If you are planning to open your business in Spain or start working in the country as a foreigner, keep on reading. The Spanish business culture is very peculiar, and in this article we will show you the main pillars that will help you understand how to do business in the country successfully. From how meetings work, how to negotiate, main business etiquette issues, and everything about structure and management culture.
The first thing to consider is how companies are structured in the country, as this will be the perfect base on which to develop the following points.
If we use the Hofstede ranking and choose the cultural dimension of power distance, Spain scores a 57 (vs 40 in the United States, for example).
This shows us a clear appreciation for the internal hierarchies. Most companies still have a fairly rigid and vertical structure in which identifying clear leaders and who their subordinates are is easy.
Unlike countries like the U.S., group leadership or multidisciplinary teams are very rare, encountering clearly separated divisions led by managers with a lot of power.
This is especially true if we are talking about traditional companies or family-owned businesses.
However, today this is changing for the following reasons:
The emergence of many startups that adopt new and more dynamic organizational models
The entry of international workers with a different business culture
The fact that many leaders of Spanish companies have studied and been trained abroad, acquiring a much more modern mentality
If we go back to the cultural dimensions of Hofstede we can also obtain very relevant information about the future orientation within the Spanish working environment. In this case, the country is in the middle of the table, with a score of 48.
This means that Spaniards are quite short-term oriented. When any kind of problem arises in the company they will look for a quick solution, leaving aside the long-term consequences it might have, as long as the chosen path is effective now.
This becomes even more true when we incorporate the fact that nationals are very risk-averse.
And it is because of all this that they prefer a well-defined organizational structure, with clearly established senior leadership, in order to find those quick and definitive solutions.
On the other hand, while they seek quick solutions to problems, meeting objectives takes on the opposite demeanor. The usual work style is much more relaxed and slow, taking the deadlines with a certain degree of calm.
Strategy and decision making in the company is usually led by senior management in a fairly centralized manner. Again, because of the company’s structure, lower management often has little power to influence.
Although it is true that nowadays a lower-level employee who takes the initiative, is proactive, and proposes new ways of moving forward is more valued, traditionally that has been seen as “overstepping”. Why? Because there was a very fixed idea that you had to own your list of tasks and nothing else. Doing anything extra was not the right thing to do, it was not your thing.
However, this is now changing, and Spanish companies are adopting a much more horizontal, open, and empowering culture for workers at all levels.
The figure of the company leader is conceived as strong, and in many cases she is not allowed to “doubt” or make concessions, as his main function is to lead and to just lead.
So much so that Spanish workers value interpersonal or emotional skills such as resilience or direction in a boss much more than factual experience or knowledge.
Finally, the last issue that you must understand to successfully conduct business is evertyghing related to the legal part of the culture.
Whether you are going to set up your own business or register as a self-employed person, bear in mind that any legal procedure and bureaucracy issues related to the day-to-day company operations are usually slow and consist of many different steps.
Thus, it is easy to get lost or go crazy about it.