7 concepts for building successful international business relationships

Every business relationship is unique, by applying these concepts and ideas we can increase the probability of making long term, quality and reliable relationships with foreign clients, suppliers and partners.

1.   Supply and Demand.  The fundamental idea behind business and a market economy.  Want to determine where to sell or buy, or predict if prices will be going up or down?  Understand the concept of supply and demand.

2.  Cause and Effect.  Physics applied to the business environment.  What you do will affect your competitor and the market and vice versa.

3.   People like to feel important and special.  Learn this and you’ve discovered one of the fundamental qualities of a great salesperson or marketer.

4.  Simple clear communications, on-time. all the time.  Don’t make it technical, keep it easy to understand.  Answer all questions when asked, don’t hide the bad news and never forget to call back and follow-up.  When we don’t understand, ask questions, ask more questions until it is perfectly clear.

5.  Get the work done, on time, and with the highest degree of quality possible.  Insist that this is a critical part of the relationship for both sides.

6.  Listening is more important.

7.  Get it in writing.  After all meetings sign and date a document that briefly states what happened, the agreements, the chronology  and deadlines involved, and who is responsible.   All transactions and agreements should be documented.

Creating great business relationships in Mexico

Working with individuals and ideas from cultures different from our own is complex, and filled with opportunities to misunderstand and offend everyone involved.  It requires time to develop trust and understanding for all the players involved.

Take the time to learn how and why business is done in the country.  Don’t judge the results or methods based upon your culture and your country’s standards.

There is nothing more damaging to an international relationship than criticism based upon a lack of understanding.

We must learn before we attempt to teach and implement new ideas, strategies and procedures.

When doing business in Mexico remember that no matter what you feel or believe about your company’s products or procedures, Mexicans know their market and people better than you do.  They understand the correct business etiquette and the “invisible” cultural nuances that are required in order to do business in Mexico.

If you enter into business in Mexico with the idea that you are going to “teach the Mexicans how business is really done” I am confident you will suffer some serious problems.

Pushing procedures and business strategies into Mexico will surely cause divisions, it can turn into an “us versus them” situation for employees and customers.

I recommend that your focus be on learning and understanding how business in currently done in Mexico, and why.

Once you have this knowledge, teach and explore your cultures and organizations solutions and strategies with your Mexican collaborators.   I’ll bet the ideas will get modified if necessary, implemented and embraced quickly.

The creation of hybrid strategies, using elements from both cultures, will guarantee unification and understanding for everyone involved.

Before you start a revolution it’s essential to fully understand the status quo.

International business traveler – ambassador, explorer, map-maker

The critical roles played by international business traveler.

International business travelers play an incredibly important role as ambassadors, explorers and “map-makers” inside their organizations and with their overseas contacts.

Ambassadors, Explorers, and “Map-Makers”

Ambassador of your country and culture. During your trip your actions and reactions are being watched by others. They are trying to confirm, deny or create stereotypes of your country.  Everything including your inter-personal skills, business negotiation skills and manners, the way you dress and eat, your choice of hotels, table manners, social skills, and the ability to make small-talk and conversation will be watched, examined and commented upon after you leave.  Keep this idea clear at all time during your trip, it is important.

Ambassador of your company. Prepare and bring all materials required for the negotiations and business interactions.  Project an aura of professionalism, a willingness to learn and share, and honesty.   Create relationships with a long-term vision.  You may be promoted or leave the organization some day, but your international contacts will continue to do business with your company.

Ambassador of you. International business is all about relationships, and your behaviour and attitudes are critically important as the liaison and trusted representative.  Make promises you can keep, follow-through on the projects and projects.  Project honesty and a concern for doing business and maintaining relationships.   Your actions should focus on creating a climate of trust and open communication.  Don’t try to be someone you are not.

Explorer. The international business traveller, technicians, and sales and business development executives have the added responsibility of verifying existing information, establishing new contacts that will be beneficial in the future, and discovering new ideas and opportunities.  It requires an inquisitive character, a bit of courage and a spirit of adventure.

Map-Maker.   Often neglected by organizations is the cultural, political and personal information gathered by international business people.  This information (or data), should be gathered, filtered and consolidated, and available to the organization after every overseas trip.   “Maps” should be made for future consultation and reference.  The map-making role requires the separation of the facts from interpretation, personal anecdotes and opinions. This information becomes the foundation for all future strategic and operating decisions.

Original post August 21, 2006

Cultural misunderstanding – the deal breaker

Expansion into international markets and working with other cultures can created unforeseen headaches and avoidable problems for companies who enter foreign markets without sufficient cultural information and know how.

Many companies of all sizes have encountered communication and cultural problems in international projects.  Many times these problems occur due to oversight, or the impact of a culture and customs on the business were not taken seriously.

Virtually all organizations seeking to export or participate in international markets face steep learning curves about culture, customs and manners. Mistakes are made, at times very costly mistakes.

Making the wrong decisions, miscommunications, offending decision-makers or neglecting the fine points of initial negotiations can often bring a prompt end to an overseas business opportunity or deal.

The lesson to be learned is to invest some time and money to prepare, to understand your international markets and the culture where you will be doing business.

It’s not enough to understand your brand and current customers. Never underestimate any cultural factor, and never assume that your model, project or way of life will be embraced fully and without reservations.

Related Links
International business traveler – ambassador, explorer, map-maker

What to dial to make a call to Mexico from the US

Here is a simple guide to dialing Mexico cellphones and landlines  from the USA.

Calling a Mexico cellphone from the US

  • Step 1 – Press or dial “011” (international access code) followed by the country code (Mexico’s country code is “52”
  • Step 2 – Press or dial “1”, this is the code required for 80% of the cell phones in Mexico
  • Step 3 – Press or dial the area code.   Mexico telephone numbers have a two digit or three digit area code followed by a seven digit number for most of the country.
  • Step 4 – Press or dial  the 7 or 8 digit Mexican telephone number

If unable to connect, dial the number as if it were a Mexico land line (below), eliminating the “1) from the process.   This applies to NEXTEL cellular numbers in Mexico.

Calling a Mexico land line from the US

  • Step 1 – Press or dial “011″ (international access code) followed by the country code (Mexico’s country code is “52″).
  • Step 2 – Press or dial the area code.   Mexico telephone numbers have a two digit or three digit area code followed by a seven digit number for most of the country.
  • Step 3 – Press or dial  the 7 or 8 digit Mexican telephone number

The exceptions to the rule (and this is Mexico, there are always exceptions to the rule) can be found in 3 cities; Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. These cities have a two digit area code followed by an 8 digit number:

  • Mexico City “55″ + 8 digits, area code is (55)
  • Guadalajara “33″ + 8 digits, area code is (33)
  • Monterrey “81″ + 8 digits, area code is (81)
  • All other cities in Mexico “3 digits” + 7 digits, area code contains 3 digits

If you were to dial Mexico City: “011″ + “52″ + “55″ + telephone number (8 digits)

If you were to dial Acapulco: “011″ + “52″ + “744″ + telephone number (7 digits).

Selected area codes for some Mexican cities:

Acapulco “744″ + 7 digits
Aguascalientes “449″+ 7 digits
Apizaco “241″+ 7 digits
Cabo San Lucas “624″+ 7 digits
Cancun “998″+ 7 digits
Celaya “461″+ 7 digits
Chihuahua “614″+ 7 digits
Ciudad del Carmen “938″+ 7 digits
Ciudad Juarez “656″+ 7 digits
Cuernavaca “777″+ 7 digits
Culiacan “667″+ 7 digits
Durango “618″+ 7 digits
Ensenada “646″+ 7 digits
Guadalajara “33″ + 8 digits
Guanajuato “473″ + 7 digits
Irapuato “462″+ 7 digits
Ixtapa “755 “+ 7 digits
Jalapa “932″ + 7 digits
Juchita “971″ + 7 digits
Leon “477″ + 7 digits
Los Mochis “668″ + 7 digits
Matamoros “871″ + 7 digits
Mazatlan “869″ + 7 digits
Merida “999″ + 7 digits
Mexicali “686″ + 7 digits
Mexico City “55″ + 8 digits
Monterrey “81″ + 8 digit
Morelia “443″ + 7 digits
Nogales “631″ + 7 digits
Nuevo Laredo “867″ + 7 digits
Oaxaca de Juarez “951″ + 7 digits
Playa del Carmen “984″ + 7 digits
Progreso “861″ + 7 digits
Puebla “222″ + 7 digits
Puerto Vallarta “322″ + 7 digits
Reynosa “899″ + 7 digits
Saltillo “844″ + 7 digits
San Francisco del Rincon “476″ + 7 digits
San Miguel Allende “415″ + 7 digits
Silao “472″ + 7 digits
Tampico “833″ + 7 digits
Tijuana “664″ + 7 digits
Torreon “871″ + 7 digits
Veracruz “229″ + 7 digits
Villahermosa “993″ + 7 digits

For a complete list of area codes for all Mexican cities, check out the TELMEX area code search page  HERE

16 Essential Questions – International Business Traveller’s Quiz

Every international business traveler should be able to answer these questions about their destination before getting on the plane.

  1. What is the size of the country; population and area?
  2. What are the top 3 or 5 cities, and why?
  3. Who is the President?
  4. What are the main political parties?
  5. What are the official languages?
  6. What is the ethnic makeup of the country?
  7. What is the climate and weather throughout the year?
  8. What are some of the important geographic features (rivers, mountains, lakes)?
  9. What are the major religions?
  10. What countries are neighbors?
  11. What is the currency and exchange rate?
  12. What are the countries biggest industries; national and export?
  13. Who are your competitors, and how long have they been established in the country?
  14. What are 3 significant issues affecting your industry in this country?
  15. What are 3 significant national issues that are in the news in the last 2 weeks?
  16. What national holidays or events will be celebrated during your visit

If you can’t answer every question.   Set aside an hour, fire up the Internet, and do your homework.

It may be the most important hour you spend preparing for the trip.

16 Essential Questions – International Business Traveler’s Quiz

Original post June 6, 2007

Difference between a global, transnational, international and multinational company

We tend to read the following terms and think they refer to any company doing business in another country.

* Multinational
* International
* Transnational
* Global

Andrew Hines over at BNET has brief and clear definitions of each of these terms,  Get your international business terms right.

Each term is distinct and has a specific meaning which define the scope and degree of interaction with their operations outside of their “home” country.

* International companies are importers and exporters, they have no investment outside of their home country.

* Multinational companies have investment in other countries, but do not have coordinated product offerings in each country. More focused on adapting their products and service to each individual local market.

* Global companies have invested and are present in many countries. They market their products through the use of the same coordinated image/brand in all markets. Generally one corporate office that is responsible for global strategy. Emphasis on volume, cost management and efficiency.

* Transnational companies are much more complex organizations. They have invested in foreign operations, have a central corporate facility but give decision-making, R&D and marketing powers to each individual foreign market.

Andrew’s advice is:  if in doubt about the right term to use, try the generic term “international business”.

Related Links

Get your international business terms right

Difference between a global, transnational, international and multinational company

Original post June 18, 2007

7 essential tips for doing business overseas

Lee’s list of 7 quick and essential tips for doing business overseas.

1.  It is always easier to sell in your town, state, or country than to export or sell internationally.  Understand that it will always be that way.

2.  Don’t do it alone.   Always get local “guide(s)” to work with you.  This can take the form of a consultant, agent, distributor or sales force.

3.  You will always feel that the customer in the international market got the better deal.

4.  No matter how well you think you understand the country and culture….there is always something important that you missed.

5.  Be humble…..be humble……be humble

6.  Listen before you start to sell.  My first 3 trips to China consisted of meeting and listening to potential customers before opening up the discussion to sales.

7.  Make a concerted effort to build and nurture personal networks and relationships.  Learn about the country, culture and politics.

Original post May 16, 2006  (Link)

Hello and Welcome! New website announcement

I have moved to a new website  LeeIwan.com!

Popular posts from the old site Lee Iwan Accumulated Experience will be updated and migrated here, and new material added at breakneck speed.

By visiting and participating here you will get insight and learn about the attitudes, actions and strategies that will increase results and reduce errors with international and Mexican business projects.


  • How to effectively start a business relationship in Mexico
  • How to develop a strategic plan for the Mexican market
  • How to develop a realistic business plan – objectives and chronologies
  • How to creating trust and confidence from your first meeting
  • The “right way” to approach Mexican business people
  • How to find the right people in Mexico
  • How to integrate the secrets of doing business in Mexico into your activities and communications
  • How to avoid the most common mistakes that can sabotage you
  • How to construct a solid base of reliable  knowledge and contacts
  • How to focus and get results in each stage of business development:  investigation, cultivation, harvest
  • How to create a positive image based on actions and deeds
  • How to maximize your customer visits, trade fairs and commercial missions
  • How to avoid cultural mistakes in Mexico
  • How to use the power of patience to guarantee success
  • How to use communications to avoid misunderstandings and increase commitment to the business
  • How to avoid the stereotypes that will kill the deal
  • How to find the decision-makers in Mexico
  • How to find the resources and reliable information to make informed decisions
  • How to understand the Mexican business environment, how business people think, what they consider important, how they make decisions and why
  • How to surround yourself with support service experts to avoid costly start-up errors

Thanks for stopping by, please leave a comment, idea or your observations on how I might improve the site and information.