International Investment – Doing Business in Italy
It’s not easy and it’s risky to generalize too much about nationalities. After all, the nationalities comprise a variety of people. However, there are some general guidelines that will help you when conducting your business in Italy. If you are able to understand the way the majority of Italians believe (and there are obviously numerous, diverse variations) the more successful your business negotiations be.
In Italy, most international companies are situated in the north. They generally are affluent to the culture of business in the UK as well as the USA. An example is in the speed of response to emails. In business, we are familiar with instant responses up to a day’s waiting. It could happen when you deal with an internationally-savvy Italian business. However, many companies may take several days before responding or even contact you rather than never respond in any way. If you do get an email, it might be written in a formal manner, much like a formal letter. Strangely, many businesses are extremely fond of faxes. In fact, you’ll frequently be asked if you could fax documents instead of emailing them!
The Italian tendencies to be cautious can result in numerous photocopies and faxes from various official documents. Stamping items with different numbers and marks are common. Everyone is scared of making an error on documents (which could cause in being fined by authorities) The rule of thumb is “if in doubt, ask for the originals for everything’. It is true that the Italian reputation for a hefty bureaucracy is well-deserved.
Up Close and Personal
Italians typically prefer to conduct business with those they have a direct relationship with or are friends of people they have met. It’s helpful to make use of your network to discover a common interest. Make sure you contact your contact to set the date and make sure you are present for the introductions. Always discuss in person, it is possible.
Do you remember the old saying that says ‘You cannot judge a book by its cover? However, in Italy, the reverse is the case. It is very important to judge yourself by how you appear and dress. Dress in a conservative way and low-key, flawless, and costly. An Italian can assess the quality of a designer label at fifty feet away. It’s in our blood!
Perhaps you have heard the phrase ‘Una Bella Figura or ‘una brutta figura.’ This is the foundational concept of the Italian method of conducting business. It can be translated as a great (or negative) impression’ but there’s more than this. The typical Italian is known to cut his wrists, rather than cutting the ‘brutta figura’ of someone new to him. But their definition of a “brutta figura” might not be as similar as yours. For example, arriving late is not unusual and not something to be ashamed about. For your Italian host. It is essential to, naturally, be punctual.
The Italian business culture is based on respect and formality. Be prepared to greet each other, make use of the proper titles (and in Italy if you attended university or have a degree of professional knowledge you will have the title of “doctor” or “Ingegneri), and not be overly rushed. While formality and manners are the most important aspects of when attending an Italian business gathering You may be awed by the wild gestures or chatting across the table and even a raised voice. This is not uncommon. The act of expressing yourself even when speaking to an individual is thought to be a sign of a confident personality, confident person. As your business associate grows to know you better, He will become more empathetic and even tactile. All quite normal too!
Don’t be too surprised when it takes a while to come to the issue that you’ve been trying to talk about. It might not be discussed until you’ve enjoyed a delicious lunch and have a post-prandial coffee! Don’t expect to arrive at an answer or make a conclusion in the shortest time. The ability to be patient and build a strong interpersonal relationship is the key for doing work in Italy.