United States flag United States: Business Environment

Business Practices in the United States

Opening hours and bank holidays

General Information
Doing Business: U.S.
Commisceo Global, American business culture as per Commisceo Global
Services for business, Global Affairs Canada
Opening Hours and Days
From Monday to Friday, 8:30/9:00 a.m. to 5:00/6:00 p.m.

Public Holidays

New Year's Day 1 January
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday 17 January
President's Day February
Memorial Day May
Independence Day 4 July
Labour Day September
Columbus Day October
Veteran's Day 1 November
Thanksgiving Last Thursday of November
Christmas Day 25 December
Holiday Compensation
Yes (Monday or Friday)

Periods When Companies Usually Close

New Year's Day 1 January
Memorial Day 31 May
Independence Day 4 July
Labour Day 6 September
Thanksgiving 25 November
Christmas Day 25 December

Business culture

The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
American business culture is efficiency-oriented and money-driven. “Time is money” means that no one has time to waste with business opportunities that would not be thoroughly prepared and/or could not demonstrate their return on investment. The culture of the country is also based on the belief that it is hard work that drives success, not  status or age.

Depending on the industry, region or company history, the hierarchy can be vertical or flat. Thus, the respect of hierarchical differences may vary and it is advised to learn the rank and titles of all the members you engage with inside an organisation. Decision-making is often a well-defined process inside the organisation. Final decisions are usually made quickly by a person with chief authority, but anyone is welcome to express their opinion in meetings or during the decision-making process, no matter their age or position in the hierarchy.

In general, it is not necessary to develop a personal relationship to establish a lasting and successful business relationship. Americans are generally more interested in your product, service or project, expected payoffs as well as quality of the business collaboration, rather than trying to create a personal relationship.

First Contact

Americans are used to communicating by email and then engage with other forms of more direct communication, such as Skype or conference calls. Emails are expected to be short and straight to the point in order to be quick to read, direct, clear and efficient.

Time Management
Punctuality and time management is a fundamental value in US business culture, both in terms of time to start the meeting / call and time to terminate it. Tardiness may reflect disrespect and rudeness. In situations where you know you will be late, even by a few minutes, you should tell your American partner about your delay and offer to postpone the meeting.

Meeting agendas are common, timed in advance, and usually followed quite carefully. Organise yourself to address all the topics of a meeting within the timeframe assigned to it, or you take the risk that your agenda will only be partially covered, as your counterparts will move to their next commitments when the time planned for the meeting finishes.

Greetings and Titles
You should give a firm handshake, with direct eye contact and a smile, but respect 2 or 3 feet distance from your partner; do not hug or kiss.

When meeting someone for the first time, it is advised to address your business partners with a title, such as “Dr”, “Ms”, “Ms” or “Mrs” and their last name. The use of first names is common to address counterparts in business meetings, but it is recommended to wait for your American counterparts to do it first or to invite you to do so.

Gift Policy
Because of anti-bribery policies, it is advised not to offer gifts to your U.S. partners. Cash gifts are clearly inappropriate and, in some US companies, it is stated in the contracts or in the internal policies that employees should not be offered any form of gifts. Even paying for your U.S. counterpart’s lunch could be considered inappropriate.
Dress Code
Appropriate dress usually depends on region, industry, position, company culture, client facing vs. back-office etc. Senior managers and clients facing workers tend to dress formally at all times (e.g. banking, consulting, sales, lawyers, etc.). In general IT companies do not impose a formal dress code.
Business Cards
There is no specific protocol for the exchange of business cards. It can be done either during introductions, at the beginning of the meeting or when leaving. Most business people now show their position and details in the signature of their email messages template, so business cards tend to be less and less needed. Another medium of communication is increasingly used: LinkedIn. It is replacing business cards as the go-to way to meet contacts and pass on details.
Meetings Management
During discussions, it is common to have small talk on a light subject before talking business to create a comfortable environment: weather, travel conditions, sports, a joke, etc. After this short introduction, most Americans start the meeting by getting directly to the point, even when expressing disagreement, and can very well start negotiations by clearly stating their position from the beginning.

During presentations, it is advised to use statistics, evidence and hard data to back up your claims. It is essential to be direct, clear, transparent and open about all matters. Do not be overwhelmed if your American partners impose harsh negotiation terms in order to obtain greater negotiation margins.

Interaction, participation and concentration are important to prove your preparation and interest. Americans are rather uncomfortable with silence, which is usually avoided in business meetings. The use of humour is appreciated and well received, since it facilitates openness in business relations. It is not polite to interrupt someone talking. When the meeting is not scheduled around a meal, snacks are common. 
Business meetings that include lunch or dinner are not very common. However if a meeting is conducted in such a context, the business conversation usually begins almost immediately or as soon as everyone has ordered their food.

Sources for Further Information
PGi Country Navigator - American business etiquette Globig - American business etiquette

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Latest Update: July 2024