In this digitalized world, the advent of technologies has substantially reduced the barriers of conducting international business. So one could wonder: what is the purpose of business visits and are they necessary?
People keep in touch with their international business partners through laborious emails, and maybe a call once in a while. Also, through search engines people can access information about a plethora of different topics. Video sharing sites such as YouTube also can be utilised to access information, and can even offer its userscultural insights about people, countries and organization.
Considering the above, what can a delegation from Baringo, Kenya, find out about Denmark during a three days business trip? After following them around the country, we have some insights to share.
1. The social cues between people
Technology has evolved tremendously and the multitude of communication tools has helped bring people together, beyond the physical boundaries. However, such an environment lacks the richness of face-to-face communication, while trust can hardly be the outcome of a Skype call. When we asked the Kenyan delegation “why did you come to Denmark from all countries?” The unanimous answer about it was: “because of the Quercus Group office in Kenya and the connection we established.”
2. The cultural encounter
We have all stumbled upon Hofstede’s writings on culture by now. Moreover, we are predisposed to have our own fixed impression about how a country should be and what we will encounter there. Hence it is important to keep in mind that culture is also a consequence of our own perception of the reality - the individual lens we use when we look around. Two values that are embedded into Danish culture are trust and equality. Our Kenyan friends confirmed this perception of Denmark
“Trust was something we saw at work – you leave something outside the store and you find it there, it is not that in Kenya”
“ People are equal, everyone is biking and the public transport is very good, in our country the more money you have, the bigger the car”
3. Avoid taking things for granted
By exposing ourselves to the other business partner’s reality, we gain a better perspective of their environment, we challenge assumptions and this leads to a greater mutual understanding. The Quercus Group office in Kenya and the international projects that have been developed so far allow us to talk from experience and furthermore, to appreciate what each country has to offer. For example, is it strategic to utilise Denmark’s expertise with wind energy in a country like Kenya, which is rich in sun and could make a better use of solar energy?
One example of something taken for granted in business is language. Globally 2 billion people speak English and given Denmark’s high level of English proficiency, it can be a skill that is easily overlooked in importance. However, one of our Kenyan friends said out loud: “a big plus for the use of English language everywhere in Denmark. We did not know what to expect about that, but it is very good for business, compared to other western countries we visited”
Denmark’s multicultural vibe was also appreciated: “People focused on business not on nationality, we could blend in the business environment”.
There are a myriad of online reports which detail the core competencies of different countries. However, each individual has his own benchmarking and perception of reality which most reports do not consider:
“It was surprising to find so high standards for everything, especially in technology and quality. It is an indication that we are in the right place for business. Denmark is about quality”
“All the processes, from the preparation about Kenya to our Danish experience, we were extremely impressed by the professionalism of people we came in contact with”
“Mesmerized by the technology, it is a good model to follow. Also, we were inspired by the high standards and we understood the importance of legislation in this. For example, in Kenya one might not drink milk directly from the cow, but here we did it since the standards are very high”
If this article makes you wonder about the Baringo County Delegation visit to Denmark, stay tuned as there will two more articles with insights on their agenda and details about concrete business opportunities in Baringo.