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Boost your international business relationships – focus on cross cultural communication

Cork businesses recently participated in an Enterprise Europe Network seminar series to leverage their potential for growth and trade opportunities between Ireland and the Eurozone and beyond.

Why consider partnership and trade with markets outside of Ireland?

Cork businesses can take advantage of Ireland’s position as a thriving open economy and as a respected trading partner and fully committed member state in the European Union. The Eurozone (19 of the 28 European Union (EU) member states which have adopted the euro) offers Ireland direct access to the Single Market and infinite opportunities for Irish businesses to grow within Europe.  It also offers regulatory certainty and harmonised standards provided by EU frameworks which continue to facilitate trade and help businesses to sell into a wide range of markets.

While it is evident that Irish companies’ advantage lies in the innovation and quality, crucially our success is marked out by the people behind the goods and services exported from Ireland. In addition, access to a ready customer base of  a population of over 320 million in the EU market is of upmost interest to the ambitious businesses taking part in Cork’s Enterprise Europe Network activities.

Building international relationships – a focus on communication 

In this context, the second in a series of three Enterprise Europe Network’s  seminars specifically focused on boosting communication in international business relationships and the people centred nature of successfully doing business in the Eurozone market and beyond.

How flexible are you in your intercultural encounters in business?

Participants were urged to focus on their use language and cultural know how to overcome communication challenges and to avoid communication breakdown that may occur in building international partnerships.

Dr. Marie Therese Short, Founder of Culture Pro revealed the hidden dimensions of culture and highlighted how such differences can possibly affect:

  • Meeting new clients & partners
  • Cross cultural leadership
  • Influences sales and marketing

Flash points where potential culture clashes occur were illuminated along the lines of how the values and norms of business and society are structured. For example;

  • Egalitarian versus hierarchical structures in society and business
  • Perceptions of gender and equality
  • Value placed on the group loyalty and harmony versus the interests of the individual
  • Direct communication and indirect communication and feedback
  • Task based versus transactional- time spent fostering interpersonal relationships in business
  • Attitudes to time keeping- punctual or time fluid?
  • Body language (greetings, gestures, personal space etc.) and dress codes.

The above factors inform what is described by Culture Pro as your ‘Flex & Core’ – what aspects of your core culture would you not be willing to compromise and to what extent can you ‘flex’ to avoid culture clash in business relationships?

Language matters – the rise of Globish

There are 2 billion non-native English speakers and 340 million native English speakers worldwide.

In the afternoon session, how culture informs language use and how language is perceived was shared by Brigid Farrell, Director of All Talk Training.  Brigid challenged the participants by asking if perhaps it’s time to embrace ‘Globish’?  Globish is a simplified version of English used as a worldwide lingua franca-  a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.

Globish offers businesses an opportunity to open up its world to non-native English speakers.  It may be employed when building a relationship with a prospective supplier, supply chain partner, buyer or even hiring non-native English speakers in your business. Not all successful business transactions need to be conducted with a clear accent and the Queen’s English.  In terms of language, emphasis instead should be placed on what non-native English speakers are able to do right now. International partners recognise and appreciate when there is a focus on;

  • Clarity over accuracy
  • An effort to understand all types of accent esp. those relevant to you (i.e. native and non-native)
  • Flexibility to learn on the job and through interactions.

Such a flexible approach can enable Irish companies to overcome their own linguistic challenges and make real use of their partners’ English language skills without having to worry too much about their own.

Specifically, Brigid Farrell urges businesses to embrace concepts of empathy, adaptability, neutrality. Empathy to develop awareness for what makes comprehension difficult for non-native speakers. Adaptability to learn what is easy for non-natives, and neutrality which urges native speakers not to judge linguistics skills, take offence easily or assume that everything a non-native speaker says is what they meant to say!  It is possible to give them a voice, so that they can understand you best.

Ultimately, the key takeaway was how aspects of culture, language and communication matter and we ignore their value at our peril.

  • Paying attention to cross cultural communication reduces the chance of miscommunication
  • Increases productivity and efficiency
  • Increases the possibilities for collaboration, innovation and growth.

Learning how to respond appropriately in various business-related situations while building trust will ultimately, save your business time, energy and money and to help ensure success in your target markets!

The Enterprise Europe Network seminar series will wrap up on 13th March with a ‘Build the right international market partnerships’ – focusing ways to overcome the challenges and expense for SMEs to establish suitable, trustworthy and winning relationships in overseas markets.

Get in touch with Margaret Kelly mkelly@corkchamber.ie to learn more about Enterprise Europe Network and International Relations supports and services at Cork Chamber.

Thank you to Alltalktraining.com and CulturePro.com for their excellent collaboration and delivery of the Cross Cultural Communication seminar on 27th February.

For more information on International Relations at Cork Chamber click here.