With the exception of royalty, spelling and humour (humor), most Brits and Americans like to think of their countries as culturally rather similar. You would be forgiven for thinking this is most obvious in the globalized world of business. But as someone who has spent much of my working life somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic -- based in the UK but working for U.S. firms, or based in London while setting up a New York office -- I've noticed some comic differences between the way business works in both countries.
Case in point: meetings.
Meeting length: Always one hour
0 to 5 mins: The first five minutes are taken up by running late. Everyone in London is always just a little bit late for everything.
5 to 10 mins: The next five are reserved for fetching tea and enquiries about sugar/quantity of milk.
10 to 20 mins: Small talk. Usually moaning about the tube, the London property market, Kate Moss in today's Standard and the weather.
20 mins to 22 mins: Awkward transition of topic from informal to business. Often accompanied by downward stares.
22 mins to 30 mins: A slow, rambling pitch of your product, which is patiently and politely listened to without interruption.
30 to 40 mins: Cynicism. A complete destruction of everything you've worked for and breakdown of why it is irrelevant.
40 to 45 mins: Return to pleasantries. A reprise of topics above.
45 to 50 mins: Goodbyes. British goodbyes always seem to take this long. Business cards are awkwardly exchanged at some point within this.
50 to 55 mins: Final bit of discussion about the London property market.
55 to 56 mins: You actually leave.
56 to 60 mins: You return as you forgot to pick up your umbrella.
Results: The greater the cynicism, the more likely that British is to sign. A meeting might take 60 minutes, but because so few 60 minute slots exist in the day, they are invariably successful.
Meeting length: Around 8 minutes
0 mins: Begin. Meetings in New York always start on schedule. Business cards exchanged now.
0 to 1 min: The pitch. Strictly no more than one minute.
1 to 4 mins: The interrogation. Three questions. No more, no less.
4 to 7 mins: The outpouring of exuberant praise. This is the bit where both parties talk about how amazing each other is and how the product just discussed will change lives. Change the world. The universe. It is utterly inconceivably at this point that this meeting will result in anything other than sale.
7 to 8 mins: The goodbye. Swift and efficient, as each person needs to run to their 10:10am.
Results: The greater the optimism, you more likely you'll never hear from that American again. Within 10 minutes, you're on another floor of the same building doing the pitch all over.
Long live the special relationship. We have so much to learn from each other.