Business etiquette focuses on the behaviour deemed appropriate in a professional setting and you’ll be more likely to make an excellent impression on people you encounter if you maintain a professional approach.
Attitudes and values are the foundations that drive behaviour and that gives us clues to people‘s thought patterns and what they consider important. Understanding these little details could be the difference between a successful business partnership and a failure.
Basic tips to follow when doing business in the Czech Republic
- Greetings should include a firm handshake and direct eye contact, a weak handshake means that you are weak and no direct eye contact can be taken to mean that you are hiding something.
- Remain standing until you are invited to sit down as there might be a seat reserved specifically for you.
- Business appointments are mandatory and should be made in advance.
- Punctuality for meetings is taken extremely seriously.
- Business is hierarchical with decision-making power held at the top of the company.
- Initial meetings are scheduled as introductions to get to know each other and to build trust with your Czech associates. The first meeting may be with a middle manager, rather than the actual decision maker. Expect some small talk and getting-to-know-you conversation before business is discussed.
- Do not try to schedule meetings on Friday afternoon, as many Czechs leave for their country cottages after lunch, or during August, when many businesses are closed.
- Czechs are non-confrontational and often take an indirect approach to business dealings. In negotiation, Czechs generally offer what they expect to get and do not often give counter-offers.
- Business is conducted slowly. You will have to be patient and not appear ruffled by the strict adherence to protocol.
- Maintain direct eye contact while speaking.
- Do not remove your suit jacket unless the highest-ranking Czech does so first.
- Presentations should be simple, accurate and detailed and, if necessary, you should have charts and figures to back up your claims.
- Letters should be addressed to the company rather than to a specific person. This prevents a letter from being held up, if the person it is addressed to is away from the office.
- Gifts are usually opened immediately after they have been received.
- When dining, always refuse second helpings the first time they are offered. Wait for your host or hostess to insist and then accept graciously.
Corporate social responsibility
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns into their business operations and their interaction with stakeholders including employees, consumers, shareholders, investors, public authorities, non-governmental organizations and their suppliers, on a voluntary basis.
- http://www.mpsv.cz/en/3894 (Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs)
Punctuality is important because arriving late for a business meeting does not paint a good picture of you. Czech business society is becoming more tolerant, but only to a certain extent; 15 minutes is an acceptable delay, but we recommend being prompt.
Most business people do not expect presents at the first meeting, but small gifts such as a souvenir of the visiting business partner’s country are acceptable. Equivalents from the Czech Republic would be Becherovka herbal liqueur, Czech crystal, bijouterie, hand painted Christmas decorations, wooden toys and beer.
Expensive presents are not recommended and most companies have a ceiling on the value of gifts that can be accepted. If the value of a gift is higher than the ceiling, it must be reported to senior management or rejected.
If you are invited to your host’s home for dinner and wish to make a gift of flowers, you should avoid giving calla lilies, because they are associated with funerals.
Business dress code
In the Czech business community your appearance is important. Therefore, you should choose conservative business attire and avoid bright colours when attending a business meeting, if you want to be taken seriously. Cleanliness and tidiness are a must. During normal office hours, the dress code can be less formal (shirt, trousers and jacket). For men, a dark coloured suit or jacket and trousers with tie is appropriate business wear, and women should wear something similarly formal and avoid anything that might be deemed provocative. Female managers prefer to wear suits. There is a saying that the way you dress shows your respect for your business partner.
Large organisations set a dress code for their employees. In small and medium-sized companies, there are no dress codes (unless employees have to wear uniforms). So, people tend to wear business casual attire, unless they are expected to attend an important meeting.
Bribery and corruption
Bribery and corruption is not acceptable but it is still prevalent in the global business environment. Both Czech and foreign business people use bribery as a tool to secure business contracts or to cut through bureaucratic red tape, when trying to get government contracts or even start a new business. Such bribery is publicly denied by both business and the government, even though it is widely used.
The Czech Republic is 54th in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (2012) with a score of 49, which charts the level of corruption in 176 countries throughout the world.
- http://www.transparency.org/cpi2012/results (Transparency International)