Any intentional business leader recognizes that residents of Berlin, Tokyo or Dallas are different, regardless of the development of the Internet, social media, tourism, trade and other channels that bring the world closer together. Since conducting international business requires working with people, culture has a powerful impact on the relationships we build across language, social and geographic boundaries.
Culture is generally considered a framework that directs individual behavior. Culture can be seen in how individuals perceive events, interact with the world, and act in social settings. Culture is passed on from one generation to the next through observed behaviors of others.
Requirements of Business Leaders
When business leaders plan and implement strategies abroad, most now realize that culture is a strong determinant of demand. According to one Dallas Translation Services worker, understanding that different cultures exist and being sensitive to them isn’t enough. Instead, managers require firsthand expertise of the people in the local markets who can predict how individuals will respond to different messages, actions and products.
The Challenge for Business Leaders
The cultural challenge for international business leaders is to offer products and services that are relevant to other cultures. Culture influences all aspects of purchase decisions with respect to what we buy, when we buy, how much we buy, and who we buy from. Therefore, the first step should be understanding what a product or service means to people in other countries. What does the product do for the purchaser? How does it fit into their culture? What benefit do they receive by using it? What is the main benefit to the consumer and how does it differ from competitive offerings?
While understanding cultural differences is important in international business, sometimes focusing too much on culture can have adverse results. For example, after the collapse of the USSR, it was apparent that Russians wanted to make bold statements. By purchasing foreign goods, they indicated that they no longer wanted domestic adaptations of western goods. Instead, they wanted open trade and greater freedom. On the other hand, customizing a good or promotion to another culture can seem disingenuous. The sentiment that is created can lead to misinterpretation and distrust.