"Cultural differences have impacts on doing international businesses" (Tool et al., 2019). For a company to succeed in a foreign country, in conducting business, it must put in place strategies to beat all the odds associated with the culture of the country it is venturing into. As an Intercultural Training Associate working with the USA Dalton Green Energy Company, I developed a report on how best our company can successfully venture into Kenya as a new market for our products. In the development of this report, I considered the principles of the Leadership theory by Dainton and Zelley and the Culture map concept by Erin Meyer as guiding principles in developing my report. Therefore, the top management of our company must employ transformative leadership in the new environment of Kenya as it is critical for international business. It should equally, consider and embrace the diversity existing between the Kenyan people the American people to address the demands of the new market.
According to Dainton and Zelley, emotional intelligence facilitate organizational performance, and it is a very important tool of doing business. A number of components Erin Meyer in The Culture Map provides a field-tested model for decoding how cultural differences impact international business. Meyer claims that we can improve relationships by considering where international partners and we fall on each of these scales:
- Communicating: explicit vs. implicit
- Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
- Persuading: deductive vs. inductive
- Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
- Deciding: consensual vs. top down
- Trusting: task vs. relationship
- Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoid confrontation
- Scheduling: structured vs. flexible
The scales became the basis through which I prepared my report on Cultural Codes of Kenya with a bias in business. Kenya is a multi-ethnic nation with 42 tribes each speaking her ethnic language. However, Swahili, the national language, is commonly spoken across the country by virtually all the tribes as a common language of communication between the different tribes. The different tribes have different foods for their diet, but I found out that the common food (staple) eaten by Kenyans was 'Ugali.' Ugali is a meal prepared by crushing maize to produce fine flour that is poured into boiling water and then mixed to make it. Ugali is a meal eaten with vegetables and milk.
Essentially, Kenyans are very proud people, are proud of everything good about their country including Kenya's products. Therefore, for Dalton company to penetrate their market, we must come with a better taste of our products for Kenyans to have a better experience with our product about their products of the same kind.
A taboo is a set of cultural regulations that guide the morality and bring sanity to the community. In Kenya, almost all of the tribes have their taboos, but there exist common taboos across all tribes. For instance, it is a taboo for a man to sleep with his mother in law in the same house. It is equally a taboo for spouses to walk in public holding hands or kissing although they are now becoming common in the capital city, Nairobi.
In Kenya, there are some things that Kenyans communicate non-verbally. For instance, in the urban centers, Kenyans keep direct eye contact at each other when talking. Maintaining eye contact implies that somebody is interested in the topic in question. However, in rural areas, it is considered disrespectful for a young person to maintain direct eye contact with an elder. Therefore, Dalton company should consider these two scenarios as they engage their customers. Again, it is considered disrespectful to point with the index finger. Direction will by people is given pointing with their chins or their lips at the direction they point. Also, Kenyans are smiling people. Smiling underscores and depicts their hospital nature. This action serves to show acceptance and like. Dalton should exploit this behavior common among Kenyans by turning it into a platform to establish the people's perception about their product. Kenyans apart from those in the urban centers stand or sit close to each other when they are conversing. Anybody who keeps distance while speaking to people is considered aloof. Dalton should consider interpreting this behavior as symbolic. It means that for Kenya to like your products, then-then the company must interact with them closely.
For any business entity venturing into the Kenyan market to succeed, they must commit to ethical business practices in their endeavors. In Kenya, ethical practices expected from companies are "respect for human rights, commitment to fair treatment of workers, respect for the environment" and corporate social responsibility. Unethical business practices include pollution and destruction of the environment, corruption, and exploitation of workers. Thus it is very important for a new company in Kenya to consider the practices. For example, Safaricom (a telecommunication and mobile phone service provider in Kenya) has been engaging in improving the lives of the Kenyan people by building schools and giving education scholarships to the children from poor backgrounds.
In Kenya, different words, numbers, colors, and symbols to convey information about hidden meaning. Colors, for instance, have an implication when branding products. Green means natural and vitality, Kenyans love products made of natural things, and therefore a business-oriented company must consider using Green color in the branding of their products as this will attract the interest of Kenyans.
Most successful businesses maintain close contacts with their customers to boost their sales. In Kenya, companies employ different strategies to be in direct contact with consumers of their products. Business firms that get in contact with their customers feel a positive effect on their businesses almost immediately. Contacting customers through calls or messages to keep them abreast of changes in products or product's branding win customers loyalty to the products of the company. Contacting business trips into the field to meet consumers who live in rural areas make the company get direct feedback from their consumers which they use to improve their products and services. Kenyans will always want to identify with the products of companies that they are familiar in the market
There are prevalent business practices that are virtually practiced by business people in Kenya. These practices define Kenya's unique way of doing business. Firstly, Gifts-giving to consumers is a trend that is common among business firms. They serve to win the loyalty of customers. For example, almost all of the supermarkets have gifts in the form of shopping vouchers that they give to their customers. Secondly, business meetings conducted in a formal setting, and although Swahili has widely spoken in the country, English is prevalent in the meetings. At the meetings, tradition, and history of people, is respected. Thirdly, there is a dressing code for employees of firms. For instance, dark formal suits among men are common and seem to be the standard dress code for men. Again, greetings in the form of a handshake are prevalent among people interacting in business. The greetings bring confidence among the interacting parties.
Nonetheless, in Kenya Harambee philosophy guides business culture. 'Harambee' is a Swahili word meaning pulling resources together. Therefore, this philosophy discourages individualism, "Kenya is considered a collectivistic society" (Hofstede Insights, 2019)
Even as Kenyan business entities engage in these practices communication between firms and consumers should be straightforward. Any information arising from the businesses to the customers should be very clear in its contents for effective action. Enthusiasm should be shown in business when there is a challenge in business. The enthusiasm ensures that any challenge arising as you contact business passionately addressed. In leadership, officials of any business entity must be respectful to both his juniors and the customers. However, too much respect might lead to deference, hence leave a wrong impression on other people. Therefore, it is important to be respectful, but it is more important to balance between respect and deference. Employees in the company should be considerably assertive to earn respect and stature. Standing up for one's principles concerning the values of the business while at the same time with moderation earns individual respect. An employee should also consider acceptable levels of personal disclosure. Self-disclosure is purposeful sharing of personal information to another person. Personal disclosure should not always be deep to be meaningful or useful.
Businesses entities in Kenya must do quite a lot to build trust with their consumers. One of the ways is ensuring that the company's products have passed through the Kenya Bureau of Standards for approval as consumable products that meet the standards required by law. Secondly, the companies ensure that there is security in their business premises to make their customers feel safe. Another way is always being available to answer any questions which are of concern to your customers. Moreover, trust is built by communicating more to the customers to avoid leaving them in the dark.
It is important to create a robust, friendly relationship with consumers before getting into the business. This strategy is crucial because as an entrepreneur, you place yourself in a position to learn how best to treat your customers once you get into the business. It will also grant you an opportunity, to know the expectations of your consumers about your products.
In my conclusion, venturing into a new business environment is a challenge that needs extraordinary strategies to be able to survive in the market. It involves learning almost all the aspects of the new culture to understand the demands of your customers. In my presentation, I reported about the culture of people's culture as a way of understanding the market on and handling various concerns of the customers. Indeed learning one's culture eases the way of doing business.
Tool, T., Solution, P., Tool, T. and In, L. (2019). Welcome! - Erin Meyer. [online] Erin Meyer. Available at: https://www.erinmeyer.com/ [Accessed 1 Apr. 2019].
Hofstede Insights. (2019). National Culture - Hofstede Insights. [online] Available at: https://www.hofstede-insights.com/models/national-culture/ [Accessed 1 Apr. 2019].
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