As the world has become more connected globally, many commercial real estate organizations have connected with international partners for development and management projects overseas. Working with any client or partner takes preparation, but there are some different considerations when working with professionals from another culture. It is important to take those extra steps to provide comfort and respect to fellow professionals from across the world.
The role of research in working with international partners or clients is not singular. There is practical research for travel, such as learning more about the offices and hotels one may visit on a business trip. There is also research on the culture and practices of people in another country. Dara Nicholson, director of property management for Jamestown, said that learning a different country’s attitude and practices concerning work will prevent misunderstandings and unintentional signs of disrespect.
“I also research best practices in different locals, and when something comes up that is not perfectly clear to me, I follow up and ask additional questions,” Nicholson said.
It is also important for professionals to make sure they are familiar with physical locations in the partner country as well. If there is a meeting or business to be done in the other country, professionals should not waste time or risk being late by not knowing the transportation system, the distance between hotels and offices, or different obstacles between locations. Dena Rodrigues, vice president of property services with Daniel, said that putting in the extra effort is important for growing the business relationship.
“Be kind, be resourceful, and like any ownership reporting, go above and beyond the call of duty, to be helpful,” Rodrigues said. “Regardless if it is on the asset you work on with the owner or if they are asking you about another investment of theirs that you don’t lease or manage.”
Working with owners in another country may have unique challenges but the fundamentals are the same. Rodrigues said that it is important to continuously keep the owner’s needs in mind and communicate that to the team no matter where they are.
“Like any owner in commercial real estate, understand the owner’s goals and objectives. Why did they buy the property? What is their investment strategy?” Rodrigues said. “If you understand the owner’s goals and objectives the more likely you are to successfully achieve their goals.”
While many commercial real estate professionals across the world speak English, this is not always the case, nor should it be assumed. It is not expected that either side is required to learn an entire language to communicate, so if professionals find themselves in this situation, there are a few considerations to be made, especially if they are the guest in an international partner’s home country.
“The international owner may not be familiar with conducting business in the United States, or conducting business in a particular market, and may require more information,” Rodrigues said. “Be prepared that the owner may ask a lot more questions than the typical property owner.”
Ask for a translator if needed. Getting details or phrases missed may lead to misunderstandings or important facts getting lost. A professional translator is key for navigating a business meeting in a country where you do not know the language. Nicholson employs this and other strategies when traveling overseas for work.
“While I knew almost everyone I would work with spoke English, I did spend time preparing for the trip by learning key phrases and commonly used words,” Nicholson said. “I also researched all of the transportation options that would be available to me, and was able to get a firm understanding of what their work culture is like on a day-to-day basis.”
The beauty of working with international clients and partners is that knowledge can be shared and gained from both parties. Take advantage of the opportunity. It can be a great way to see how a different system works in action and how different parts may be employed in your organization. Nicholson said her team benefits greatly from their international work.
“Working with international partners and my counterparts in the Netherlands and Germany has been helpful to me and my team as we look for new and creative ways to innovate our approach to property management,” Nicholson said.
It is also important to perform self-reflection and rid yourself of stereotypes, racially insensitive notions, or words prior to engaging with an international partner or client. These things can be damaging to a professional relationship and the reputation of an individual.
Show respect to your fellow professionals by researching their culture, asking questions, and actively working towards mutual understanding.
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