Doing Business in the UK: British Business Etiquette

Business in UKMultinational corporations have to be prepared for international encounters in order to guarantee successful transnational business activities.

Truly, there are no ready-to-use solutions for the interactions with business partners in all kind of environments that are perfectly suited to the social conditions of each country – tradesmen mostly rely on their experience and soft skills. However, some business etiquette is needed to enter today’s global business world and to fulfill the requirements of multinational men of business.

Although there is no language barrier between the US and the UK, misunderstanding can occur. Accordingly, foreign business partners who know about the British business etiquette can score some sympathy points.

Young businesses and freelancers with little experience in business practices can get help from business advisors, those who can supervise financial transactions and plan business strategies, whilst also give advice on intercultural management (e.g. ClearSky Freelance Accountant).

Doing business in the UK

Relationship building and networking are key success factors in the British business world. Especially, older generations preferably do business with partners they trust and know, or who have been introduced by a common business associate.

The traditional Briton shows respect for rank and age, and therefore enquire professional business contacts with an equal authority to their own.

How the British Business man communicates
Business interactions are formal, reserved and unemotional – effusive or emotional language and loud talking is highly inappropriate.

British business men tend to formulate their statements in a way that they remain vague and only show tendencies. Their understated language is formal and marked by phrases like ‘perhaps’ or ‘it might be’. Often, internationals have to learn to read between the lines, as many avoid direct confrontation and stay reserved. In addition, giving personal space and some eye contact during conversions is very important in Britain.

Internationals also need adapting to the rather slow decision making process within British organisations – pressure tactics must be replaced by a high level of patience.

If things go wrong, the British show signs of self-blame in their verbal and written communication, even if they are not responsible for the faulty result or not expecting behavioural norms from their counterparts either.

Adopting a more formal approach which includes the sharing of, for instance, meeting protocols will please the modest British business men. Such protocols or follow-up letters should summarise what was discussed and next steps to be taken.

Business meetings in Britain

To maintain a conservative image requires a conservative business dress for both men and women. Punctuality, as in many other countries, is another key requirement when business meeting are scheduled. Even unessential delays need announcing by a short call. If invited to a meeting, no business present is needed.

Business partners are greeted by a handshake which is accompanied by eye contact. Before business affairs are discussed, meetings are starting with a short duration of small talk. During those meetings, it is mainly senior ranking managers that do the speaking. Eager discussions only take place in meetings with equal business partners. However, statements must be well thought through and based on facts and statistics – never on feelings.

Business meetings are formal and always serve a clear purpose, which may be the decision on clear action points.

Having learned about the required international management skills of a business man, businesses only need to worry about their professional skills – an area where professionals such as the Contractor accountants can support the management.

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