- Business Meeting
- Public Holidays
As a nation, the British have many centuries of experience in global trade. Therefore, he often acts as a leader of large-scale international economic projects. During the business meeting itself, it is usual to discuss the maximum possible points, including technical aspects. If both parties reach a conclusion, it is assumed that there is no need to return to it and that both parties respect it. If the business partner does not express a contrary opinion or make comments, it is assumed that he agrees with the submitted proposal. Remember that you are dealing with pleasant but tough businessmen. It is not customary to accept the first offer – do not be surprised by an obviously unfavorable proposal. Be prepared to negotiate, know your competition and don’t be afraid to compare. Visit Aparentingblog for more information about United Kingdom culture and traditions.
For business relations and general communication, it is common to be addressed by first name, except for the first letter/email, in which it is more common to be addressed by surname. Addressing by email should be formal and directed directly to the responsible person. References are absolutely crucial in reaching out and making contact for a successful start in highly conservative Britain. Companies that already have a business partner in the country, or have existing references directly from Great Britain, have many times easier to establish contacts and possible further expansion.
Above all, high-quality preparation for the meeting is expected, including prior familiarization with the available documents. All negotiations are conducted in a straightforward and rational manner. The initial courtesy communication usually takes place within a few minutes. Do not hesitate to use mandatory topics such as the weather or the road to break the ice. Other popular topics include culture, sports, travel, culinary experiences; you can talk about your family, but never ask the other party about it. The business partner is expected to be factual and direct in dealings. It is a matter of course that a business card not indicating a university degree is handed over. Using a cell phone during a meeting is considered rude.
You will increase your chances with a persuasively built argument supported by attractive, clear materials and imaginative design. Backing up your claims with graphs or statistical data is a great way to convince your British partner that you’re not just exaggerating. A well-chosen business model and sales techniques are a matter of course – in this regard, you are dealing with European masters. It is ideal to introduce win-win models of mutual cooperation. An advantage can then be provided by arranging a meeting through a third party with whom both business partners are familiar and possibly have had business dealings in the past. During the pandemic, it was common for the first meeting to be in the form of a video call – this trend will probably continue in the future.
Giving gifts is not a necessary condition in business negotiations, rather this role is declining, especially due to corporate regulations on accepting gifts. However, it is essential to maintain reciprocal behavior when receiving a gift. The chosen gift must therefore fall within the reasonable price criterion, which must not be too high to be considered a bribe, nor too low to arouse a feeling of insult. For example, company products, pens, books and possibly souvenirs can be a suitable gift. Gifts are usually given at the end of a business meeting and are unwrapped at the same time.
The most suitable time to organize a business meeting is around 10 o’clock in the morning, especially in the initial stages of negotiations. The first meeting is unlikely to take place over a meal, but it depends on the parties involved and the context of the meeting. It should be borne in mind that the transport network in the UK is often affected by delays, so you should always allow time to spare, especially when traveling to an important meeting and a longer distance. It is important to keep the appointed time of the meeting, punctuality is considered an important virtue.
It is often very difficult and time-consuming to even get in touch with the relevant person in the company responsible for business negotiations, especially if you are trying to sell something; buyers are “hiding”, it is often impossible to find their contact e.g. on the company’s website. The situation is different if they themselves are actively looking for a business opportunity or supplier. In a country as rich as Britain, the frequent push for a low price can also be surprising. It is due to the high competition in the market, which is very globalized. You may also be unpleasantly surprised by different procedural customs and bureaucratic delays, but you should not be discouraged. Avoid any inappropriate comments, expressions of anger, etc.
Society in Britain is very diverse, both ethnically and religiously, but by the second generation at the latest, all residents generally see themselves as British first and foremost. Although religious and ethnic aspects usually do not play a major role in negotiations with a British partner, respect for possible specifics of the partner is of course in order.
It is not customary to offer alcoholic beverages during negotiations. However, a successfully implemented cooperation can be completed – by agreement – with an early evening reception, a working dinner, or a meeting for “drinks”.
A well-groomed appearance, conservative clothing and clean, high-quality shoes are important. Darker shades predominate in women’s and men’s clothing.
The age and gender composition of the team does not play a crucial role, nor does there exist an ideal number of team members. The presence of a senior manager is recommended to increase credibility, but it is also customary to invite company experts who can answer any technical details.
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Personal action is the basis of success. Smaller details can be resolved by phone or email. When communicating with British companies, a quick response is expected, it is common to respond to written/email correspondence within 24 hours of receiving it. However, current practice continues to show that a number of British companies are embarrassed when writing to Czech companies if they do not receive a response within 3-4 days. After the meeting, write a quick follow-up e-mail with thanks, a summary of the agreed steps and their subsequent fulfillment. Nowadays, it is common for the first meeting to take place via video call.
The assumed language of the meeting is English, taking into account its prevalence and the frequent disinterest of British citizens in learning foreign languages. It is therefore more appropriate to send your own worker who is fluent in the language to the meeting than to take an interpreter with you. In some parts of Scotland, Gaelic is used alongside English (with sometimes quite different pronunciation from the Oxford version of the language), but it is not an official language; in Wales, Welsh is spoken in places, but is known by a small proportion of the population. Of the other languages, the native languages of the local ethnic groups are used.
Be polite at all times. Ask questions, show that you are listening, do not interrupt the other party, do not lead long monologues. Bypass the imperative with more polite turns, learn a few phrases that soften unpleasant messages.
The British prefer indirect communication, especially in connection with the communication of negative information. They may resort to vague and less clear statements, or humor or tentative agreements to show you their disapproval. They also very often and skillfully use euphemisms and try not to be too expressive. The very use of indirect communication in dealing with a British partner can create a more friendly impression and thus avoid appearing impolite or arrogant. Humor and sarcasm play an important role in creating a friendly atmosphere. However, it is necessary to be careful and not to offend your partner.
For non-verbal communication, it is advisable to maintain eye contact, but at the same time avoid long stares. It is also advisable to leave enough personal space and avoid touching. A short and firm handshake is therefore appropriate when greeting and introducing yourself.
How do economic diplomacy services – trade missions, trade fairs or other tools – help to establish contacts in the country?
In Britain, it is necessary to use all available ways and means to reach out to business partners. Participation in the fair usually leads to establishing the first contacts and opening doors, therefore both official Czech stands at the most important fairs and smaller participations in engineering, glass and other fairs are organized.
If you are interested in the given market and its research, you can contact one of the Czech agencies in Great Britain. Based on the specific requirements of companies, PaulTrade Export Support Agency provides assistance services, consultations in the field of business, establishment of a company, possibly conducts marketing market research, can also search for suitable business partners and possibly verify their interest in the offered product. CzechInvest’s office in London can assist Czech companies in entering foreign markets in the field of technology, start-ups, etc.
The necessary support is also offered by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in London, which aims to support Czech exports in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (UK) and to present the Czech Republic as a suitable place for business and investment. Individual Czech companies can therefore turn to the embassy with questions regarding, for example, initial export consultation and preparation of negotiations in the given country, evaluation of the current economic situation in the given territory, help in mediating contacts, obtaining information from local state or regional authorities and institutions. Last but not least, assistance in negotiations with them or, where applicable, registration of requests for Czech goods, services and cooperation, also provides assistance in organizing business missions of Czech companies to the UK. The embassy also organizes as part of the so-called of economic diplomacy projects (PROPED) sectoral missions of Czech companies to Britain with a focus on e.g. healthcare, nanotechnology, IT or beverages. It is also possible to organize the most important corporate events at the embassy, if they have a sectoral character (i.e. several Czech companies from the same sector are presented).
Considering the number of companies and the market nature of the British economy, the presence of an ambassador or trade diplomat at meetings of individual companies (except for the above events) is not a rule, and is rather reserved for B2G type negotiations (negotiations with state authorities, state or large enterprises, municipalities, etc. ), possibly the most significant business opportunities.
The British market is very demanding on the quality of products and services, but also on the level of business ethics. Compliance with the principle of “fair play”, agreed terms and conditions is typical.
In serious business circles, it is still true that fair dealing is a matter of course. Lying is socially unacceptable and a given word has the value of a signed contract. In business dealings, compliance with payment terms is a matter of honor and you can usually rely on them. However, in everyday practice, payments after the due date are a frequent and long-criticized problem of large companies, and this trend has been worsening recently. Small suppliers are the main victims.
We also recommend healthy prudence and thorough screening of potential business partners, especially if communication takes place at a distance. The general prevalence of English is being abused by fraudsters from all over the world who often pose as British entities. In Britain, the registration and cancellation of a company is also simplified to the maximum, and even the British address of the business partner does not necessarily indicate the seriousness of the owner. We therefore recommend always verifying the trustworthiness of a British company by commonly available means: in the Companies House online business register, bank reference, use of secured payment methods.
In general, the principles of politeness, decency and punctuality apply. It is worthwhile to establish long-term cooperation and not to rush negotiations in order to speed up the signing of the contract.
Holidays are referred to as bank holidays because all banks remain closed on such a day, as well as the vast majority of other institutions and shops. Payment transactions will be suspended on holidays and their movement will not resume until the following business day.
If the holiday itself falls on a weekend, a “substitute day” is set, most often on the following Monday. An additional day off can also arise in the event of an extraordinary event of the monarchy.
An important holiday associated with the celebrations is the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. April 21, celebrations usually fall in June. In addition, the Scots celebrate the summer holiday on the first Monday in August.
Scotland still celebrates Saint Andrew’s Day on November 30. In addition, Northern Ireland celebrates St. Patrick’s Day on 17 March and the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne (also known as Orangemen’s Day) which is celebrated on 12 July.
Specific holiday dates can be found on the UK Government website.