With more small businesses expanding internationally than ever before, it's time for entrepreneurs to take a serious look at proper business protocol-or risk losing business, urges Katie B. Holmes, editor of The Diplomat, a newsletter on international business protocol.
"Most people have never even traveled out of this country, so they aren't aware of cultural differences," says Holmes. "They need to be aware that habits we might consider minor are often very noticeable in other countries."
Proper protocol for dining, dress, eye contact and exchange of business cards in the country you'll be visiting are just a few areas of etiquette you should investigate, says Holmes. Otherwise, you may not comprehend why you must face the door during a business meeting in China, or why you risk offending a potential business partner in South Africa by yawning in public.
To get up to speed, Holmes recommends consulting applicable newsletters or attending training courses on international protocol for business executives. Or try contacting the appropriate country desk at the U.S. Department of Commerce for relevant information.
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International Air Transport Association, 2000 Peel St., Montreal, QC, CAN H3A 2R4, (514) 844-6311;
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McGraw-Hill, (800) 2-MCGRAW;
Runzheimer International, (414) 767-2200;
The Tracker Corp., 180 Dundas St. W., #1502, Toronto, ON, CAN M5G 1Z8;
United Airlines, (800) 241-6522;
United Parcel Service, (502) 329-6548.