African Business Culture Tips: Part 5 – Courtesy Should be a Line Item
So I had dinner with an African country chief of one of the world’s top 5 most recognised brands. And in the course of conversation he confided in me that his relationship-building efforts in the country are being hampered. He can’t take folks out to lunch and pick up the tab as often as is necessary. Everyone knows that a meal is an important “cuddle factor” in African business.
Great business feuds have in the past been resolved over meals…well, a few. My CEO buddy lamented to me that every time he did this he had to go through a labyrinthine rigmarole of trying to claim back the $35 or so using a ERP process that seemed designed solely to frustrate. Both of us agreed that it would have been so much more the wiser had his superiors in the US simply created a line item in the budget to take care of these things. And normal accounting rules need not be sacrificed.
Discussing this subject, I am reminded of an intriguing case study reported in 2005 by Wharton’s Jivendra Singh and others. A US computer manufacturer asked to rank its processes according to their value in order to decide which ones were safer to offshore promptly highlighted “invoice verification” and “expense reporting”.
Funny that these are also the functions western HQ executives constantly fail to keep an open mind about when dealing with their African managers.