How to shift to a digital and global business culture

In my previous article I discussed about how we need to adapt to the new normal. In this article you will read about the important steps to adopt a digital and global business culture.

When working with French entrepreneurs, we always feel some cultural differences that to our mind prevent some companies to truly become digital and global.

1- From Implicit to Explicit Company Culture

When you arrive in the US, one of the most striking differences is how any cultural or social event (such as a date, a birthday party, or a holiday) always has very explicit rituals that everybody knows and decides to follow. Every couple knows what is supposed to happen during a first, second, and third date.

The French culture gives more room to implicit rules where everybody tries to adapt based on the circumstances and interactions (even the word date has no real translation in French!)

Same thing in the corporate world. US companies, even small ones, define the rules of the game early on: their vision, objectives, resources, and processes.

This shared culture empowers employees to autonomously make the right decision as they know what is ultimately good for the company.

This strongly facilitates the implementation of digital and global culture.

On the contrary, company culture can often be implicit in European companies. People will adapt their decisions based on what happens in a physical environment where they can read body language. In these environments, working remotely or digitally becomes a real challenge as people miss most of the information they usually rely on.

2- From Interpersonal to transactional relationships

In continental Europe and especially in Southern Europe, interpersonal relationships are highly valued in the business world. People tend to make business decisions based on interpersonal relationships. They will first want to know who they are dealing with and as a second step if they can solve their problems.

Therefore in Europe, salespeople are selected based on their book of business and the network they can bring to the table. Sales are done one at a time, and face to face meetings are necessary to close deals.

In the US, we tend to see a more transactional approach to do business. Buyers will first want to know if a provider can solve a problem they have and then see if the company is trustworthy. That is why marketing becomes more important in transactional business culture.

3- From Sales to Marketing

As a result of interpersonal relationships, a lot of the sales process relies on the ability of the salesperson to deliver the right message based on specific customer needs. Therefore there is a strong emphasis on the ability of the seller to provide the right type of information at the right time. As a result, each presentation might be different and very often the solution will also be customized to the need of the customer.

In the US, there is a stronger emphasis on marketing. Before selling, we define our value proposition: which pain point are we trying to solve as a company, for which type of customers and why are better than our competitors to solve this problem. In transactional business culture, it becomes easy to start a business relationship with people you don’t know because you were able to reach out to them with the right value proposition.

4- From Opportunistic to Strategic

When your business is done through face to face meetings with people you already had in your network, you tend to focus on a geographical zone for practical reasons. If you want to grow your business, the easiest is then to develop new verticals from telecom to automotive to insurance for instance. Parisians know well that a metro ticket to La Defense can open doors to many Fortune 500 in France!

However, this opportunistic strategy (many verticals, one geography) is not easily scalable. If you want to become global, you should:

  • Focus on one vertical, 
  • Learn how to sell to people that have never heard of you,
  • Scale the same process everywhere in the world

Changing a company’s culture is probably one of the most complicated things to do as an entrepreneur. The best way to do it is to go outside your comfort zone and start working with people with different perspectives and remain open-minded!

If you are ready to take up the challenge, contact us!