The importance of cultural adaptation for the trust development within business relationships

Marina Weck (School of Science, Aalto University, Finland)
Maria Ivanova (School of Business and Economics, Åbo Akademi University, Finland)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Publication date: 15 February 2013



The purpose of this paper is to reveal how trust develops between partner firms in the context of intercultural business relationships and how understanding of the business culture of a partner firm and adaptation to it can be a driving force for the beginning and maintaining of trust development with that partner.


The study is of a qualitative nature and employs “elite interviewing” methodology for the aims of data collection. The analysis is conducted through theoretically‐informed reading of interviews.


Managers constantly learn the business culture of the partner through interactions. Adaptation based on the acquired business culture knowledge is found to be as important for the development of trust between business relationships' parties. A “moderate” level of cultural adaptation is identified as most favourable for this development. Additionally, a categorization of cultural adaptation within business relationships is proposed.

Research limitations/implications

The insufficient number of personal interviews within a specific industrial context does not allow a generalisation of the study outcomes.


Research which addresses the importance of cultural adaptation for trust development within business relationships, is scarce. This study attempts to fill in this gap. Furthermore, it shows the need to consider business culture, rather than national culture, while studying business relationships. Finally, the study provides interesting avenues for further research.



Weck, M. and Ivanova, M. (2013), "The importance of cultural adaptation for the trust development within business relationships", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 210-220.

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