Understanding how different cultures do business can help you land an important deal or forge a successful new business partnership. To foster this understanding in Macomb County, OneMacomb and the Macomb County Chamber hosted Connecting Diverse Business Cultures Dec. 1 at Andiamo in Warren.
We heard from a panel consisting of Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce (CACC) President Martin Manna, Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce (APACC) Executive Director Van Nguyen and Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (MHCC) CEO Gloria Lara. It was moderated by WXYZ Channel 7 News anchor Nima Shaffe and opening remarks were given by Deputy County Executive Pam Lavers and Macomb County Chamber CEO Grace Shore. Here is a summary of the highlights.
What challenges do your businesses face?
CACC: There is a need for understanding and overcoming challenges like refugee phobia. Newcomers need particular assistance understanding licensing issues and navigating the local municipalities.
APACC: When working with companies abroad, you need empathy and an understanding of how they do business. For example, someone from Michigan may be methodical and take their time making decisions. A Chinese businessperson is used to making rapid decisions and last-minute changes to business deals. If there is a disconnect, no deal may be made. But if there is patience, understanding and respect for how the other does business, they can work together successfully.
MHCC: Hispanic-owned businesses often do not reach out for resources available to them. They are hard workers, but tend to stay in the background. Therefore, they need more welcoming and encouragement.
How do you encourage productive networking?
CACC: We recommend joining other local chambers and networking with other groups to get experience interacting with different types of people.
APACC: Step out of your comfort zone and network with people who don’t look like you. Learn what other businesses do so you can find collaborative opportunities that will benefit both.
MHCC: It is important to listen to other people’s stories in order to start relationships. Find commonalities. We share more than we don’t.
How can Macomb County attract businesses from abroad?
CACC: Immigrants are already investing in Macomb County businesses. Chaldean populations are growing significantly in Warren, Sterling Heights, Macomb Township and Utica.
APACC: You can attract business through economic incentives, such as tax breaks, and also through offering a welcoming cultural landscape. This could include immersion schools and grocery stores that cater to diverse dietary needs. This will not only attract businesses, but make them stay.
MHCC: Companies are drawn by cost, quality, deliverability and reliability.
How can Macomb County officials make doing business here more appealing?
CACC: Macomb County is a model for the nation. It is open, receptive, supporting and welcoming. Officials should work on building relationships and providing guidance to help entrepreneurs understand all the legal requirements and how to access resources.
APACC: Officials should attend chamber events and translate informational materials into the native tongue of their largest minorities. Also, officials striving to be inclusive should recognize major ethnic holidays, such as Diwali (observed by Asian Indians and also known as the festival of lights), through acknowledging them on their website or holding special events.
MHCC: Macomb County’s infrastructure and transportation are assets. Officials should emphasize that there are opportunities for businesses to start small and later expand in Macomb County.
Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.