From the most iconic choclate bar sold all over the world to some of the most luxurious watch brands out there, it's clear to see that the Swiss know how to run successful businesses. So much so that many of its cities, particularly Geneva and Zurich, have become notable business hubs, not just in the country, but around the world too. It makes sense that many would like to do business with the Swiss because of their track record of success. However, how can you assure you'll be successful at it? It's possible that adhering to their business etiquette might work!
Always Follow A Formal & Conservative Dress Code
The first thing you have to learn about the Swiss is that, overall, they're a conservative people. And that applied most in business settings than anywhere else! When it comes to making a good first impression, make sure you're dressed to kiss! For the men, a sharp suit, like the ones seen on Paris Runways
or London tailors
, is your best weapon. As for the women, you have the options of a tailored suit or a modest dress. Remember that Switzerland has a stronghold of the luxury retail industry, this fact alone should let you know how important appearances are to them!
Respect The Hierarchical Structure
No matter how outdated the hierchal structure is, it remains pivotal in the corporate world in Switzerland. In fact, it's arguably the most rigid here than anywhere else. This means that the superior here are 'king,' and they expect to be given priority and utmost respect. Even something as seemingly mundane as greeting the members of a meeting, you're expected to greet the most suprioer figures first. Also, if they have titles, make sure to use them when greeting or conversing. Do note, however, that when referring to women as Frau
(French), and Signora
(Italian), they don't always mean that they're married. In business settings, they connote a woman's importance in the hiearchal structure of the company.
Don’t Expect Spontaneity
While in other business settings, particualrly among startups, spontaneous meetings with no real structure are common, you won't find that often here in Switzerland. Most business here prefer to set their business meetings as organized as can be. If you're tasked to set it up, make sure you let all the guests know of the date & place and prepare a strict agenda. Again, it can't be stressed enough that Swiss businessmen and women are some of the most rigid in the world. They expect everything to be organized, precise, pristine, and well-structured no matter what.
Never Be Late For Anything
While for Moroccans
are known for being late, the Swiss are the complete opposite. When you set a date and time of your meeting, expect them not just arrive on time, but to be there earlier even! And yes, they'll expect you to act the same, most especially if your side planned the meeting in the first place. If you do expect to be late, it's good manners to call around ten minutes beforehand to let everyone know. Most important of all, never, under any circumstances, come in a business meeting late and offer excuses. That'll make your situations worse.
Be Careful With What You Say
It can't be stressed enough how the Swiss are generally conservative, especially in corporate settings. Firstly, avoid talking about personal information such as age, marital status, family matters, and more. You can engage in small talk, yes, but never about these sorts of things. Secondly, the Swiss are known (and in fact, notoriously) to be politically neutral. Discussing politics without just cause and without any relevance to the meeting at hand is a huge no no! And when it comes to cracking jokes, do so lightly. Preferably, without targeting anyone in the meeting, even if they're your close colleagues.
Don't Forget To Give Out Business Cards
If there's one common practice that the Swiss have embraced, it's giving out business cards. In fact, to leave some to the receptionist area when you first go to a company's office. When planning to give out some in a business meeting, make sure you have enough to give everyone, from the highest person in the room down to the lowest subordinate. And since Switzerland has a tone of official languages, it's wise to make some in those said languages. As for what should appear on your business card, the most important is your professional rank.
Although it's common in other countries to give gifts to your clients/colleagues, the rules here in Switzerland are pretty different. Firstly, you're no expect and actually discouraged to give gifts, no matter how small, during your initial meetings. The most appropriate time to give gifts in the Swiss corporate world is when the negotiations are done and the deal is sealed. And in terms of what you give, the less expensive it is, the better. If it costs a lot of money, it can be considered as a form of bribery. The best ideas are a bottle of wine, a box of Swiss chocolate, or any delicacy from your home country.
When doing business with the Swiss, rest assured, there's a good chance for success. However, in order to really ensure that you come out on top, it'd do you well to adhere to the country's business etiquette and do things their way!
Once you seal the deal with your Swiss colleagues/clients, you'll earn enough to finally get a luxury home