Do’s & don’ts for US business: the unwritten rules

Presentazione tenuta il 4 novembre 2015 a Novedge per Italiani di Frontiera Silicon Valley Tour 2015, guidati da Roberto Bonzio.

Rule #1

Be on time!

If you can’t handle traffic, then you probably will not be that good at handling unexpected business events.
Rule #2

Do your own homework
before the meeting

Try to know as much as possible about people and companies you are going to meet
Rule #3

Always have a
business card

Even in a very high-tech context, sharing business cards is a very important ritual
Rule #4

Go into every business meeting
with a clear plan

Mental bullet points, objectives, constraints
Rule #5

If you hold different titles or roles
be clear which hat are you wearing
for that meeting

People need to know who is on the other side of the table
Rule #6

If you need somebody’s opinion or help
be specific, ask questions,
then listen to the answer

Most of the time there is no point in stating that you hold a different opinion.
Rule #7

Never claim
you are doing it only for passion

This is America. The only goal of a business or of a businessman is money!
Rule #8

Don’t interrupt
when people are talking,
don’t talk over

Doesn’t matter if that is acceptable in Italy, in US it isn’t
Rule #9

Don’t downplay your achievements
and accomplishments,
but please, no BS

Americans always emphasize tahir accomplishments and they expect you to do the same. Americans don’t understand false modesty.
Rule #10

Always reply to business emails
within 24 hours.
If you can’t reply right away,
acknowledge receipt,
then follow up with a complete answer

This is the golden rule. If you break this rule you are out!
Rule #11

Business dinners or drinks:
it may look like a social occasion
but it’s still business!

You are not there to eat or drink, you are there to do business
Rule #12

In a business meeting
nobody around you
is your buddy

Be friendly but don’t play like you are a buddy. People will think you don’t know what you are doing.
Rule #13

Nobody owes you anything!

You can get a lot from people, but you must be nice to them. Ask politely and don’t be pushy.
Rule #14

Always be aware that you are dealing
with a different culture and playing
with different rules

Don’t make assumptions, your assumptions could be dangerously wrong
Rule #15

Americans have a concept of
“Personal Space”
different than Italians

Body contact is off-limits (unless you receive from the other person a strong and clear signal)
Rule #16

Don’t confuse
“Thinking out of the Box”
“Breaking the Law”

Americans love to play by the rules and are very suspicious of anybody shows a different attitude.
Rule #17

You can be critical about your country,
but don’t be negative.
Americans are patriotic and they expect
everybody else to be patriotic

It is not cool to say bad things about your own country.
Rule #18

If somebody offers you a favor or a deal
that doesn’t match your needs,
thank them and politely but clearly
state that your objective is different

In Italy you can signal your lack of enthusiasm in many nonverbal ways. In US you probably don’t have the understanding of the culture to send a similarly clear nonverbal message.
Rule #19

Be prepared for small talk,
but keep it to a minimum

Small talk is part of the protocol. Do not overdo it.
Rule #20

Never, ever make a joke
if there is even a small possibility that
it could be interpreted
as an ethnic, racial,
sexual, or religious reference

Americans can be extremely sensible to bad jokes. Californians everybody, except very-close friends, to be always politically correct.
Rule #21

If you have bad news to share,
be nice, but explicit!
Don’t bury your head in the sand waiting for the bad news to disappear.

If you change your mind about a project or a hiring tell the other part ASAP.
Rule #22


Followup emails, meeting, conversations

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