In my Human Resource Management class yesterday, we discussed a British company called Hotel International that took over a hotel in China called the Roaring Dragon Hotel. The H.I. team was determined to change the relaxed and pressure free working atmosphere at the hotel (workers took long breaks whenever they wanted) to one that promoted much more professionalism and quality customer service that would be provided at a five star establishment. While many of the ideas that H.I. implemented at the Roaring Dragon would definitely be beneficial in many businesses, the way that H.I. went about implementing its new policies were ultimately unsuccessful due to the different norms and expectations of the Chinese culture.
The first thing H.I. should have done upon deciding that it would take over management of the Roaring Dragon was research the Chinese culture to determine what the business norms are for their country. Perhaps Chinese workers expect to be able to relax at work and not have to stress about being professional and at the beck and call of every customer. If this is the case, then H.I. could have eased into the changes much more slowly and made many more compromises rather than making the drastic 180 degree turn from a relaxed to a high-paced working environment.
I think this is an important lesson for anyone who ends up going into an international business: different cultures have different customs and expectations, and in order to conduct successful business, once must appreciate these differences and make the appropriate adaptations and compromises. In Denmark, there is nothing ruder than showing up to a meeting late; however, in France, people are almost expected to be late. In Denmark, there is a very flat hierarchical structure in businesses, whereas in other countries this are very steep hierarchical structures. While these may seem like silly examples to give, they show that while in one country something might be permissible or expected, in others it may be unacceptable. Before dealing with a company in another country, whether it is a one time thing or a merger/acquisition, it is important to look into the cultural norms so that no one feels insulted or that their expectations were not met.