Learn the Language


If you are going to spend a year or more in a country—definitely, absolutely, do your utmost to learn the language. It will make a tremendous difference to your state of mind. Ability to understand the local language seems to play a major role in adjustment to culture shock and personal success in a foreign world.

It is not clear why speaking the language makes such a big difference, but it does. Obviously it makes getting around a lot easier. In hundreds of moments of struggling to get something done, from shopping to household repairs to getting directions, just knowing some of the language removes huge portions of aggravation and helps you gain a sense of safety and self-assurance. When people around you are babbling away in a foreign language, you become vaguely insecure and feel isolated. Knowing the language gives you a sense of mastery in situations where you may feel vulnerable.

The more process of learning the language gets you more in tune with the culture, and breaks the ice, putting you in the right frame of mind to adjust. In some places, speaking a second language is important to enhance your image as a well-bred, educated person—you may be somewhat better off if the language you learn is not the language spoken in the country.

The frequent traveler should think about learning languages too, of course, depending on the amount of travel and bilingualism of the business community. Speaking a language fluently can permit you to attain levels of relationship and business advantage unattainably by someone who doesn’t.

Fluency in the language will allow the traveler into otherwise exclusive realms of local business. The process of negotiation often depends on behind-the-scenes information flow.

Learning the language is no substitute for learning the culture and appropriate behavior. People who are fluent in a language but not sensitive to the culture can make worse mistakes, perhaps because the local experts more of them. And there are dangers in speaking a language if you are not competent in it. Not knowing the nuances of words or being careless with intonations, you might say things you don’t mean. In most languages, some common words have extremely vulgar meanings if pronounced incorrectly. Or you may hear unintended meanings.

If you don’t speak the language well, it is best to reveal that you have made the effort to learn—but then rely on English or an interpreter. Experts advise that is generally best to speak the language for socializing and daily activities, but not when transacting business. As a rule of thumb, if you are not fluent and your foreign counterpart does not speak fluent English, always transact business with an interpreter. Traders who meet frequently with foreigners say that while English is the business language around the world, buyers are far more comfortable talking in their native language, and even if they can speak English, it is often better to have an interpreter. They don’t have to struggle so hard, and it puts them at ease.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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Leveraging better Payment Terms


Negotiating better payment terms is always easier if a company has some bargaining chips. The party with the most to lose or the most to gain is always on the defensive; therefore, the secret to successful negotiating is to develop leverage that forces the other party into one or the other of these positions. Other than not meeting payroll, only two conditions might create circumstances more detrimental to a company on the brink of failure than to a creator: (1) being evicted from the building that houses the business, and (2) not receiving critical materials and services to keep the business going.

 

Not much can be done about either situation. A business must be housed, and it must have materials and services to make and sell products. That’s why landlords and critical suppliers top the payment priority list. Some leverage can be achieved, however. Most lessors would rather work out an extended payment arrangement than go to the expense and aggravation of a formal eviction. As long as the renter’s market holds, deferring rent payments for at least several months should be a real possibility. That’s not a permanent solution, but it does provide some breathing space.

 

It might be possible to leverage critical suppliers to gain better terms. The threat to go to a competitor usually brings even the most recalcitrant supplier to terms. In most cases, a supplier has more to lose (the overdue amounts plus legal costs to sue) or gain (future sales) than a debtor company does. At least making suppliers think that’s the case is good negotiating ploy.

 

Assuming that you have taken reasonable precautions to safeguard your personal assets, the worst thing that can happen is that you will be forced to liquidate the business. Granted, this can be a blow to any entrepreneur’s ego. It might also reduce personal income for a while, however, once the liquidation is over, you can always begin again. As long as creditors believe that they have the most to lose, you’re in driver’s seat. The ultimate creditors’ threat is to force the company into bankruptcy. By making it clear that this won’t hurt and that other plans for the future are in the works anyway, such leverage vanishes abruptly.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight