I am a member of The FENG, the secret society for Financial Executives…;-). One of the daily emails I recently received from this society addressed etiquette in writing a cover letter when responding to a job ad and the effect this could have on the response you receive, if any. It reminded me of a comment a former colleague of mine made to me in my first German start up back in the late 90’s. She said: “Are you really this mad at Gunnar?” I looked at her, puzzled, and asked what she was talking about. She went on to say, “You wrote an email without a greeting or ending. In Germany if you send a one line email it means you are mad at the person and it is considered rude.” Still astonished and with a sinking feeling of horror I replied, “Of course I’m not mad!” and I went into damage control mode. What I know now – and what I didn’t know then – is that there is a code of etiquette around the world in writing emails. I have had the privilege of living and working outside of my home country now for the past 13 to 14 years and in this time one of the very basic things I learned early on was email etiquette.
It is actually quite simple. You start with a greeting “Dear Mr./Ms. Smith, Hi Soandso-san, Goodmorning Hr. Grabenstruddle”, you ask them if they are having a good day, you get to your point and you end with a simple “Best Regards, Sincerely, Mit freundlichen Gruessen, etc…” and then sign your name. Sound ridiculous or superfluous? Actually, it’s not. In the US one liner emails are more than common. This is how people communicate, or lack there of. However, throughout the rest of the business world I have found in every culture I have worked in outside of the US, which are many, people find this offensive, rude and in some cases it will end up black listing you. “Bill, what is the point?” I have been asked many times. Simple answer? Respect. First, in their culture using greetings as I describe above is commonplace. Second, it shows that you, as a foreigner, have taken the time and have given them the respect of writing an email in the style and format they are accustomed to.
So, as you venture into expanding abroad please remember that deals are won and lost in the details. Respect is always a winner! 🙂
Nobody likes to be taken advantage of, and certainly not when you are starting a new business or expanding abroad. Many think that they are more likely to fall prey to scam artists when they are faced with business in a foreign language or in dealing with foreign authorities. Not so, unfortunately.
I recently incorporated my business in Germany, Hull Speed Associates GmbH, and soon after the company was registered I was inundated with forms to fill out, questionnaires to send in, etc. Welcome to “paper-full” Germany! Before receiving forms from the Finanzamt, the German IRS, to register for a tax number I received two very official looking “invoices” asking Hull Speed to pay EURO 500+ for each invoice. A bell rang in the back of my mind and took me back about 11 years when I first encountered this, so I took the time to read the fine print on the “official” letters. These so-called invoices came from private companies specializing in collecting company names and related data to place in their database for resale. The fine print went on to basically say that ‘your company information will be placed in our database but we cannot guarantee any benefit will come of it’… So for EURO 500 my company has the privilege of adding its company data into a database of a company I have never heard of with no guarantee of benefit. Does that sound like a good deal? I don’t think so.
Yet due to the official look and feel and terminology of these letters can you imagine how many law-abiding and rule following Germans blindly pay this? My guess is more than we would think. For example, my former colleague and close German friend also recently founded a GmbH, received three such letters and because “Bill, I just had a lot to do..” blindly paid the “invoices”. After payment was made and having some time to read the fine print he discovered he was hoodwinked and swindled out of over EURO 1,500. Stupid? No. Careless? Yes.
Swindlers are everywhere, so read the fine print. And when in doubt, ask a colleague or us at Hull Speed Associates to read it over for you, just to keep you out of some puddles of troubled water that could turn out to be more expensive than you think! Blog 3_March_2011 image
For some time I have wanted to start this blog but until now did not find the right forum. Also, and many of you who know me will agree with this, I am not much of a writer, yet I view this blog as a way of sharing my experiences in working in an international environment. At University my first interest in international business developed. I even wrote a paper during my senior year focusing on FAS 52 (this sounds really geeky, I know) but at the time I had no idea I would actually be in a position to where I could use this information. Especially to the extent that I have. So, 24+ years later, here I am in this world called Internet and its venue offers me the opportunity to share my experiences. I hope you at least walk away from each new posting learning one new thing.
“Where to begin?” This was the first question that came to my mind in 1996 when my boss, the CFO of ON Technology, said to me: “Hite, we are about to buy Technocom Plc, a major distributor. Get with Shealy and figure out what we need to do to ensure we meet our 10Q deadline. Oh, and fly over there and figure out what they are doing….”. This was classic John – throw Hite in the deep end to see if he swims. This was our first effort in expanding abroad after a successful IPO in 1995. We had no idea of how to integrate the two reporting entities, not to mention how to do it between a US and UK Company with two different reporting rules and reporting cultures. The next 2 years would be life changing for me. We soon opened offices in Paris, Munich, and Sydney. At an early phase of my career I was faced with the basic questions that Hull Speed Associates, the company I founded and manage, now solves. What legal entity is best for us? How do we organize and pay payroll? How do we accurately report monthly and how do we pay expenses?
I am really excited about this blog as I know those of you reading it all have or have had these questions and more. I welcome your feedback and for you to share your own experiences.