The UK and USA have been described as having a “special relationship” for many years now. Whilst our cultural sensibilities are similar, in a lot of ways, when it comes to the world of work the two countries have distinctive differences, in particular in etiquette and benefits.
Some of the stats may be disheartening for UK workers. For example, on average, US software engineers earn 30 per cent more than their UK counterparts. The average commuting time in the US is just 23 minutes, compared to an average commute of 1 hour 38 minutes in the UK.
On the upside, British workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid holiday leave by law. US workers aren’t entitled to any. British women are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave. US women are entitled to just 12 weeks.
“While the US is quite rightly defined as “the land of opportunity” for business and workers alike, it’s important to take note of the differences in working rights and culture when planning to do business across the pond,” says Robert Johnson from Foothold America. “Not only are communication styles and attitudes different in the US, but ‘tangible’ elements that affect the bottom line are too: Salary expectations as well as perks and benefits must be factored in to ensure your venture is a success”.
In terms of exporting, the popularity of Brand Britain and a large dose of American Anglophilia may be the best thing to happen to small and medium-sized businesses looking to dip their toe into the US market.
Despite the air of uncertainty on both sides of the pond, UK SMEs believe Brand Britain is as strong as ever – and a powerful driver of exports, according to the eBay for Business Index. Overseas consumers buy British because of positive perceptions about the quality of UK goods and services, expectations of good customer service and even a positive association with quintessential British institutions like the BBC and Royal Family, according to the study.
In welcome news for exporters, a quarter (24 per cent) of the small businesses eBay spoke to have seen an increase in those looking to buy British, compared with twelve months ago, allaying fears that the June 2016 referendum has dented the image of UK exporters.
One in ten SMEs are planning to enter new markets this year. Britain exported £550 billion in goods and services in 2016, according to Office for National Statistics, and this number is expected to grow regardless of the outcome of the snap elections or Brexit negotiations.
Over 200,000 small businesses trade on eBay in the UK, with 93 per cent exporting overseas to an average of 20 different countries. The top five export markets for British goods on eBay are the United States, Australia, Germany, France and Italy.
“Small business exports have had a strong twelve months, powered by the lower pound but crucially by the power of ‘Brand Britain’. The UK is going through a period of change that has led to fears that our image abroad could be harmed. But the business fundamentals of Brand Britain remain strong: trusted, quality products and good customer service,” says eBay’s marketing director in the UK, Gareth Jones.
For many SMEs, exporting is the first step. After building up traction in the US in terms of customers and brand engagement, expanding is a natural next step.