sales price of certain goods and services. Many of these same countries offer
national health care to all citizens and operate under a system of highly
restrictive labor laws. Failure to be aware of the existence and importance of
these issues will severely damage your credibility.
Indeed, cross-cultural communications will be a critical factor in your
success or failure internationally. Learning even a few words of the other
person’s language, no matter how badly pronounced, and understanding
their basic customs and practices, as well as the basic geography of their
country, wi ll be greatly appreciated by your potential international custom-
ers and partners. It will also help you avoid some unpleasant pitfalls.
A very simple yet telling example is the word ‘‘aggressive.’’ In American
English, this word has a broadly positive meaning, especially in the business
world. Business people are supposed to be ‘‘ag gressive.’’ That is how things
get done. In many other cultures, however, the word ‘‘aggressive’’ has an
unmistakably negative meaning, something along the lines of ‘‘pushy’’ or
‘‘bullying.’’ This is true even in British English!
Nonsense is Nonsense in Every Language
Translating nonsense into another language will not improve it. Make
sure your thinking is clear before you write. Then make sure your writing
accurately describes your thinking, clearly and simply. As obvious as this
may sound, clearly written communications are rare in the business world.
Avoid Sports Analogies, Colloquialisms, and Idioms
Consider the following:
‘‘It’s time to put a full court press on the competition and slam dunk the quarter!
It’s the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded, so step up to the plate and put this
one over the fence! Don’t drop the ball! Grab it with both hands and run with it!’’
This is obviously an extreme example, and yet, business communications
are full of sports analogies and idioms that do not translate well, if at all.
Imagine what someone might think who has never heard of baseball, basket-
ball, or American football! Keep it simple and avoid unnecessary confusion.
FINDING AND WORKING WITH INTERNATIONAL
The Internet has made it easier to find customers and partners inter-
nationally. Unfortunately, the Internet also makes it easie r for charlatans
In this chapter, the word ‘‘partner’’ is a generic term and does not necessarily indicate a
specific legal structure.
352 Opportunities to Do Business and Raise Capital Globally
to disguise themselves as legitimate businesses. In seeking international
contacts you still need to verify their legitimacy, as you would with a
business located in your hometown.
One simple step is to verify the status of the company with its home
government. In the case of Great Britain, for example, you can find basic
information about any registered company from the Companies House web
At a minimum, you will learn whether the company is registered to do
business and if it is in good standing with its statutory requirements. If a
similar web site is not available for the home country of your potential
customer or partner, you should contact their home country’s consulate
nearest you. The consulate should be able to provide additional publicly
available information, or at least point you in the right direction.
Finding and dealing directly with an end customer internationally can be
a daunting task. Locating a potential customer is the easy part. Actually
making the relationship work and sustaining it over time is not so easy.
Cultural differences and unfamiliar government regulations are among the
many details that conspire on a daily basis to complicate or even sabotage
the relationship, in spite of everyone’s best intentions.
Moreover, you should not expect the local competition to sit idly by while
you take business away from them. For these reasons you should at least
consider finding a local partner to assist you, someone fluent in business
English, well-versed in international business practices, and closely tied to
the local business and regulatory community. The local partner could be a
sales agent, a reseller, or a contracted consultant. In part, your partner’s
function will be to prevent the local competition from manipulating the local
legal system to put you out of business. Never underestimate this possibility,
even in the most sophisticated and transparent economic systems. What the
law allows and what is actually pos sible are not always the same thing.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION AND ASSISTANCE
There are so many sources of information and assistance that researching
all of them could be a full-time job by itself. Many of them overlap, and
many of them are only marginally effective.
Attending meetings and seminars and networking can be very helpful.
Government agencies, other trusted sources, and people with greater experi-
ence in similar endeavors can help you focus your efforts. Still, you must
identify the approach that works best for your specific venture, and often
some trial and error is required.
Opportunities to Do Business and Raise Capital Globally 353