All things are linked to the cultural background and business meetings are not an exception. After a few meetings wasted on the attempts to start them with some core business questions I finally appreciated the beauty of a small talk. 🙂 So now I’m happy to share a few insights on how to behave yourself on a business meeting outside the office in the UK. The notes below apply to the world of digital marketing and only to the few meetings I had a pleasure to attend.
Coffee is for business and restaurant is for pleasure
Coffee has its own business philosophy and seems to be the perfect base for a serious talk in a non-office environment while restaurants proved to be the magical means for building a friendship.
In Russia when people invite you to an expensive restaurant they expect to build a proper base for sharing commercial secrets which can’t be shared via email. It’s some kind of social exchange, they give you food -> you should give them some food for thoughts -> they give you some info in exchange-> leave the meeting with a feeling that your vision of the market will never be the same.
In Britain prepare to discuss Angelina Jolie’s kids, travel, personal background and other things which will help you to become buddies with a partner but at the same time not to make you feel yourself under business pressure. You will definitely drink a bottle (or two…or even three) of wine and in the end you might build a bridge for future talks about business. We’re talking about lunches, so prepare yourself for unproductive 2-3-4 work hours after…
I don’t know why coffee shops have different reputation (no alcohol menu perhaps?!) but they seem to work vice versa – short meetings, strict work-related questions, but in 98% cases damn delicious coffee (if it’s not Costa or StarBucks then it’s hard to miss a proper coffee shop in Soho).
In case you were invited to after work drinks – don’t expect to remember the evening. Brits know how to party and don’t even try to win a game “who can drink more and still stand on their own legs”. You have no chances (please believe a person who used to drink vodka when they were younger).
Main aim of the business partner lunches is to build trust so don’t be surprised if someone offers you to taste a slice of their steak (and don’t be too greedy, offer the same in exchange) or to order many dishes and then share them. I’ve never seen that before I moved to the UK but I have a feeling that people are simply less distanced from each other here. Although my friends from finance say that your simple request to taste your director’s steak might affect your career, in the friendly world of marketing people are happy to give you everything they have (if the company is paying for that) 🙂
Economy as part of the UK consumers culture
Very often when business partners invite you to an expensive restaurant they mention that they would never choose this restaurant for their personal events because the prices are as high as the Eiffel tower. You’re invited to the celebration none of you can personally afford and everyone would mention that it’s happening only due to the courtesy of the company. It’s a normal thing to voice that you’re much more frugal in your everyday life (not because you really are) but because money saving is a part of the UK culture. People measure the value of a deal with the amount of money they saved on it (you can see it everywhere in advertising in the UK). But during a lunch it’s just a good way to make a person who invited you look like you, but at the same time demonstrate power and wealth of the company they work for.
Making the long story short – if you were invited to a lunch with a marketing partner in the UK, prepare to relax, think of one or two quirky facts you don’t mind to share, read the latest news on Angelina Jolie and just enjoy the company of young and talented people from the same area of expertise who know how to have fun in London. But if you were invited for a coffee – expect it to be strict but short and enjoy your coffee 🙂
And if you were invited for a business lunch in Russia – prepare to share a few secrets (corporate, not personal of course, your own privacy is guaranteed) and to get some interesting insights in exchange 🙂