Before the Business meeting
In the Czech Republic formal speech is used by default. Informal speech is used when talking to friends and family. People are addressed using official titles which indicate their social, marital or academic status as well as what position in the company they hold. Prior to a meeting, find out what the person’s official title is and use it respectfully.
Appointments are mandatory and should be made in advance. Avoid scheduling meetings on Fridays, especially in the afternoons since a lot of Czech leave work early these days. Make sure to arrive on time since punctuality is important. Czech have a keen eye for detail, making it important to come well-prepared and well-informed to the meeting.
Greetings should include a firm handshake and direct eye contact. Remain standing until you are invited to sit down as there might be a seat reserved specifically for you. Generally, a rather conservative business attire is preferred. There is a saying that says the way you dress shows your respect for your business partner.
Most business people do not expect receiving presents during the first meeting, though a small gift such as a souvenir of the visiting business partner’s country is acceptable. Expensive presents are not recommended nor are calla lilies, since they are commonly associated with funerals.
During the business meeting
Maintain eye contact while speaking. The Czech are direct and prefer to get straight to the point. After a brief presentation the business matter is immediately addressed. Presentations should be simple, accurate and detailed. If possible, provide with charts and figures to back up your claims.
The communication, however, is indirect. Directly communicating negative information is seen as impolite and crude. In these situations, polite excuses or evasions are given. During meetings Czech people will seldom utter a straight “no” but rather replace it with “that is difficult”. Problems are perceived to be solved more productively if they are handled with tact and discretion. Therefore, it is important not to push for a final decision during meetings, since the Czech prefer to avoid confrontation. Allow them instead to discuss the matter internally and let them get back to you. If they do not get back to you, remind them gently with a simple phone call.
Avoid raising your voice during discussions, since this kind of behavior is perceived as rude and offensive.
best negotiating practices
Patience is strongly advised. The initial stages of the negotiations are slow and detailed. The Czech prefer discussing details to avoid any future misunderstandings. Furthermore, there is a strict adherence to protocol, meaning that your Czech colleagues will display an unwillingness to deviate from the minutes. Although the initial stages of the negotiations might seem tedious, they are an essential and significant part of the negotiation process as well as the trust establishment within the Czech business culture.
Final agreements should be written, not merely oral. Be wary of any renegotiation during the early stages, since it might hurt the collaboration. Czech seldom make counter-offers.
Listen between the lines. The indirect communication means that important information might be found in the softer terms. Avoid therefore outright demands for answers such as “why?”, “why not?” or “when?”. You will be as effective and far more diplomatic if you replace it with “could you give us a little background on that?”, “how do you see this playing out?”. When unsure, ask for further clarification. However, expect receiving a definite answer once the Czech colleagues have had an opportunity to confer privately.