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Expats anticipating doing business in Australia are sure to find that the friendly yet professional corporate atmosphere of the country provides exciting opportunities for business dealings. Being predominately a market economy in the throes of embracing internationalisation, Australia has evolved into one of the easiest and most interesting countries in which to do business in the world.
Australia ranked 14th out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business survey for 2020. The country did well in categories like enforcing contracts (6th) and starting a business (7th) but fell short in the ease of trading across borders (106th) and protecting minority investors (57th).
The approach to management in Australia is consultative, pragmatic and strictly non-hierarchical. Those in positions of relative power are accorded respect in virtue of their human and interpersonal qualities, not simply because they happen to be the boss.
In Australia, managers must take care not to appear aloof or out-of-touch with the members of their team – all members are equally important to the collective wellbeing of the group. Everyone is encouraged to air their opinions and ideas regularly. A wonderful feature of the Australian business world is that this egalitarian ethos provides opportunities for colleagues to form close personal bonds with one another.
8.30am or 9.30am to 4.30pm or 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.
The dress code is smart, formal and conservative for men and women.
Gifts are not usually exchanged during business meetings; however, if invited to a colleague's home, it's a good idea to take along some wine, chocolate or flowers.
Female expats looking to do business in Australia will find that women are generally treated as equals. However, while female leadership in high positions does exist, most of these jobs are still occupied by men.
Business culture in Australia
The business culture of Australia claims a bit of a hybrid character, incorporating the trappings of British formality and conservatism, the egalitarian ethos of Scandinavian countries, and the dynamic, innovative approach to business that is generally thought of as American in origin – rounded out, of course, with characteristic South Pacific warmth and friendliness. While individuals need to be smart, punctual and professional at all times, it is equally vital that one is willing to be 'part of the team', and to interact with colleagues in an engaged, interested and respectful manner.
Business etiquette in Australia further reflects the egalitarian ethos. Though it's best to use titles initially, one will almost certainly be told to drop them, at which point first names can be used. Maintain eye contact when speaking to associates, as this is regarded as a sign of forthrightness and trustworthiness – qualities which Australian businesspeople tend to favour over showiness, self-aggrandisement or empty promises.
Do not be surprised to hear colleagues talking bluntly and frankly to one another – try to remember that in Australia, direct communication is valued far more highly than diplomacy. A good general rule for business etiquette in Australia is to always try and 'get along' – the last thing one wants to be considered is a loner or a malcontent.
Business meetings in Australia should be scheduled a week in advance, and then confirmed a few days before they are due to take place. Be punctual, as lateness can be seen as a symptom of flakiness or indifference. Expect a little small talk at the beginning of the meeting. Business meetings in Australia do not generally proceed from a set agenda – rather, they are viewed as open forums, in which ideas are to be debated and discussed. In fact, over-preparing for a meeting can make a person seem pushy – as though they wish to bully others into adopting an opinion on the issue at hand.
Dos and don'ts of business in Australia
Do be honest and forthright – look to really get to know Australian colleagues on a personal level
Do get involved in 'team-building'; egalitarianism is the backbone of the Australian work ethos
Do make an effort to get to know colleagues outside of office hours
Don't try to prove credentials by talking about them – rather, show qualities by working hard
Don't be insulted if colleagues address someone in a blunt or plain-spoken fashion – this is simply the way Australians communicate with one another
Are you an expat living in Australia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Australia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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