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Doing Business in the UK
The World of British Business Meetings
Meetings are an important part of British business culture. This is where ideas are debated, future work processes are decided and decisions are made. A typical British work week includes many meetings; this is where the action happens. Decisions are usually made by common consensus and open conflict is avoided.
Make sure to schedule meetings well in advance. The British put great value on punctuality, although in actual practice it is not unusual for a meeting to begin five to ten minutes late. If you're traveling by car, leave extra time in case you get stuck in traffic. Meetings usually open with a fair amount of small talk, in order to create a warm, positive climate conducive to working well together.
There usually is a set agenda for business meetings, although other topics may be introduced. Meetings, especially among people of the same rank, are usually characterized by open debate and a free exchange of ideas. Excessive amounts of preparation are not done before a meeting, as the meeting itself is the time to throw ideas out there and bounce them around. A successful meeting concludes with a concrete decision or plan of action.
How to Successfully Hold a Business Presentation
In British business culture, it is important that presentations be well thought out, and that you be able to answer any questions your audience may have about your presentation. Presentations should be logical and full of serious content, but the presentation style itself can be entertaining with a light tone.
It is not the custom in British business culture to brag or oversell your product or idea. Exaggerating is not usually effective or appreciated, as decisions are made based on facts and figures, not emotions. Presentations should not drag on too long or be too full of technical details. It is important to allow time for your audience to interact with you and ask questions.
When the Work Is Done: Socializing and Entertaining
While business dinners are becoming less common, business breakfasts are gaining in popularity since they are early in the day and people have a fresh mind. Work is often discussed during business breakfasts and lunches, although these can also be used as an opportunity for general small talk to get to know your colleagues better and build up a good working relationship. If you go out to lunch with your colleagues, the check will often be divided equally at the end, even if one person ordered something more expensive than the others.
Colleagues often go out to a pub for a drink together after work. If invited, it is a good idea to join in and get to know your colleagues better outside of the work context. At a pub, it is common practice for each person in a group to take turns buying a “round” for everyone else.
In the UK, it is more common for you to be invited to a restaurant or pub for dinner than to someone’s home. If you do happen to be invited to someone’s home for dinner, however, it is polite to arrive 10–20 minutes late. Never arrive early. Dinner invitations may state the time “19:30 for 20:00”, meaning that dinner will start at 20:00, but you can arrive any time between 19:30 and 20:00. Bring a small gift for the hostess, such as a bottle of wine or flowers. Other than in this context, however, gift giving is not common practice in the British business world.
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