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 very important in trying to develop a business relationship between two cultures or countries. Slovaks are well known for their professionalism and level-headedness in business. They are friendly, but reserved, and it will take a few visits to get to know you before they can really feel comfortable with you.
Basic tips to follow when doing business in the Slovak Republic
- Greetings should include a firm handshake and direct eye contact; a weak handshake means that you are weak and no direct eye contact could be taken to mean that you are hiding something.
- Remain standing after greeting until invited to sit down as there might be a seat reserved specifically for you.
- Do not give chrysanthemums or calla lilies as gifts because these are traditional funeral flowers.
- Gifts are usually opened immediately after they have been received.
- Business appointments are mandatory and should be made in advance.
- Punctuality for meetings is taken extremely seriously.
- Initial meetings are scheduled as introductions to get to know each other and to build trust with your Slovak 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.
- Slovaks are non-confrontational and often take an indirect approach to business dealings.
- Business is conducted slowly, so you will have to be patient and not appear ruffled by the strict adherence to protocol.
- Business is hierarchical and decision-making power is held at the top of the company.
- Do not try to schedule meetings on Friday afternoons, as many Slovaks leave for their cottages in the countryside after lunch.
- Many businesses close or operate with only minimal numbers of staff during August.
- Maintain direct eye contact while speaking.
- Presentations should be simple, accurate and detailed and, where necessary, you should have charts and figures to back up your claims.
Corporate social responsibility
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a relatively new concept in the Slovak business community and the government is trying to establish a partnership between companies, stakeholders and the government to integrate social and environmental concerns into their business operations on a voluntary basis. A project was launched in 2011 with the cooperation of partners including the United Nations Development Programme, local universities and other stakeholders. It will also produce a government paper that will outline the National Strategy of support for CSR and provide monitoring and evaluation of CSR in Slovak businesses.
- http://www.reportingcsr.org/_slovakia-p-223.html (Reporting CSR)
- http://spectator.sme.sk/articles/view/42874/31/building_better_csr_with_government_help.html (Spectator)
Punctuality is important because arriving late for a business meeting does not paint a good picture of the individual. The Slovak business community is very punctual and people don’t like to be kept waiting for a meeting. A 15 minute grace period is normal in social settings, but might well be frowned upon in a formal business environment where punctuality is expected.
Most business people do not expect to be given gifts at a first meeting. However, something small, a souvenir representing the business partner’s country would be acceptable, such as a book about the visitor’s home country, bottle of alcohol or corporate gift.
Expensive presents are not recommended and could prove to be counterproductive as most companies have a ceiling on the value of gifts that can be accepted.
Business dress code
In the Slovak business community, your appearance gives the first impression about you. Cleanliness and tidiness are a must and you should dress in a professional and conservative manner, paying attention to the time and place of the occasion. For men, a dark coloured suit or jacket and trousers with tie is appropriate and woman managers like to wear suits. Your choice of attire should demonstrate individual style and taste, but you should avoid bright colours if you want to be taken seriously; woman should also take care to avoid provocative clothes.
There is a saying that the way you dress shows your respect for the business partner.
Large organisations set a dress code policy for their employees, through which they are able to show respect for their business partners, customers and the general public.
In small and medium sized companies, there are usually no specific dress code policies, except where employees have to wear uniforms, and the style is more business casual. This is unless there is an important meeting or special occasion, where everyone is expected to dress more formally.
Bribery and corruption
The Slovak Republic has the same problems as the rest of the eastern and central European countries when it comes to corruption. Both foreign and local business people use bribery as a business tool to secure business contracts or to cut through red tape when trying to start a new business.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (2012) shows that the Slovak Republic is currently in 62nd place, with a CPI score of 46.
http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2012/results/ (Transparency Int.)