Doing business

Legal considerations in the US

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Business culture

Business tips

Business practices:

  • When dealing with American business people the use of Australian slang should be avoided as it may lead to confusion and misunderstanding. Ensure you use American spelling on materials targeted at the American market, e.g. color not colour.
  • Business attire is very important and projects the image of your company. American business people are generally quite sensitive to dress standards, so it is wise to dress on the conservative side, a business suit is appropriate for meetings and most trade shows. Dress according to the region/market you are in as well as the industry e.g. in Silicon Valley where much of the technology industry is centered, they tend to dress more casually. However in the financial services industry in any part of the country, the dress code requires business suits.
  • Academic credentials are not necessary on business cards. Americans will be more impressed with your understanding of the market, your product and their company. It is recommended that phone and fax numbers on your business cards should have the international country code dialling details.
  • Face-to-face business meetings are an important element of doing business.

Other suggestions when selling a product/service:

  • Plan appointments at least a month to six weeks in advance or as soon as you know your travel details.
  • Voice mail is used by companies as a filtering device, messages are often never returned. Have a rehearsed message ready so that if you are required to leave a message it is a quality and succinct selling message. Americans invented the “30-second elevator pitch”.
  • Confirm appointments the day before and never arrive at an office unannounced.
  • Americans will rarely leave their office to meet you, so meet at their office or at a venue of their choice.
  • Ensure that all necessary information is readily available, including your pricing Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) in USD, delivered, production capabilities and trading terms.
  • Remember that your first price is just the starting point for negotiating, the American entity will expect several offers and counter-offers before a mutually acceptable price is reached.
  • Involve an American based lawyer to check any contract reached.
  • Make sure you clarify what you understand to have taken place at a meeting, Americans are generally courteous and positive in listening to your presentation, which can give a false impression of interest (or commitment).
  • Conclude the meeting with the understanding that you will follow-up, don’t rely on them to make the next move.
  • Fast and comprehensive follow-up is essential - in any follow-up go over who and when you met as the buyer may meet several hundred sellers a month.
  • Promised delivery dates and production quantities must be honoured.
  • Smoking in offices is prohibited.

E-commerce in the US

The face of your company in the USA will be your website. That is the first place a buyer will go to do their due diligence, not just on the product, but you as a potential supplier. If it is not updated, it will raise a lot of red flags that may hinder sales, a company website in the USA is extremely important and is not considered a secondary reference tool. It must clearly showcase the product or services specifying what differentiates.

While it has matured rapidly over the past few years, there is still a wealth of opportunities for Australian e-commerce.

An e-commerce presence in the USA can be set up through a number of online channels that can stand alone or complement each other. Each element should tie in to the broader business plan and marketing tactics.

  • a single virtual shopfront or company website
  • social media e.g. Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, blogs
  • complementary websites/virtual malls established through partnership agreements
  • affiliate websites created through basic cross-promotion links
  • consumer portals such as iTunes or Amazon.

Please see our Guide to Exporting Online via (PDF 235Kb)

Banking and finance

Acquiring a USA bank account is not an easy task. Most major banks have strict requirements that often include having a tax ID, Social Security number and USA address.

There are some banks that have worked with Austrade clients in the past on a case by case basis and are available to quickly determine your eligibility. Please contact an Austrade export advisor for further information or referrals.

Government, business and trade

American Chamber of Commerce in Australia
American National Standards Institute
US Census Bureau
US Consumer Products Safety Commission
US Commercial Service
US Federal Government Information Centre
US Harmonised Tariff Schedule (US International Trade Commission)
US Small Business Administration

News and media

ABC News
CBS News
Los Angeles Times
NBC News
New York Times
San Francisco Chronicle
Wall Street Journal
Washington Post

Please note: This list of websites and resources is not definitive. Inclusion in this list does not imply endorsement by Austrade. The information provided is a guide only. The content is for information and carries no warranty; as such, the addressee must exercise their own discretion in its use. Australia’s anti-bribery laws apply overseas and Austrade will not provide business related services to any party who breaches the law and will report credible evidence of any breach. For further information, please see foreign bribery information and awareness pack.