Business Networking And Culture Clash
Did you see this article about how the Irish need to do less chit-chat and more “networking“? Karlin Illington asked, “Are other nationalities better at sowing seeds of deals at conferences while the Irish just see if they are related to you?” It got me wondering about culture and doing business globally as well as within our local regions.
As I read through the article, one question kept going through my mind: Is this simply a clash of business cultures? As an American who has traveled most of Ireland for quite a number of years, I’ve participated in many conversations about where I’m from, whom I’m married to, where he is from and if any of my “family” is still in Ireland. These seem to be conversation starters for the most part and usually by the end of the conversation, we’re talking about some mutual interest.
The pace is different and what connection is considered important is different from the kinds of conversations I have in the US. It’s not a right or wrong way, just different. Illington describes this experience, “Couple a very strong sense of national identity with an almost forensic pleasure in talking about where you are from and you’d seem to have the world’s best networkers. Only the Irish can, within a few minutes, inevitably find a relative, friend or distant acquaintance in common.”
However, there is a “but” here:
Can the Irish business community stay at this different pace and be successful?
Given that the recovery is uneven, Irish entrepreneurs and small business owners may want to examine their style of networking and how they build larger customer bases. There has been a lot of talk about how Ireland is well suited and well situated for doing business globally. But what if we look at a smaller scale? Many SME’s are focused on local or regional markets within Ireland. Examining this style of business development doesn’t mean it’s automatically wrong. Simply, would modifying the pace of how business relationships are built change something essential about doing business in Ireland?
If a culture is based on who you know or some other personal connection…
This might cement relationships for the long term. Ambition may be focused on the long-term results rather than the deal in the here-and-now. Illington wrote about the tension between networkers from other parts of the world and the Irish during Dublin Innovation week. So what does it mean to network? Americans are certainly noted for “getting down to business” right after greetings are exchanged. Does this really indicate ambition or determination? Or is it merely something more shallow?
So, what if we brought this down to a more micro level?
As individuals, we are carrying around a manifestation of our culture. Sure, most of the time, we’re unconscious of how we manifest our origins. Consider this, chit-chat can be illuminating. You can hear the words people use, the things that excite them and how they move their bodies. When you pay attention to these details, you get clues about how to engage them in a business discussion. Some people are going to be more impulsive and immediately want to see how things will go if they buy from you. Others want to know what you’re made of before they engage in a deeper relationship that involves exchanging money.
Maybe it is simply a clash of culture.
Not necessarily an indictment of who is having fun or who is more ambitious. There may even be a clash of culture within as economic circumstances or other variables bring more pressure on an organization to survive. Illington writes at the end of the article, “Nonetheless, if the Irish – one of the most socially adept people in the world – could make sure the parties are also about work and can lubricate the innovation and entrepreneurship process with more targeted sociability than perhaps in the past, we’d have the world’s most formidable recipe for productive networking.” Maybe he has oversimplified things a bit and there is a place for chit-chat during networking. On the other hand, could this be simply a culture clash and the chit-chat is serving an important business function?
What would be gained or lost by changing your networking style?
When do you notice your culture is different from someone you are networking with?
Please share how you experience or think about culture and doing business