£100,000 contract to combat foreign business faux pas

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A training scheme teaching businessmen not to make fools of themselves on foreign trips is set to be renewed.

The University of Portsmouth's business school is on course to sign a 100,000 agreement in January with IT firm Hewlett Packard.

The training programme puts a select number of its most promising executives through their paces in a range of subjects.

Among other things, it teaches cultural awareness to the worldwide executives.

The university is already running the scheme for around 20 HP high-fliers, after signing a deal in spring.

But it has proved so successful the university is confident a fresh contract will be signed for more HP staff next year.

Nick Capon, director of the Centre for Enterprise, Research and Innovation, said: 'Another cohort is likely to be joining January or February.

'The renewal of the deal was all subject on it hitting their bottom line, otherwise they wouldn't be coughing up any more money.'

Teaching the executives about being efficient and staying ahead of the competition is just one part of the agreement.

'The second thing is cultural,' said Mr Capon.

'They're an international organisation working with people across many, many different countries.

'We do quite a lot about how to understand their cultures.'

Like what for example?

'People in China or the Far East hardly ever say no,' he said.

'They may mean no, but they skirt around the issue.

'It's a politeness thing. But it's completely true.

'If there's something they're not very happy with, they don't say no, they just say nothing.'

He said he has fallen victim to such misunderstandings many times before.

Once, meeting an very senior Japanese business man and his colleagues, he was bowed to.

He returned the gesture.

But it didn't go down well.

'He was a very important person in business, and I was supposed to bow more deeply than they had.

'Physically, I was supposed to get my head lower.

'I didn't know that.

'They thought I was a bit cocky.'

Now around 24 students are expected to join the 18-month programme in the new year.

It consists of two week-long courses in Portsmouth.

The rest is by phone and Skype.

At the end of the course, the students gain a Masters' degree in Strategic Quality Management.