Midterm Update: Navigating Cultural Norms and Global Business

The halfway point is finally upon us for our international consulting project. My group and I have been working together throughout this semester to bring our clients, DORCAS Women’s Group and Nature Seekers, the best deliverables possible. With the help of our Amazide contacts, Gail and Torey, we have been able to accomplish so much in such a seemingly short amount of time. Nonetheless, there have been some challeneges and unprecedented times to navigate through during the beginning and middle stages of our international consulting project.

What cultural norm(s) of the host country do you anticipate being a challenge to conducting the business you need to conduct? Why?

For the most part, my group has been able to conduct business with our clients in Trinidad and Tobago fairly easily. Our meetings have been very informative and helpful in understanding our project better. We also have had many informative presentations about the culture of Trinidad and Tobago, especially Carnival, which has really helped us learn about cultural norms. However, it would be naive to say our experience has not been without a few flaws. One issue we encountered is not knowing a few of the Trini slang words that have been used in our meetings. Typically, language barriers are not an issue in our meetings except when a word is used that we do not understand. In order to overcome this difficulty, my group will take note of the word(s)that are used that we do not understand and look them up after our meetings.

Additionally, in order to conduct business, it is vital to have a strong line of communication. This has been a difficult challenge for our group to navigate. When working with our clients in Trinidad and Tobago, our Zoom connectivity has been quite weak. The poor connection issues have led to us missing out on important parts of conversations, having to assume what was said during parts of the meeting, and not being able to watch videos that are embedded in presentations. I personally did not realize how poor the cellular service is in the rural parts of Trinidad and Tobago. We are still learning how to navigate this setback. Some things we have done to help with this dilemma are watch the videos from the presentations on our own time, move the calls to emails if connectivity gets bad, and send meeting minutes after the meeting to ensure our group heard everything correctly.

The last cultural norm challenge we have encountered is the relationship building culture that Trinidadians have. As a group we have realized there is a very laid-back, relationship based undertone to the Trini business culture. Our Trinidad and Tobago contacts seem to live their lives in a more relaxed manner than we do here in the United States. This is only an issue because we are working against the clock to put out deliverables to our clients. There are a few things we are waiting on in order to move forward with our progress. One of the parts we are waiting on is an initial meeting with one of the organizations involved in our project. Not being able to rush get information or feedback for our contacts has been challenging for me.

What new perspectives are you learning about global business? Is your perspective of global business changing?

This whole International Consulting Program has been a learning experience for me. One new perspective I am learning about global business is that you must adapt your ways of doing business to the way your clients wish to do business. No matter how many emails are sent or Zoom meetings are conducted, we have to build a relationship with our clients in Trinidad and Tobago before any business can get done.

Additionally, I have learned that having a “middle person” or “mediator” has been very helpful in our meetings. When we have had client meetings without our Amizade partners the meetings do not seem to go as well. I believe having a familiar face on the call and someone who understands the Trini culture better than my group does has been extremely beneficial. The client is more talkative and more engaged in the meetings when our Amizade partner is present. This could be for numerous reasons, however I believe it is because our partner can reword the questions in a way that makes our clients more receptive to responding. Like I stated before, Trinidad and Tobago has a relational business culture and having someone on the call that has a good, trusting relationship with our client has made a huge difference.