“We have a joke,” says Eugene A. Sekulow, Chairman of the German American Chamber of Commerce in New York. “We say: Here comes somebody from Frankfurt. It’s going to be long. We better settle in.”
Even in the age of globalization, Germans still make basic mistakes when dealing with Americans, Sekulow says. The worst is “long and boring” speeches. Christopher F. Lynch of the California German American Business Association agrees: “Germans take on average 20 to 50 percentlonger than Americans.” Other points that were criticised included flat and monotone voices, slow decision-making and weak small talk.
Another critical point is that German companies often don’t devote enough attention to marketing. “Some Germans think they don’t need public relations because they have a world-class product,” says Jürgen Hess, senior consultant with the German American Chamber of Commerce in Chicago. In the U.S. it’s not the technology itself, but what it can do that is central.
You can see the difference when you look at trade shows. In Germany, companies show the inside of their machines, and you can admire the technology. At American trade shows, the machines are running and you can see how much they are producing and what it costs to run them per hour.
“Most mistakes could be avoided if the people asked for advice,” said Dan Weiler, a consultant for German and American companies. As he pointed out, even the President of the United States practices his speech before talking in public. So should German CEOs.
In a nutshell – this is the advice American consultants give to German managers:
- Tell stories or anecdotes.
- Talk less and avoid long sentences.
- In marketing, work with someone who really understands the culture.
- Show fewer PowerPoint slides and fewer details on slides.
- When you prepare a presentation, find someone who speaks American English and who is honest – and practice in front of them.
- Don’t talk business all the time. Make quicker decisions.