Lesley Batchelor OBE is an expert on international trade and a passionate champion of UK exporters. She is also the Director General of the Institute of Export, the professional membership body representing and supporting the interests of everyone involved in importing, exporting and international trade.
Doing business in the USA is different to doing business in the UK, no matter what you might hear about ‘The Special Relationship’, common language or cultural similarities. Nuances in business etiquette, getting through US customs regulations, understanding the sheer size of the country are all massively importantly to bear in mind when exporting to the US. These tips will help you to export successfully to the USA, helping you to understand the differences between the US and UK markets.
Top tips for doing business in the USA
Although it is not quite clear who said ‘two great nations divided by a common language’ it is worth starting my list with this quote. Be careful as they do not use English in the same way as the English do. Get any literature read by a native speaker and listen to the differences they can make life very complicated.
2. Business culture
The business culture is very strict, they expect perfection and hard work whereas as here we are pleased by it.
State laws vary, you are not dealing with one nation legally. This impacts on Intellectual Property and also disputes.
Insurance is very expensive so Product liability or Professional Indemnity cover will start with £5000 before the risk has been identified and quoted. This will impact on the final profit you can make there.
Do not use humour in business meetings – you may enjoy some of the quirky American comedy shows but this is outside of the work place be careful you may seem flippant, unreliable not serious minded.
6. Regional variations
From a marketing perspective again this vast country has many different regional characteristics, be prepared to modify your collateral accordingly.
They take religion seriously in America.
Security issues after 9/11 the US has tightened all security processes for cargo and this increases the need to get the paperwork right. Again this can impact on your margins if you haven’t allowed for this in your price.
They tend to only take 2 weeks holiday a year this leads to intolerance of our more generous system if they want to get something done.
They don’t always get irony! As a nation we use this style of communication and humour but it is difficult for some countries to understand.
Most commonly asked questions
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