it discreetly, and usually no one will comment about it. If you have special dietary requirements, it is appropriate to advise your host of this in advance. It is acceptable to decline any food that is a problem. There are no specific rules for the use of utensils, but it is polite to use both a knife and fork for the main course. When finished, leave cutlery facing upward in the middle of your plate. You are seldom expected to eat with your hands. If the type of food is easier to eat in that way, be guided by what your host does. Your napkin is placed on your lap while eating.

Gift Giving Etiquettes

Gift giving between business associates is only very lightly practiced and is even discouraged by tax laws. If invited to your host's home, which is not uncommon, it is customary to bring a bottle of wine.

Dressing

What is considered appropriate business attire varies by geographic region, day of the week and industry. In general, people in the East dress more formally, while people in the West are known for being a bit more casual.

Executives usually dress formally regardless of which part of the country they are in. Casual Friday is common in many companies. High technology companies often wear casual clothes every day.

For an initial meeting, dressing conservatively is always in good taste. Women can wear business suits, dresses or pantsuits. Men should wear a business suit unless you know the firm to be quite casual.

 

 
 

 



 


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