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5 Things to Consider When Onboarding International Clients

Having access to international people is a wonderful way to enrich your life as well as others, but have you ever tried to onboard an international client and things just didn’t work out? You couldn’t understand when deadlines were due or there was a lack of communication. The wonderful thing about this world is how different we all are, but sometimes those beautiful differences can cause business nightmares.

In this article, I am going to give you 5 things to consider when onboarding international clients!

1- Strive Towards Effective Communication

I want you to think about this. What do you think effective communication means? What prevents you from effectively communicating? According to the Business Dictionary in 2019, effective communication is, “a two way information sharing process which involves one party sending a message that is easily understood by the receiving party.”

When onboarding international clients, it is important to ensure that whether you are sending or receiving a message, you are being as clear as possible so the other person can understand. Ways to make sure you are working towards effective communication is to be attentive, be attuned to and reflect emotions, request clarification ,and ask probing questions.

2- Understand Cultures Different From Your Own

The wonderful thing about onboarding international clients is that you have the opportunity to learn about other cultures. You can dig deep into understanding values, goals, and beliefs that shape that client.

For example, I consider my culture to be ‘Knoxvillian’. I am from Knoxville, Tennessee in the United States and so I consider myself to be a Knoxvillian. My culture is based around my societal systems and norms, as well as religious and economic factors. However, if you talked to someone from Nashville, Tennessee I bet their culture would be somewhat different than mine.

Take into consideration the cultural differences and understand that there are many areas that may be different. For example, when I lived in London, my Italian friends would always arrive late to dinner. My friend from Spain wouldn’t want to eat dinner until 9:30pm. My American self was always early to things.

So these differences must be understood so that you can continue to build a strong relationship with your international client. There are many awesome books out there to help you with understanding these key differences, however my personal favorite is Erin Myers, The Culture Map. I highly recommend it to understand how different cultures can come together in a business setting.

3- Create an Accepting Environment

So, you understand that different cultures have different working standards, but how do you create an environment that supports this? The first thing is to set rules for communication! One thing I learned while living abroad is that in the UK people take their time off very seriously, whereas in the US a quick response is almost demanded. Since moving back to the US I have started to ensure that I set boundaries for my personal and work life so I have a good balance.

Rule number two is to never judge, but rather to ask for understanding. Never judge a person because they do or think differently. Always ask to understand their way of thinking. Only this way will give you the opportunity to improve communication.

Finally, the Golden Rule- Treat others the way you want to be treated. Before acting or expressing your feelings or opinion, you should think about whether or not your remark can hurt someone’s feelings based on their cultural background.

4- Feel Comfortable Asking for Clarification

One thing that can be difficult for anyone is having the ability to ask questions. My rule of thumb is that I will ask tons of questions so that I fully understand. There is nothing worse than not understanding something, doing the task anyway, spending hours on that task only to learn that it is completely wrong.

Potential ways to avoid this situation when onboarding international clients is to simply ask them, or state it for yourself. “Here is how I would like to receive feedback.” “This is how I will attempt to learn everything I can about the project before moving forward.”

5- Be Willing to Learn and Accept Different Viewpoints

The last thing when onboarding international clients is to be willing to learn and accept different viewpoints. Not everyone is going to have the same tastes as you. Maybe you like to work with bold colors, but your client is more neutral. Maybe you have to further adapt to their needs and understand where they are coming from.

By taking the time to learn about your international client’s culture and you are showing a willingness to work past your differences, a successful project is bound to happen.

“Understanding languages and other cultures builds bridges” - Suzy Kassem

Onboarding international clients can be an exciting time because it means your business is expanding and your opportunities are growing. Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from your success. Have the confidence to talk about your differences to find your common ground.

“The beauty of the world lies with the diversity of its people.” -unknown


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