How to do Business the 'British Way'

So, looking at doing business within the UK, we Brits are famous and well known for being very formal. This is no different when it comes to doing business. So here are my hints and tips I've put together when considering doing business in the UK.

1. Communication styles
The British have an interesting mix of communication styles encompassing both understatement and direct communication. Most British are masters of understatement and do not use effusive language. If anything, they have a marked tendency to qualify their statements with such as 'perhaps' or 'it could be'. When communicating with people they see as equal to themselves in rank or class, the British are direct, but modest. If communicating with someone they know well, their style may be more informal, although they will still be reserved. 
 
2. Business meetings
Punctuality is a very British trait. It is especially important in business situations. In most cases, the people you are meeting will be on time. Always call if you will be even 5 minutes later than agreed. If you are kept waiting a few minutes, do not make an issue of it. How meetings are conducted is often determined by the composition of people attending. If everyone is at the same level, there is generally a free flow of ideas and opinions. If there is a senior ranking person in the room, that person will do most of the speaking. In general, meetings will be rather formal and always have a clearly defined purpose, which may include an agenda. There will be a brief amount of small talk before getting down to the business at hand. If you make a presentation, avoid making exaggerated claims. Make certain your presentation and any materials provided appear professional and well thought out. Be prepared to back up your claims with facts and figures. The British rely on facts, rather than emotions, to make decisions. Maintain eye contact and give a few feet of personal space. After a meeting, send a letter summarising what was decided and the next steps to be taken.
 
3. Business Dress
Business attire is conservative. Always dress smart. Even when you are invited to a less formal event, always ensure you are dress smart for example shirt, tie and trousers. It's best to be over dressed for an occasion rather than underdressed. Men should wear a dark colored, conservative business suit. 
Women should wear either a business suit or a conservative dress.
 
4. Greetings
As soon as you are introduced to an associate hold strong eye contact and shake hands with everyone at a meeting upon arrival. Your grip during the handshake should be firm but not too overpowering. 
 
5. Titles
Although the Brits are formal within most areas, this is one of the least formal matters of doing business, only medical doctors and the clergy use their professional or academic titles in business. Most people use the courtesy titles or Mr, Mrs or Miss and their surname. (Mr and Mrs are words in the United Kingdom and do not require a period after them as they are not abbreviations.) If someone has been knighted, they are called 'Sir' followed by their first and surnames or 'Sir' followed simply by their first name. It is best to wait until invited before moving to a first-name basis. People under the age of 35 may make this move more rapidly than older British.
 
6. Business Cards
Ensure you have several business cards with you before you set off to your meeting. Business cards are exchanged at the initial introduction without formal ritual. Once business cards have been exchanged the business card may be put away with only a cursory glance.
 
7. Business Gifts
Business gift giving is not part of the British business culture, therefore it isn't something that is commonly done. However, if you choose to give a gift, make certain it is small and tasteful. An example of good gifts includes desk accessories, a paperweight with your company logo, or a book about your home country. Inviting someone out for a meal can be viewed as a gift.
 
8. Smoking 
Smoking is not allowed (by law) in any office, restaurant or bar, even guests are required to go outside to smoke. Most offices have designated smoking areas outside. Most all day meetings will include breaks during which it is acceptable to have a cigarette in the designated smoking area.
 
I hope this has been helpful to you. If you require any more information on this matter please do not hesitate to get in touch.
 

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By Steve Knowles - More than 25 years in business and practice in the UK means that there is very little that I haven't seen before.  But I also worked on your side of the pond and I have spent too many hours on planes and in airports.  But the years haven't dulled my way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and everyday is a new adventure.

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