A poor handshake or ordering a hamburger for lunch could prove a costly mistake in international business.
Many foreign cultures don't appreciate a firm grip during an introduction and are insulted by people eating with their hands, Elaine Clark Smith told a group of international business students at Augusta State University on Tuesday.
Ms. Clark Smith, an Augusta business consultant, is one of several area professionals sharing valuable expertise with ASU business students during the school's Visiting Executives Week.
Each year, more than two dozen area executives are invited to share experiences and to provide insight into the business world. Invited executives this year include Jeff Spears, the local area president for Wachovia Bank; Tom Kelly, the chief financial officer for MCG Health Inc.; and Pat Harris, a vice president at Augusta Sportswear.
"The purpose is to help students with career direction and development," said Mary Lisko, the director of undergraduate studies in the College of Business Administration. "It helps some of them get reassurance if they don't know what they want to do after school."
Ms. Clark Smith said that when she graduated from Augusta College, which became ASU, she planned to pursue a career in fashion design or modeling. She ended up creating her own consulting firm and then working for the World Trade Center in New York marketing the office buildings to international companies.
She used her time with students of Don Howard's international business class to teach the importance of corporate etiquette and dealing with other cultures.
"You have no idea how many deals were screwed up because of one wrong word or one wrong gesture," she said.
Kelley Edwards, a sophomore business management student, said she still isn't sure what kind of business she wants to go into but said Ms. Clark Smith's presentation was helpful.
"She really motivated me," Ms. Edwards said, referring to Ms. Clark Smith's rise to a manager at one of history's best-known buildings. "There's no limit or caps on what you can do, and that's wonderful.
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Here are some of the tips Elaine Clark Smith shared with students at Augusta State University on Tuesday.
- Be sure to make eye contact when shaking hands.
- Always hand people your business card facing them, so they can read it as they accept it.
- Place business cards on the table in front of you during meetings to keep track of names.
- At business dinners or lunches, put your napkin on your lap and order something that requires a fork or spoon.
- Know at least one thing about the culture and language.
- Research a company before meeting with its representatives.
- Even if you speak another language, use a translator. "If anything gets lost in translation, it can be detrimental to the deal."