Polish-Anglo networking & culture

Kasia Lanucha
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This article is a 10 minute read. It has the focus on Polish-Anglo networking behaviour and how culture affects business development. Written by Cambridge lecturer Katarzyna Lanucha of  Speak Culture with co-author  John ‘Bob’ Spence of 5nextsoftware.

The thesis is how to develop connections strategically and become a successful rainmaker in the UK but written from a Polish perspective. This Blog is the first one of a series of 8 that looks at the considerations for Polish professionals and entrepreneurs focusing on developing their network of British connections in the UK.

All 8 articles will be using a version of RELEVANT © – a step-by-step business development process designed to create relevant introductions a process developed by the 5next team

Furthermore if you are Polish and trying to trade with British companies or, establish yourself within the local UK market, this is a must-read. Strategic business behaviour when trading across cultures is crucial since

‘…the single greatest barrier to business success is the one erected by culture’

E. T. Hall

Culture & rainmaking

The networking and referral marketing skill set required to be a long term commercial success is described as rainmaking. This is beyond the ritual of business card swapping and handshakes which are vital but not in themselves the key to building a network.

‘In business, a rainmaker brings in new business almost by magic. It is often unapparent how this happens. It means generating business from sources sometimes outside established channels, sometimes by connecting with people in non-traditional or hidden markets’

First of all. It is true that business professional from all around the world share many beliefs and attitudes. However cultural backgrounds will naturally impact the way we all think and behave. Everybody wants to make a profit, but everyone will have their own ways of reaching the final handshake.

In Europe, it is tempting to believe that there are few barriers to overcome as opposed to when working, for example, in the Middle East. However, there is enough evidence to show that cultural differences affect the entire sales cycle between Polish and British businesses. Failure all too often goes back to a lack of awareness rather than ignorance. English is widely spoken as a common commercial language but language dexterity alone is not the key as George Bernard Shaw wrote:

‘England and America are two countries separated by the same language!’

But can we really be all that different?

Culture & rainmaking – developing connections

We have all heard the saying that:

‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’

This is true not only in the UK but also in Poland. Professional introductions are recognised to be the most cost-effective and sure-fire way to secure new business opportunities. All of are aware of comparable professionals who possess equal technical skill and ability. However they may be achieving vastly different career and business outcomes. Ambition will play its part. Nonetheless time and time again the better-connected person will achieve more with their skill set on the basis of who they know. The cross-cultural differences between Polish and British professionals when it comes to finding leads and developing meaningful introductions can be subtle. However, as they say, the devil is all in the detail.

Culture & rainmaking – sourcing the right connections

Securing the right type of professional and commercial connections initially requires interpreting this process as a skill. It is something that can be learnt. I have been working with author and trainer John ‘Bob’ Spence who delivers rainmaking skills internationally to the professional services sector. The introduction method referred to as RELEVANT © – was developed from his knowledge. This was attained through his attendance of multiple USA ‘Million Dollar Round Table’ sales conferences. At these prestigious events he continually interviewed top performing rainmakers regarding their referral marketing skills. The outcome was this flexible process which is over 7 years old which can be evolved as required.

Culture & rainmaking – developing the right process

Essentially we are discussing a path towards finding introductions and connections. On the basis that you are a pertinent introduction this process will ultimately create contacts and clients. The RELEVANT © process is built around relevance as this is everything in building a network. The process is broad enough to work in any country and across any culture. This WHAT TO DO is arguably a universal process but recognises the following limit:

The limit is the HOW TO DO. This depends on who you are dealing with. Is it a Polish person in the UK or a British person in the UK?

In terms of international business I will also add this caveat:

Business culture is not about which style of doing business is ‘better’ or ‘worse’. It is about what is effective in a given context

This article is focused on a Polish person looking to create commercial success though building a series of relevant relationships with the British business community.

Furthermore we must remember that it is acceptable to work with cultural generalisations when applied to groups and their ‘norms’. These are the behaviours and beliefs that are acceptable for a group in a certain context but great care should be taken when dealing with individuals.

Culture & rainmaking – asking for an introduction

RELEVANT © comprises the following steps and this should be seen as the general shape of seeking an introduction not a mandatory chain of actions. I will list the concept and then introduce some alternative thoughts around how it may perform across Polish to English culture. The eight parts are listed below:

  • Reveal how you built your connections to your referee (the introduction source)
  • Emphasise the value you can deliver to any introductions that are made to you
  • Look for listeners and observers to meet… not just for leads to do business with – you are building an expansive network, not a narrow sales funnel
  • Expertise is the key to getting an introduction as this is the easiest ‘currency’ to trade in
  • Validate the process and your plan of action in your mind before making the ‘ask’ for an introduction
  • Action comes from validation and is not a passive process
  • Next moves after receiving an introduction will be the deciding factor as to whether you will get another one
  • Training is the key to generating this ability: It is an ability that can be practiced and manufactured

Culture & rainmaking – consider your expectation

Reflect on how you developed your connections and your clients in Poland? At that time just how important was the concept of building a network to your client acquisition strategy? It is true that more and more Polish business people embrace the concept of referral marketing and building networks. However some professionals view its role differently when applied to the UK market. It is a matter of perspective in spite of much natural connectivity and common values we Poles have with the British.

The biggest difference for Poles in terms of business development to the British is the concept of goal setting. Look at it this way, it is essentially; ‘how flexible am I ready to be in the new relationship’? In Poland, it might often seem a very single-minded and goal oriented approach is taken when making a first introduction.

Culture & rainmaking – Hofstede

This difference in business behaviour could be linked to a culture dimension identified by Geert Hofstede the Dutch social psychologist. Hofstede is recognised as a pioneering researcher into cross-cultural business models. One of the cultural dimensions he developed is described as uncertainty avoidance and this has to do with; ‘the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known’. The UK and Poland have very different scores in this particular dimension of thinking. When this concept is compared, Poland scores extremely high in this dimension which indicates a high preference for avoiding uncertainty.

‘Countries exhibiting high uncertainty avoidance maintain rigid codes of belief and behaviour and are intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas’

Culture & rainmaking – Poland

The high score could explain why Polish business people might come across, initially, as less flexible in their approach to commercial relationships. In comparison the British score is much lower. What might this mean? In work terms this could result in planning that is not necessarily detail oriented for example. In rainmaking terms it may mean:

  • The initial conversation is very broad
  • No parameters are identified as to what is possible in this relationship
  • It would appear that no major expectation is requested or expected
  • In terms of follow through no commitment is made nor sought
  • There is no indication of the potential future value of this relationship

‘The end goal will be clear but the detail of how we get there light. The actual process fluid and flexible responding to the emerging and changing environment’

Having such a temperament the British can be very flexible in their approach which may initially appear vague without this interpretation.

Our next article will examine the first step of the 8 stage process described as RELEVANT ©.

‘Where business cross-cultural engagement is concerned, token adjustments are not an option’

Author
Kasia Lanucha
Kasia Lanucha
Educated at Technische Universität Dresden. Holding a Certificate in Business Culture Training. Holding a Masters in German & qualifications in French & Polish. Kasia lectures at Cambridge & has an award-winning delivery with technical expertise in the key cross-cultural areas. She says: “Strength lies in differences not where we are similar”
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