Wyoming Business Tips for Nov. 6

October 31, 2011

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Anya Petersen-Frey, WSBDC regional director

"I would like to do business in a different country, but am apprehensive about cultural differences I may have. I don't think I am very "worldly." Maria, Kemmerer

In today's market if a business has a website, it essentially is doing business in the global marketplace, but the comment above brings up a good point.

Many countries have different approaches to business, whether they are selling to other businesses, consumers or some other form of organization in another country. Understanding the business culture can make a difference with easier access and future success. But you don't have to be "worldly" to successfully navigate cultural variations. Many online websites are available to help you learn more about your country of interest.

Learn about Geert Hofstede and his four theoretical dimensions of culture, which offers a good basis for considering another country's business culture. Hofstede's website is provided at the end of this column for more information. Below is a brief overview of Hofstede's theory:

Power distance -- This is the extent to which power is accepted and distributed unequally.

Uncertainty avoidance -- A society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity.

Individualism vs. collectivism -- The United States is considered high on the individualism scale whereas countries such as China are more collectivism based. This is not so much political as whether the culture integrates strongly into cohesive in-groups -- often meaning extended families.

Masculinity vs. femininity -- This refers to the distribution of roles.

The newest dimension Hofstede applied after work with China is Long Term Orientation (LTO), which relates to thrift and perseverance toward a much extended outlook. These dimensions provide a foundation for business etiquette to embrace when interacting with foreign business associates or customers.

For more practical guides that allow you to choose a country of interest and then supply information about their culture and method of doing business, visit the websites at http://www.worldbusinessculture.com/ or http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/country-profiles.html.

To learn more about Hofstede and the dimensions of culture, visit http://www.geert-hofstede.com/geert_hofstede_contrarian_position.shtml.

For more one-on-one advising on expanding a business to the global market place in a focused manner, send Petersen-Frey an e-mail at apeter35@uwyo.edu or call at (307) 632-6141.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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