Entrepreneurs who are spending a lot of time exploring and creating a vision for domestic markets might be overlooking or shying away from important opportunities in the global marketplace. This might be due to worries about how to interact with people in unfamiliar cultures and business environments.
Successful business leaders, when they step out of their comfort zone, are learning important lessons from international travel. It teaches them how to effectively communicate and do business with entrepreneurs and executives in other countries. They learn to listen carefully and ask questions to make sure that they fully understand the message. As a result, they start to develop an important sensitivity when communicating with others, which makes it easier to dive into the local culture and customs.
Stepping into an often unknown culture, entrepreneurs begin learning some important lessons, including how to:
- Adapt to different business hours, which are definitely not the typical 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.;
- Cope with offices in buildings without air conditioning;
- Get used to different time zones;
- Overcome jet lag; and
- Listen to and speak a different language 24/7.
All of a sudden, you have to adapt to an unknown and often uncomfortable environment. You will immediately understand that it is important to be flexible and learn to improvise to make it through the day.
Communication is king! The need to understand and present the right body language is essential when meeting and negotiating with potential and existing customers. You need to overcome the language barrier and learn very quickly that making the right first and second impressions are as important as a spoken or written word. It will be important to find creative ways to overcome these challenges.
Time management and cultural awareness are important! You have to adjust your travel habits depending on the country you travel to and its culture. In some parts of the world, it is more acceptable to be late for a meeting. So, don’t get upset when your future business partner shows up late and does not even mention it.
Expect to participate in late night dinners and social events frequently during the week. Closing business deals at 1:00 AM has happened to me more than once. In Asia, it is perfectly acceptable to meet for breakfast at 8:00 am following a late night of eating spicy foods and several hours of karaoke.
There are a lot of international business opportunities out there. You will be successful if you keep an open mind and are willing to make mistakes, correct them, and have the patience to step outside the box.