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Business Networking And Culture Clash

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Business Networking And Culture Clash

 Global Business Networking

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

Growing a business locally or internationally takes a different mindset; the CEO Mindset. Elli St.George-Godfrey, a behavioral economics coach, international expansion consultant and founder of Ability Success Growth, uses her 3 Keys Coaching process to help business owners and executives in the US, Ireland and Northern Ireland to unlock the CEO within. Under her guidance, personal styles are fine-tuned allowing the senior leader to “authentically inhabit” the role of CEO and collaborate with their team more effectively. With this focus on both the people and the organization in which they work, Elli’s market-proven coaching helps leaders and their teams develop styles and capabilities which enables them to collaborate and effectively join together to optimize the business outcomes.

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  • Nialldevitt

    Hi Lewis, great great post! I’ve had the misfortune of seeing this from the other side, in other words I was once the gangly awkward suit and tie that knocked your door. It’s worth remembering that young people are impressionable, want to be successful and are often just cast aside if they don’t match up by these companies. I’ve sat in meetings that could be best described as cult indoctrinations. nnCustomer facing/dealing roles are most often the worst trained, worst paid and highly targeted roles within an organisation, which should tell you what you need to know about most businesses view customer service. As you point out, there are some wonderful exceptions. I recently had one in Lidl where after forgetting my wallet, the lady at the till showed wonderful understanding and patience to help ease my embarrassment. I thought to myself afterwards, now there is someone Iu2019d like to know. n

  • Anonymous

    Nice one Fred! And so often, it takes so little, doesn’t it! I’m glad you enjoyed your meal. :0)

  • Anonymous

    It’s so true what you say. And I don’t dislike the people who stand in the cold, in the firing line. I actually feel sad that they are caught between a rock and a hard place. nnI actually tried a different tack once, when I lived in Vancouver. A guy came to the door of my gallery selling vouchers for football games. I invited him in, sat him down and we had a chat about what he really wanted in life. I don’t think anyone had done that with him before. Soon afterwards, I heard from him again. He’d chucked the job, moved to Tokyo and was following his ambitions in martial arts. I was stunned – and very happy for him.nnBy the way, I won’t mention the girl in Lidl to anyone….. ;0)

  • Anonymous

    Lewis,rnrnThe more I am in business, the more I find bad customer service aggravating. It is just so unnecessary. Would it be so horrible for a problem to be solved without the rigamarole of pushing this button or talking to several people who are polite but not allowed to rectify the situation?rnrnWe bought a car a few years ago and the salesperson calls every year during the anniversary month. It is a short call since the car is reliable, zippy and enjoyable. However, he doesn’t have to make that call. We didn’t buy one of the top cars on the lot so it’s not like we’re extra special customers or anything. He calls because he believes in remaining connected to ALL of his customers, not just the big spenders. It’s nice to know that we’re not just a “sale” but people he’d like to keep as customers for the future.

  • Anonymous

    That’s great, isn’t it. And now you are telling the world, and he’ll get more customers on your recommendation. nnWhat I am beginning to realize from these posts, is that customer service is easy when it’s done well, and a joy to be involved in and receive!

  • Facundo

    Very fresh Tina,nI think there’s room for a second post where you cover making the relationship last, or ups and downs & why not a few couple arguments and how to deal with them 🙂

  • Nice way of framing it, Christina.nnAnd like all courtships there will be ups and downs especially when the novelty factor wears off.

  • Part two could very well be the ‘children’ of a social media relationship Tori.rnThese could be the concepts, ideas and events which are produced.

  • Hi Facundo,rnrnI did think along those lines – there definately is scope to deal with the ‘darker’ side of social media. Reputation and perception, critical decision-making, dealing with bad comments. rnPart two can be your christmas present!rnrnThanks

  • Hello there Ivan,rnrnYes indeed. There is a huge novelty factor and this is where social media matures and we mature with it. Its isn’t always promising relationships, growth, profit or interaction. There are negatives attached and I promise to explore and write on these.

  • Like this a lot Christina, sometimes the simplest explanations are also the most effective. With your permission of course, Ill be using the courtship analogy 🙂

  • Some of this sounds very much like a few online “relationships” I know of :)nnIt was beginning to feel a bit like a three some there for a while, until you mentioned “Weu2019re like a big happy family”.nnI am glad you didn’t cover the courtship “breakdown” and divorce, we need lots of positivity these days, and to think of Social Media as a positive entity is a must, if it is to survive.nnReally enjoyed the post, Christina thanks 🙂

  • I love the analogy Tina, such a lovely way to describe it and it all makes perfect sense when described that way too.

  • Yes, social media is like getting into a relationship — because.. it’s all about relationships and making them meaningful in the first place! A lot of businesses fail because they’re thinking that social media is like a digital billboard for their brands. It’s all about engagement these days and what value you can give to your audience.

  • Hi Elli, nnWhen I moved from the US to China in the 90s, I was all go, ready to make things happen. Work the floor and all that. nnBut… doing business in Asia is very different. nnFor example, meetings would last hours and hours and hours. Mostly spent listening to the CEO wax lyrical. nnThen we’d go for a meal, which could last 4, 5 or 6 hours… with endless drinking. Mostly Maotai-tai, 60% whisky. It was exhausting.nnBut there was a method to this madness. nnThey wanted to see what you were really like.nnYou can’t maintain a fau00e7ade over 8 hours. In the end, who you are (for better or worse) comes through. nnThe US guys who worked with me went nuts. They wanted to make the deal and move on… which was why they never got the deal. nnThey didn’t want to make connections, they wanted to sell. Period.nnNetworking, for me, is about connecting with u2018qualityu2019 people you trust. And it takes time 🙂

  • Hi Elli. nnCulture, whether localised or on a global scale, has to be a consideration in all elements of networking. I enjoyed the addition Ivan makes below of his experience.nI had the same when doing business in Latin America a few years ago. Everything seemed to operate at a snails pace with key players taking their time. Relationships built up slowly and I lost out against someone who had been creating a local relationship with the client for literally years. I could not compete meeting them once in the face and the remainder over the phone.nWhen dealing with remote clients or indeed clients closer to home, appreciation has to be given to how their culture works and what’s important to them – but it must not be contrived i.e. you have to be prepared to accept it and work within its boundaries without appearing forced. If you do this, you can do nothing but learn and benefit.nnThanks for sharing.

  • Very interesting post Elli, thanks for sharing. There was an interesting conversation taking place about the Irish Diaspora last year (now called Global Irish), unfortunately the starting point to this conversation was “what can the diaspora do for us?” surely this is reason why this conversation and the ideas around it will fail? nnHad the conversation/ideas started with u201cwhat can Ireland (the island) do for the Irish (global)?u201d the potential of the conversation and the outcomes is entirely different. Our networking style is all about what can those we network with do for me? It’s one-dimensional, selfish and contains only one perspective. Until this changes, we will continue to be mediocore networkers at best what ever our natural social skills. Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Celtic Tiger is not the banks our the property bust but the way in which it is turned our collective perspective?

  • Anonymous

    Niall,nnThe conversation about where Ireland goes from here seems to be bouncing around a lot. The collective perspective may be more of a bunker mentality or wishing “someone” could make things better. What is the mood at most networking events? How is this perspective affecting how business is conducted on a daily basis? nnThere seem to be long-standing cultural forces underpinning networking practices. The challenge lies in being a living example of how networking differently is still consistent with one’s Irish identity while leading to better business opportunities. Something, Niall, you do very well everyday!

  • Anonymous

    Barney,nnThank you for sharing your story. Sometimes we have to consider when resources interfere more than cultural differences. nnYour reminder to listen and observe another’s culture is a crucial business practice. Just because the “cheat sheet” says that certain behaviours or practices are done in a given country doesn’t mean that just doing them will secure a business deal. There are nuances to how conversations are structured, where meetings are held and the length of time it takes to build a mutually satisfying relationship.

  • Anonymous

    Ivan,nnI had to chuckle when I read your story. I’ve heard similar stories from people doing business in Japan. Time is a great tester. Our slips, our ordinariness and moments of grace fill in the blanks for people to decide whether we are ‘quality” and trustworthy. Doing business outside our own national boundaries is a path that requires us to deepen who we are and how we know ourselves and others.

  • Absolutely. When in Rome…

  • Anonymous


  • Derbhile

    I agree that networking in this country needs to be a little more focused. I go to an event in Carlow which combines the two well. It’s a lunch, it’s sociable, but the people who go are very focused on getting new business and you get a chance to sell your business in 10 seconds.

  • I am Irish – 100% and find the lengthened chit-chat tedious at times. Other times I am grateful for it, because it unleashes a connection with another person, I may not have otherwise discovered.nnThe “art” of reducing the “6 degrees of separation” to 3, then possibly 2, seems at times an obsession. The person is not content unless they have “somehow” connected with you through someone else or event (even if you attended the same conference last year) never ceases to amaze me.nnWe are adept at small talk (the weather is our favourite topic) but I do have to admit, it can be a great ice-breaker and always allows for a “connection” of sorts. Is it wrong? Is it right? It’s just different ;)nnDo we lose out on opportunities? If I think of Ivan and Barney’s examples below, include the USA, it seems we are smack bang in the middle

  • Anonymous

    Elaine,nnI have noticed the fascination with weather. :)nnI wonder if the need to find a connection is a way to make it seem safer or permissible to talk with someone new. Perhaps this implies that you must be part of “the club” to even broach the subject of developing a further business relationship.

  • Anonymous

    Derbhile,nnWhat a great example! It is possible to foster relationships and give your pitch without losing anything.

  • Thank you, Frank, for a great interview with an amazing human.u00a0 Caroline’s story is all about faith and belief in one’s self and the focus on our abilities and not our disabilities. It’s a message that needs to be shared.

  • A great interview Frank and Caroline – some really good basic advice there for anyone who is unsure of what they should do next.nIt’s back to the old adage – Feel the fear and Do it anyway. We will never be perfect, we will never have it right all of the time, but if we can, as Caroline points out, bring our full self to work, we are then being authentic, and being authentic is in line with our values system. When we are in line with our values system, we succeed, we flourish, we grow and learn.nnThanks again!

  • A great interview because the questions were wonderful.u00a0nn”The person who never made a mistake never learnt anything.”u00a0nn”People should feel appreciated.”u00a0nnThanks so much 🙂 Frank n’ Caroline.nnWould be honoured to have an opportunity to be interviewed by you Frank.nYou’ve got an admirable sincerity and well being about you. u00a0nnRichard

  • “being authentic is in line with our values system” Beautiful. Thank you, Elaine.

  • Great interview Frank.u00a0 I LOVE the fact that Caroline mentioned failing.u00a0 I hear that so much from clients, the crippling fear of failing, when all it is really is a learning curve.

  • Beatrice Whelan

    Great interview Frank with really good questions. Caroline’s point about giving businesses the opportunity to at least try is really important. At the moment it is so hard to get support for a business unless it is a sure thing but really what business is a sure thing when it is starting out. Very uplifiting advice.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Niall. u00a0Caroline and her team were great. u00a0I really enjoyed first of all researching and learning about Caroline and the work they do in Kanchi and also getting to interact and speak with Caroline and her team. u00a0Thanks for the opportunity.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Jay. u00a0I’m really glad you enjoyed it. u00a0I got a lot of inspiration also out of it.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Elaine. u00a0The one thing I really valued from the interview is that we are not our job. u00a0Even if we are in a work situation that we don’t particularly like we should look for opportunities in our non-work time to do the things we love. u00a0Who knows where they will then take us.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Richard. u00a0It was my first time doing such an interview and I was quite nervous. u00a0I’m really happy to hear that you felt I came across well.

  • Christian Kortenhorst

    I am available!

  • Thanks Niall. I agree partly with you – after all I did write the Working 9 to 5 post 🙂 In some businesses starting off it’s hard not to be available in case you lose a customer. However in what I do now it isn’t so much being available but me knowing there is a file of accounts sitting there to be done. And the sooner it’s done the more time I’ll have to do other work and therefore earn more. I don’t like work hanging over me so sometimes it’s hard not to just carry on and do those accounts but I am getting better at taking time out.

  • Thanks Lorna. I certainly agree with you 🙂

  • Sue

    Nice article, Sian. As a virtual assistant I like the flexibility working from home brings. Sometimes I use a timer to keep me on task. I do a lot of networking which gets me out and around people. It’s a great way to share ideas and learn new things as well as bringing in more work. It doesn’t work for everyone but I wouldn’t trade it for an office job again. 

  • Aileen O’Meara

    HI Sian, I liked your article about working from home.
    As an independent producer and journalist, I worked from home for five years up to last January, when I moved to an office here in York Road, in south Dublin.
    The five years based at home were great – I had (still have!) a dedicated office space in a converted attic, away from the hustle and bustle of the home, and it worked great for me while my children were smaller.
    Now that my business has expanded, (and the children have too! – well, upwards anyway!), I find the home base too restrictive.  Because I do media skills training as well as radio programmes and videos, I found I needed a dedicated training space, as well as studio space.
    I have been lucky to find an office near home so the commute is short, but it is great to have the energy of other colleagues, as well as being able to leave the house and feel more like a “real” worker.
    One of the disadvantages I found about working from home is that people (friends, family, neighbours..) don’t respect your work hours in the same way as they would if you you were in an office.
    But one of the real advantages of being home-based is the flexibility to work when you have the time, whether that’s early morning or late evening.

  • Great post Sian, there are pro’s and con’s to every working situation and you’ve hit the nail on the head with working from home, when I do use the home office I find that I am more easily distracted by the little jobs that are waiting for me around the home.

  • Spyware software developers accept learn to actualize their applications to ambition specific weaknesses in both computer software and in the humans application these systems.

  • You’re very welcome,
    Lorna. Best of luck with the publication
    and sales of the book.
    Congratulations on writing it and successfully crowdfunding it!

  • Thanks very much, Sian. Yes, Lorna is an inspiration!

  • Hi Fiona, Thanks so much for puttting this interview together for Tweak Your Biz & of course thanks to Lorna for sharing such great insights. If the book is as good as the backstory it will be a wonderful read 🙂

  • Lorna Sixsmith

    Many thanks Ladies, i feel dizzy at the thought of everything that has to be done in the next 6 weeks but am sure I’ll get there (even if the house falls down around me)!

  • Lorna Sixsmith

    Thanks Niall – here’s hoping people will enjoy it 🙂

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