How to Bridge Cultural Differences in the Tire Industry

In a global marketplace, tire business success depends on your ability to bridge cultural differences.  If you are not fluent in the native tongue of the country where you are transacting tire business, then language is an obvious communication barrier, but misunderstanding the culture can also lead to lost tire business opportunities.  

To bridge cultural differences, you have to acknowledge that there are variations in global work styles and tire business behaviors. Then you can work to understand and navigate those differences. Whether you are growing your tire business internationally by sending employees abroad or increasing the diversity of your workforce at home, your ability to adapt to global work styles and tire business behaviors of other cultures affects your bottom line.  

Recently, RW3, a global training organization conducted a study of 1,362 business professionals at organizations with a presence in multiple countries. They found that companies which fostered intercultural savvy were more likely to achieve their business goals.

Andy Molinsky, the author of Global Dexterity, provides a helpful framework to consider when approaching people from cultures different from your own.  Think about the directness of communication style, enthusiasm, formality, assertiveness, self-promotion, and personal expressiveness.  Molinsky filtered American, Brazilian, and Mexican business cultures through his lens. I’m going to summarize a few of his findings to familiarize you with the framework, but since these are generalizations, your specific situation may vary. 

How the American Business Culture Communicates

Molinsky observed that Americans generally value straightforward communication, with men typically communicating more directly than women. In business settings, Americans expect directness to be delivered with tact. Honesty should not mean brutality.  

Americans appreciate enthusiasm, and it is acceptable to demonstrate zeal in business settings, like when you are interviewing for a job. Assertiveness refers to the degree to which it is acceptable to confidently advocate for your interests or opinions.  As members of an individualistic society, Americans highly value confidence and assertiveness. They are comfortable with self-promotion, especially in business contexts, where people are used to having to “sell” themselves. Don’t forget the fine line between self-promotion and boasting, though, because braggadocio is still a turn-off.  

Americans tend to be more informal in their dress and behavior in tire business settings, though some situations call for greater formality. For example, job interviews call for more formal behavior and dress. Personal expressiveness refers to acceptable levels of self-disclosure, and Americans are comfortable sharing personal information and expressing personal opinions in work settings.  The United States is one of the only countries in the world where it is acceptable to share personal information with perfect strangers in passing conversation, though some subjects remain taboo, like religion, politics, and salary.

How the Mexican Business Culture Communicates

According to Molinsky, compared to Americans’ high level of directness, the Mexican style of business communication is more indirect, formal, and polite.  It reflects the high priority that Mexicans give to “saving face” and preserving group harmony. Instead of openly disagreeing with another’s point of view, consider saying “That’s an interesting point, but what do you think about…” Mexicans are also reluctant to deliver bad news directly in a business setting.  

The directness in communication among Mexicans differs depending on the dynamics of power in the relationship, and Mexican bosses will address subordinates with a high level of directness. It is generally acceptable for Mexicans to express enthusiasm in business settings, within limits. Too much enthusiasm is perceived as kissing up to the boss.  Employment relationships tend to be hierarchical, with Mexican subordinates acting extremely unassertive with their bosses, but comfortably voicing opinions among peers.

Self-promotion in the form of emphasizing the accomplishments of your team is acceptable between family and friends, but “selling yourself” to strangers at a networking event is rare.  It is very important to avoid the appearance of attempting to outdo your boss.

Mexicans are relatively more formal in their dress and communication in tire business settings. They also use the formal “you” (Usted) instead of the informal “tu” when addressing each other and greet people by their titles. With time, these dynamics can relax, and people may treat each other more informally.  With its proximity to the United States, the northern part of Mexico is more informal than the South, and younger generations of Mexicans are more casual than their elders. Mexicans are very comfortable with self-disclosure. Building and maintaining relationships is important in Mexican culture, and conversations between colleagues often entail more than just small talk.

How the Brazillian Business Culture Communicates

Molinsky described Brazilians as open, direct, and forthcoming in communicating, except when sharing negative feedback.  In such instances, they use a more indirect approach. They are also more indirect when communicating with authority figures.  More so than in other cultures, Brazilians take cues about the directness of their communication from the culture of their company or organization.  

It is acceptable for Brazilians to express emotions in tire business settings. Though Brazilians in the South of the country are more reserved, even they would rate high for expressiveness on a global scale.  Brazilians are comfortable asserting their opinions in public settings but tend to avoid conflict and act more reserved when interpersonal relationships are at stake. Brazilians score low on self-promotion and tend to be humble.  They are generally informal at work, calling each other by names or nicknames, even their bosses.

Decision-making is still a formal process that comes from the top. Brazilians scored highly on personal disclosure. In fact, it may be considered awkward not to share personal information with coworkers.  It is especially important for foreigners to take time to establish relationships with their colleagues, as this is crucial to doing tire business in that culture.

Bridging the Gap

Now that you see how to use the framework, you can start examining the culture of the country where you are doing tire business and adjust your communication style accordingly.  Be patient with yourself and take a long-term perspective. It takes time to acclimate to a new culture. You will probably make mistakes, but your consistent effort will pay off in the long run, and those results will show in your bottom line.