August 30, 2016

How to be British and do Business Abroad

Post Brexit Guide to Help you to be British and do Business Abroad

By Charlie Browning, Data and Print Services Manager, Romax

Being successful when contemplating doing business abroad and building relationships with clients or suppliers in other countries can often hinge on how you act, dress and deal with people from different cultures. Larger companies have the advantageous ability to set up satellite offices or companies who can be left to deal with the intricacies of the business culture in the target country.

So what about smaller business?

Well if you’re dealing with other cultures whether at home or abroad you need to know how to deal with people, make strong relationships and quite critically not offending anyone! So I thought I might help by giving you a small insight into what I have learnt at work, on my travels and from a bit of research. Remember everyone is different and I am making broad generalisations about business cultures so it may not be true for everyone.  These points and tips will assist you in developing international business relationships, but are not definitive and are certainly not always true in every situation.

We know all too well about our British image abroad and typical traits of being reserved, breaking the ice by talking about something mundane (like the weather), and queuing, but we also know our annoyances like respecting personal space, not keeping eye contact or being asked personal questions.

First Impressions

Now obviously first impressions count and in my opinion and experience opening a dialogue in your customer’s language can go a long way. A simple greeting (bonjour, konnichiwa or nǐ hǎo!) may well go a long way, if you’re on a major business trip then you could hire an interpreter to help. Being aware of cultural greeting etiquette may also help build your reputation in your client’s eyes, for example perfecting your bow in Japan is an important ritual and expresses degrees of respect, appreciation or apology!

The Germans like to give and receive gifts at the beginning of meetings such as a box of chocolates or even a bottle of wine. Try to wear formal dress but do not go overboard and wear lots of designer names, jewellery and expensive watches, whereas in contrast this is considered the norm in Italy! Giving small gifts in Japan and China is also customary however, it’s not a good idea to open your gift in public.

During your meeting

Allow your host in Japan to offer you a particular seat as there is a strict order in reference to your perceived status.

When in the Middle East, and particularly Arabic countries, it is particularly offensive to show someone the sole of your foot. In many Asian cultures it is frowned upon to brag and take credit for others work, so if in doubt, be honest and let your actions and previous work speak for themselves.

Don’t expect the Chinese to openly disagree with you or sound negative in response to something. Try to listen for words like “maybe” or “possibly” as this may indicate disagreement, and it is good to follow this social convention in return. India has a similar culture where it is considered aggressive to openly disagree with superiors or equals, however if you are the superior then it is ok, but always err on the side of caution.

In contrast Northern Europeans are often more open and direct (but not confrontational) than British people as they value democracy and opinions from the top to the bottom.


You may well be invited to a dinner by your host so be mindful of the local etiquette and be prepared for the cuisine.

While travelling in Japan, I found that it is polite to finish as much rice as you can to respect this labour intensive and valued commodity. Surprisingly while eating Ramen (noodles in soup) it is appropriate to slurp! Seeing groups of businessmen in suits all slurping away at lunch was quite a shock. A well-known HSBC advert alludes to it being impolite to finish the whole meal in China, because it is considered bad manners for the host to not re-fill empty plates.

In many places, it is not always appropriate to talk business over food, though in the United States do not be surprised if this happens.

Parting ways

Don’t always expect to shake someone’s hand when parting ways, it is not always observed however it is excepted that westerners would do this.

Be careful when exchanging business cards in Japan, as how you handle it represents the respect that you have for that person. Hint: Try to work out which way is up on their business card when holding it (it’s hard when the card is in Japanese!).

Other titbits

When doing business in India and China in particular it may be about who you know and less about what you know, connections and recommendations from people in notable positions within the country can be particularly useful.

Being on time can be particularly important in most of the world, however some countries may be a bit more relaxed so don’t be offended if Southern Europeans are a little late. In Greece and Turkey try not to point at people or make the “ok” sign with your hand.

Key things:

Make sure you do your research and I think the emphasis is on being open, mindful and respectful to the cultures you are dealing with. If you do think you’ve slipped up then the best thing you can do is apologise and (if appropriate) be able laugh at yourself!



romax_logo_tag_blueRomax Marketing & Distribution, a Greenwich-London based company, provides a wide range of services in Direct Marketing for B2B and B2CDirect Mail, Data Management, Printing, Discount Postage and Membership Communication Services and Consultancy. Contact us: +44 (0) 20 8293 8550

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August 24, 2016

Brexit: The Survival Guide

Brexit: The 10 Thoughts to Keep Focussed

By Malcolm Durham

Having been promised an apocalypse if we had the temerity to vote leave I venture to suggest that it’s not turning out quite so badly. There is still much to resolve and the tough decisions are some way off but in the meantime life must carry on. So if you’re wondering what it means right now can I offer the following:

1.     Don’t panic. We haven’t gone to Mars, we haven’t even left Europe, just the European Union. Calais is still only 22 miles from Dover (about 12 hours by car or rail)

2.     Out is the new In. We’ve left the European Union, an enclosed trading area of 500m people and are free to trade with everyone now as freely as we like, so long as they agree. We’ve been making significant strides in this already with our non-EU exports up 6.8% a year since 1999. We can join the World Trade Organisation and have a baseline of tariffs of 3%, not perfect but not a disastrous starting point.

3.     Don’t panic. Thankfully and I mean THANKFULLY we are not in the Euro and our currency devaluation not only does it mean our exports are priced as keenly as mustard – so keenly that Tata have postponed the sale of their Port Talbot plant – but if you want to sell your business then the overseas buyers will be almost 20% keener than they were.

4.     Inflation is good(ish). With a weaker currency our imports costs will rise. Everyone will use this to put their prices up. So should you. Even if you employ descendants of the Norman Conquest on land that produces King Edward potatoes and sell them to Smiths Crisps you will have some foreign inputs to justify increasing your prices. If you are uncertain just practise looking in the mirror and repeating the phrase “It’s Brexit mate” until you believe it yourself.  Add “Innit” if you’re still having difficulty.

5.     Don’t panic. If inflation takes hold our national debt will finally reduce as a % of GDP. And as interest rates rise to satisfy holders of the devaluing of their investments you’ll be able to put money in the bank and get a return on it.

6.     We did it before so we can do it again. Those of us who worked before Maastricht didn’t have any problems selling goods and services in Europe. If you need an EU subsidiary to enable you to trade within the EU then you can get one. I doubt that it will be long before at least one country sees this as an opportunity and creates a cheap and fast hub in say Dublin or Copenhagen, which would validate transfer prices and ensure compliance with appropriate regulations.

7.     Don’t panic. The overseas businesses are not all going to leave. Pre-Brexit I used to listen to some hedge fund managers threaten to move to Switzerland if taxes rose. But they didn’t. Even for financiers there’s more to life than money. Do you know what is on at the theatre in Geneva? And could you understand it if you did?

8.     We can create new funds for scientific co-operation, farming subsidies and fisheries that are more effective than EU wide ones. In fact this has been announced in the time it took me to write this blog.

9.     Even better we can have new subsidies that won’t be prohibited by the State Aid rules. For example we can have as an Export tax credit scheme which I and other have proposed over recent years.

10.  Don’t panic. The labour laws in France and Germany are so strict that even tube drivers are envious. So moving large numbers of bankers there is unlikely.  The need for flexibility will keep them here and so most (OK not all) of the industry will remain.

We’re going to have to pay something to the EU and the chances of us seeing that £350m in the NHS are as likely as winning the World Cup in the next 50 years. But so long as we don’t let the lunatics take over the asylum, and curbs on immigration are based on need not prejudice then we’ll be fine.

Romax, can take no praise for writing this Brexit article, we have quite blatantly ‘borrowed’ it from Malcolm Durham, the MD at Flexible Directors providers of the most excellent Part Time Finance Director.


romax_logo_tag_blueRomax Marketing & Distribution, a Greenwich-London based company, provides a wide range of services in Direct Marketing for B2B and B2CDirect Mail, Data Management, Printing, Discount Postage and Membership Communication Services and Consultancy. Contact us: +44 (0) 20 8293 8550

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August 16, 2016

Data, Data everywhere….

But how to get it?

We here at Romax HQ like to dig deep into data – finding new ways to enhance our clients marketing prowess gets us all excited. So it was with interest that we recently were approached by a well known Telecoms company to produce their welcome packs.

Initially, we were sceptical as to how much variability would be contained within the data set given but we were pleasantly surprised the reverse was true. Due to this, we are able to produce relevant, timely, tailored and therefore ultimately useful communications to their client base that enhanced their brand whilst at the same time driving down calls to the call centre with questions already answered.

So this got me thinking. How can we educate our other clients in the value of data within their organisation and how best to collect it?

Why the value exchange matters

Consumers have not been offering their data to business because rather than feeling that they want to, they feel obliged to, therefore the trend is not to share. Ad Blocking on the web grew 90% between 2015 and 2016 alongside preferences being enacted on Chrome and Gmail is an indication that consumers are becoming more protective of their personal data. Recent research has indicated that 4 out of 5 have concerns about the way their data is sourced, captured and sold.

If we are to enhance our industry with valued and relevant communications in a post-GDPR world (even leaving the EU will mean laws in accordance with GDPR) we need consumers to give brands permission to engage so, therefore, we need to give them a reason for doing so.

The exchange

How do brands encourage consumers to part with more and better information willingly?

  1.  Trust

Best practice in data collection is crucial so as to not damage the brand that you are trying to promote in the first place! Ensure email communications have opt ins, permissions are clear and that any unsubscribes are removed from future blasts. Run the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) against any cold data if mailing is part of the campaign mix.

  1. Treat data as a privilege, not a right

Once permission to engage has been given, brands should listen to what the consumer has said, and give them what they have asked /signed up for. Ensure the campaign execution contains content relevant to the consumer using the media channels requested. Build the trust to then enhance the knowledge you have of that consumer

  1. One size does not fit all

Be careful in what you offer in return – take into account age, sex and lifestyle

  1. Avoid appearing mechanical or cynical

Every communication should relevant and timely so as to implicitly demonstrate your understanding of them as a consumer, not exploiting, their permission to engage.

Data gathering strategies

3 simple data gathering strategies that can create a better value exchange for the consumer:

  1. Make opt-ins and permissions big, bold and obvious: Transparent opt-ins build trust and enhance feelings of control. Don’t hide them in the small print. Make them a feature, not an afterthought.
  1. Only ask for what you need: Consumers can’t feel in control of a relationship where they’re asked for large amounts of seemingly unrelated and irrelevant information. Relevance helps build trust.
  1. Make it progressive: Build your data capture strategy in proportion to your developing relationship. So instead of asking for everything up front in a move perceived as a cynical data grab, start with the bare minimum, and build the data pool over time.


romax_logo_tag_blueRomax Marketing & Distribution, a Greenwich-London based company, provides a wide range of services in Direct Marketing for B2B and B2CDirect Mail, Data Management, Printing, Discount Postage and Membership Communication Services and Consultancy. Contact us: +44 (0) 20 8293 8550

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