Australia has one of the strongest, most competitive and open economies in the world. On average the Asia-Pacific’s fifth largest economy has grown by about 3.3% per annum since 1990. Inflation rates have been stable in the 6 years from 2012–2017, averaging 1.9% and the current unemployment rate stands at 5.6%. This all contributes to an enviable standard of living, but what about doing business there? Understanding the business culture and landscape is a good place to start.
Australians are famously straightforward in all aspects of life, including business. If an Australian takes exception to something that you say, you’ll soon know. The upshot is swift business dealings. They don’t feel the need to spend a long time building up a relationship before entering into business. This ethos, allied to their receptiveness to new ideas, makes for an excellent climate for your business ideas.
Along with being direct, there’s frequently an element of humor, often self-deprecating, in their speech. You’ll also find Aussies using colorful language that would be unusual in other countries. If you find yourself challenged to a controversial discussion during a business meeting, don’t worry – it is nothing personal. They find debates entertaining and will initiate them by making provocative statements. Your best bet is to respond with humor.
Overselling your company or idea or resorting to applying aggressive sales techniques or the hard sell will not work. Likewise, self-importance should be avoided. Instead, be friendly, modest and to the point. You should present your business case with facts and figures rather than conjecture and hype. Emotions and feelings are not important in the Australian business climate. Should you manage to impress, don’t expect it to be made obvious.
Business meetings are generally relaxed but are still serious events. Give as much lead-time as possible when scheduling, and be punctual when arriving for any meeting. Australians like to get down to business quickly with relatively little small talk. They are direct and expect you to be the same in return. Brevity is appreciated, and too much detail is not appreciated.
Negotiations proceed quickly and bargaining is not customary. Your initial proposal is expected to have only a small margin for negotiation. Decision-making is concentrated with senior management who will consult subordinates. This can make decisions slow and protracted. Do not try to rush this process, your patience will be appreciated. Being direct, you’ll be sure to know where you stand when a decision has been reached.
Rather than letting a horrible situation continue painfully, Australians will often call it out and then move on with a few harmless, tongue-in-cheek jokes. This is particularly useful in awkward situations. This can come across a little harshly to outsiders, but getting things out in the open is seen as preferable to sweeping issues under the carpet.
Australians are known for being warm and friendly with a good sense of humor. Everyone is welcome, and remaining open and courteous is the best path to success. Relationships are important, both in and out of the business environment. Word of mouth is a strong business referral source and a good reputation will see you introduced to many new opportunities very quickly.
Knowledge is power. Just as important as knowing your counterpart is understanding the numbers behind them. Our downloadable PDF contains in-depth insight and analysis to help you make the most of cross-border trading with the world’s thirteenth largest economy.