FLatin Connection: Florida is Ready to go Forward

If you hope to close a deal in China, be prepared to hang out and talk about your kids before you bring up business.

It’s similar in South America, where you should expect to socialize before getting down to shop talk.

And if a Japanese businessman tells you he “might” be able to do something, he’s really telling you “no.”

As the U.S. finds its footing in an ever more competitive global economy, a broader array of American businesspeople are doing business in foreign cultures they do not, frankly, fully understand. And that lack of understanding — at its worst manifested in culturally offensive behavior — can be costly.

“There are trillions of dollars that are left on the table,” said Richard Griffith, director of the Institute for Cross Cultural Management at Florida Tech’s School of Psychology.

Griffith has worked with large U.S. companies, including Melbourne-based Harris Corp., and the U.S. military, to help them better understand foreign cultures.

As representatives of the world’s biggest economy, American business people often betray an elevated sense of importance. But European, Asian and Latin American countries have different ways of doing business. And as those economies grow and more businesses look to get a piece of the action, it’s more important for Americans to improve how they communicate with them.

“We’re still the most productive (economy) in the world,” he said. “What we’ve got to learn is how does the rest of the world approach leadership?”

Florida leads way

Trade with foreign companies will play a huge role in the growth of Brevard’s post-shuttle, post-recession economy. Knowing how to succeed in global business will ultimately be critical to bringing jobs to the Space Coast, experts agree.

Already, the Sunshine State is a leader in international commerce.

Florida has the highest trade surplus among all U.S. states, and international business sustains nearly one in six jobs in the state, creating a sixth of the Florida’s economic output. With an expected increase in exports of 17 percent this year, Florida is on track to double exports by the end of 2014, according to Enterprise Florida.

Here are Florida’s biggest trading partners. The country is followed by the 2011 total value of its imports and exports, in billions of dollars. 
Brazil, $18.5; Colombia, $9; China, $8.2: Venezuela, $7.9; Switzerland, $7.9; Chile, $6.8; Japan, $6.3; Costa Rica, $5.7; Dominican Republic, $5.5; and Mexico, $5.3.  ( Enterprise Florida/Excerpts/Peterson/FloridaToday)
Florida Latin Connection/ Varona 

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