The prominence of the U.S. in the world can make you feel like it’s the country that sets all the standards for business practices. But while America’s influence is far-reaching, the business ethics in other countries, such as those in Europe, are still considerably different from that of U.S.-based companies. A country’s culture, societal norms, and political situation often define how its citizens run businesses.
Therefore, if one of your major business goals is to expand to Europe, you need to study the continent’s culture first and understand how it differs from North America’s. If you penetrate the European market assuming that they behave just like American consumers, you’ll most likely sabotage your own success, and waste tons of money.
That said, here’s a crash course on everything you need to know before taking your business to Europe:
Differences in Culture and Business Ethics
Admit it — work-life balance is practically nonexistent in the U.S. The 40-hour workweek for salaried employees isn’t really honored anymore, since working overtime has become the norm. Many employees don’t use all of their vacation leaves, and even hourly-paid employees often find themselves rendering extra hours.
In Europe, on the other hand, work-life balance is far more valued. Employees in many countries are given up to six weeks of paid vacation leaves, and their working hours are considerably shorter than Americans’. Hence, expect your future European employees to regard leisure highly.
In the U.S., you’ll commonly see billboard ads and people parading in giant inflatable costumes to promote businesses. But in Europe, these aren’t typical, and could even be illegal. Their advertising media are instead found on mainstream marketing channels, such as social media, television, and other online sites.
Morals and Ethics
Americans view moral and ethic dilemmas on an individual level, while Europeans regard them on a societal scale. As such, Europeans may struggle to see eye-to-eye with Americans when they’re dealing with business ethics and values. But this is a difference that can be reconciled easily with improving globalization practices.
Many Europeans are raised multilingual, whereas Americans are bilinguals at most. That is an advantage for your business though, because multilingual employees may be more adept at communication.
Differences in Spending Habits
According to business experts, Americans are generally more comfortable spending money, even money they don’t have. Consumers in the U.K., on the other hand, tend to be more careful with their money. This behavior stemmed from the Brits’ view of the future, which is bleak. In a study revealed in Marketing Week, the British “over-index” in being downhearted, with consumers who feel generally defeated by life and as if the world is spinning without them.
Hence, if you’re eyeing the U.K., you need to prepare for persuading Brit consumers harder. They are typically pragmatic and pessimistic, but those make them wiser spenders. Your product or service needs to be essential or life-changing, otherwise, you might be better off in another European country.
In terms of technology, there aren’t many differences between Europe and America, since both are highly advanced and up-to-date with the latest developments. But European business may have slightly different standards.
Cyber-security May Be an Automatic Part of IT
Remote working is also Europe’s new normal, and as such, companies have increased their efforts in implementing cyber-security. So before expanding to any European country, consider the sensitivity of your data; how strong is the protection it needs? Do you want overseas authorities to access it? What about the legal implications?
Digital Services Growth Follows Infrastructure Growth
When you build a European headquarters, you need to follow through with digital service innovation. Your team will grow, and so will your market, so as you scale up your company, invest in an excellent digital tech, such as a new customer onboarding process. This can be challenging to a new business, but once you’ve got the tech all set up, you’ll see a promising future.
B2B Communication Platforms
As more companies allow more flexible working styles, such as remote working and customizable working hours, the demand for intuitive, user-friendly, and reliable communication platforms has increased. More than a cloud-based system, the European B2B sector is seeking software that can provide an exceptional user experience. So if you’re a B2B business, take note of this growing trend, and see if what you have in store can satisfy your future market’s demand.
Now that you know what to expect from the European business scene, you can prepare your business adequately, and outline every adjustment you have to make. The prospect of changing plenty of things you’re used to may be daunting, but that’s how a business grows. You should face change and embrace it.