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What We Can Learn from Conducting Business across Cultures

What We Can Learn from Conducting Business across Cultures


By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Dean, School of Business, American Public University

This holiday season, I watched a movie about an American businessman who had to acquire a multinational company in Rome, Italy. The businessman was the top closer for his organization and accepted the challenge.

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When he arrived, he ran into a tour guide. She assisted him in finding a location, and he hired her to assist him for the remainder of his stay. As they got to know one another, they found several ways that they could assist one another.

Paying Attention to How Other Cultures Do Business Is Essential to Success

When the businessman met his client, he wanted to present a bid. However, the client asked him to slow down the negotiating process.

The American businessman was not accustomed to this type of negotiation, but the tour guide was. She explained the country’s culture and how business was conducted in Italy. Not only was she an asset in showing him around landmarks, but she also helped him to understand the importance of certain customs that influenced Italian business decisions.

The tour guide wanted to start her own business. Over time, the businessman was able to coach her on developing a business plan as well as understanding how to finance and market a business.

By reaching out to help someone else, two strangers came together to aid one another with a challenge that they faced in their professional lives. Through teamwork and mutual respect, both were able to move their initiatives to the next level to reach their goals.

This Movie Offers Valuable International Business Lessons

The movie offers valuable lessons for business owners and employees, whether they’re doing business abroad or not:

  • Other people may be able to get us further in the process than what we can do if we work alone.
  • Be open to doing things differently. Our routine may not be the proper approach to every new initiative. Study the foundation to see which course of action is the best tactic.
  • It is important to realize that different cultures do things in different ways. How we secure a deal in our own culture may not be the way to conduct business in another country. Therefore, we must become knowledgeable about business etiquette in other countries. Richtopia, Business News Daily and Market Inspector offer useful tips on international business cultures.
  • You can be of assistance to anyone, and you do not have to have the same background. Your unique gifts and talents may help someone else, especially if your specialty is not their area of expertise. Consider bartering services!
  • Keep an open door to explore what could be a golden opportunity. We do not always know where our next success is going to manifest itself, so be open to business opportunities that you may not have previously considered.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Dean of the School of Business at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.

Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and influential leader, manifesting people skills, a systematic approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.



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