How do you view time? In a loose, casual way, or in a more precise way? And why does it matter?
If you are participating in a trade show or event in a PRECISE TIME CULTURE, the concept of TIME will play an important role – and introduces differences which you should recognize. If you are from a more relaxed, or LOOSE TIME CULTURE, you may be surprised when your colleagues in the precise time culture are not as flexible as you would like them to be, if they seem frustrated if you do not arrive on time for a meeting, or fail to meet a deadline…
On the time reckoning scale, Americans tend to view themselves as PRECISE in how they measure time. However, many Europeans feel that they are more precise than Americans when it comes to reckoning time, and MUCH more precise than people from Latin America and Africa.
These time perception differences may not create major cultural clashes. However, in a more subtle way, they can impact how a person is perceived, particularly in the business world.
Here are some tips for working with cultures who have a precise reckoning of time:
FLEXIBILITY: Expect people to be less flexible in making changes to plans than they would be in loose cultures, as plans are generally more specific and precise. They spend more time in planning so that the execution / implementation can be done in the most efficient way possible because the perception is that time equals money. They will be less inclined to change once plans have been made and set in motion. If there is a change, it will cost more and create delays.
TIP 1: Expect less flexibility; avoid changes unless absolutely necessary.
PACE: Production work generally moves at a faster pace in these cultures. As a subtle demonstration of their efficiency, local companies often work hard to complete projects as early as possible. They will sometimes arrive early, finish the entire installation, and leave the venue before a client ever arrives on site. This can be problematic, especially if you intend to make any changes or have any unforeseen issues with your exhibit. I recommend that you arrive early for the install, and remain available to resolve any issues that occur.
TIP 2: Think a few steps ahead – and be prepared to answer lots of detailed questions in a short period of time during the planning phases.
TIP 3: Expect significantly more time invested in the planning and preparation phase.
TIP 4: Expect that the focus may be on the transaction of business at hand, and less on the development of the personal side of the relationship.
DEADLINES: People in these cultures generally meet deadlines, as people are often judged more critically on their ability to determine how much time it will take to achieve certain results. Be clear and precise when giving deadlines, not making them arbitrary. You will generally get what you ask for.
TIP 5: Expect to give provide clear and specific deadlines for completion of necessary tasks.
HOURS: In these countries, the number of man-hours (labor) used to install and dismantle is going to be more accurately tracked. Any on-site changes have the potential for additional costs if they require more hours to implement. Local or national labor unions often govern how many hours can be worked in a given day, the type of work performed by certain individuals, and what rates are charged for those hours. Within specific job roles, you won’t find the painter cutting wood and vice versa.
TIP 6: Be prepared to pay extra for additional work requested, when more hours are required, or when changes are made.
TIP 7: Expect to have a wide variety of people involved in projects with very specific areas of expertise.
PUNCTUALITY: People in these cultures will appreciate your prompt arrival for meetings and appointments, as it will be seen as a show of respect for the value of their time. Early morning meetings or breakfast meetings are often appreciated and common.
TIP 8: Plan to arrive early to meetings, and to end the meeting at the given time.
Precise time cultures would include countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, and many others.