Meeting etiquette

Slovenia-flag-140Business meetings in Slovenia

Slovenians takes business meeting very seriously and they prepare it carefully. They are expecting the partner to be prepared to present the products, services and the proposal, and to be able to answer to additional questions.

The first meeting is dedicated to know each other and even if a strict agenda is not necessary the objectives should be clearly stated.

Importance of business meetings

Hierarchy is an essential part of the Slovenian business community and a person’s level of education and experience is important for their status and career progression. People are accorded respect for their title and position within the company hierarchy. Slovenian managers are used to a western style of management and doing business.

During a first meeting, it is traditional for Slovenians to exchange business cards. You should ensure that your card includes your academic titles and position at work to properly introduce yourself.

Usually, a first meeting will not follow a set agenda, but will be used as a general introduction, so that both parties can get to know each other and establish whether there is enough potential for useful collaboration.

It generally takes a number of meetings before an agreement can be reached, as most Slovenian companies are hierarchic and it is senior management that makes the major decisions. Decision-making power is rarely delegated to someone below senior management and family-owned companies are the fastest growing type of enterprise.

Business meeting planning

When proposing a meeting, it is important to offer several dates for your Slovenian partner to be able to choose from, to include your reasons for requesting the meeting and to state who you would like to participate in the meeting. The months of July and August should be avoided, as this is when most Slovenians take their summer holidays and companies may be closed or operating with reduced staffing levels. If you are looking for a quick decision, it is advisable to include key decision makers in your invitation and ensure that someone of equal status will be representing your company in the meeting. It is expected that you will be able to provide a list of your company representatives, including their job titles and a brief bio of each person, to allow the Slovenian company to invite appropriate attendees.

Where possible, try to get a written confirmation of the exact time and place of the meeting, along with a list of the Slovenian representatives.

The best time for a business meeting is between 9am and 12pm, because lunch is normally taken between 12pm and 3pm. Slovenians may alternatively have a ‘late lunch’ between 3pm and 5pm. The meeting host is normally responsible for reservation of the venue, including the arrangement of any equipment, facilities and refreshments that may be required.

It is good to agree on the language of the meeting beforehand and, if necessary, arrange with the host to have an interpreter present. If you will be using an interpreter, it is useful to provide them with copies of the presentation and supporting documentation in advance, so that can become familiar with the subject matter.

For most business meetings, it is helpful to bring marketing materials, product samples and supporting documentation to leave with your host.

In Slovenia, business is heavily regulated and businesses are required to have, some how, local government authorisation for every major decision and contract agreement. Foreign companies often find it essential to employ a Slovenian in a management position, even though the network of local agents, advisers, consultants and lawyers willing to act for foreign companies is well-developed.

Negotiation process

Negotiation in Slovenia is a bit of a give and take. To obtain a win-win situation, show the Slovenians their personal and corporate benefits, for the deal to have great chances of success.

When negotiating, senior managers from the older generation usually like to take their time before coming to a decision. Moreover, they dislike being rushed and resent aggressive negotiating behaviour; they also tend to prefer to talk to someone in their own age group. Though not emotionally attached, they will endeavour to create a friendly atmosphere and try to be humorous.

Managers from the younger generation are more westernised, as many have studied for their postgraduate degree in Western Europe or America, and their negotiating style will be more American than Slovenian.

When making a presentation, it is important to ensure that all the research has been done to provide a valid and convincing argument that will give good reasons to gain the Slovenians’ involvement. A key issue will be the benefits of the partnership to the host company. To substantiate their reputation, the Slovenians will present a list of references from their business partners and will expect you to reciprocate with references from your own partners, where possible.

Negotiation with the public sector usually takes longer than with the private sector and other key factors in concluding business deals are product or service quality and the flexibility to negotiate on price.

Once a verbal agreement has been reached, the Slovenians will expect a written contract to be drawn up with the terms and conditions detailed in full, to make the agreement official.

Meeting protocol

When greeting your business partners, you should maintain direct eye contact, give a firm handshake and state your name clearly, before offering your business card face up. Direct eye contact and smiling are important to convey sincerity and trustworthiness. It is customary to shake hands with all the participants on arrival and at the end of a meeting, greeting the women first and then the men.

Because Slovenians do not have a close contact culture, it is good to remember to keep a moderate interpersonal distance (1 to 1.5m) and avoid excessively familiar gestures like hugging, kissing or slapping on the back.

When you are being introduced, you should address people with their formal titles and family names, showing an appreciation and respect for their status. The level of formality should be very high at first and you should wait for your partner to propose any informal terms or invite you to address them by their first name. Being on first name terms is an indication that the business relationship has developed to a more familiar level.

How to run a business meeting

For Slovenians, it is important to establish a personal relationship before discussing business. The person chairing the meeting will almost certainly be the most senior representative of the Slovenian company and they will set the pace of the meeting and the overall negotiation. During these meetings, coffee, juice and sometimes a sandwich or buffet will be provided.

If you are invited to dinner or drinks for the evening after a meeting, you should accept. Social occasions are used to establish personal relationships and will help create a better foundation for developing business relations.

Follow up letter after meeting with client

The host usually prepares the minutes of the meeting, which should summarise the main points of the discussion, present the overall conclusions and provide a detailed list of action items and dates by which they should be completed. The minutes will normally be circulated within a few days of the meeting, giving the meeting participants the opportunity to comment and allow for any modifications, before a formal agreement is written up.

If it has been agreed to continue with the partnership, a timetable showing the responsibilities of both business partners will be formulated, including fixed deadlines, dates and places of future meetings etc.

If any of the partners do not consider their future cooperation to be beneficial, they are free to withdraw from negotiations at this early stage without reservation.

Regardless of how successful a meeting has been, it is good to write to your hosts, thanking them for their time and effort.

Business meals

Socialising and hospitality make significant contributions to good business relations in Slovenia. Slovenians enjoy business meals; for them, meals are an opportunity to discuss subjects in a more relaxed atmosphere and get to know their partners and colleagues on a more personal level. Given that Slovenians prefer to discuss business with a person they know, decisions may be made during social occasions as easily as in an office environment.

Although a meeting to finalise the details of business negotiations usually takes place in the more formal setting of the company office.

The dress code for lunch and dinner is typically formal, for both men and women.

Business meetings tips

Slovenian hosts expect their partners to come prepared and confident, without any preconceptions and behave in a modest fashion. Any opinions should be presented, but not forced, so as to give the Slovenian representatives enough opportunity to express their own ideas and ways of looking at things. Equality, respect and openness are essential at the negotiation table.

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