Tips for successful business in the middle east and asia

With the global business landscape shift that has taken place over the last two decades, you might become a minority in a few years if you own a growing business that doesn’t have an international clientele. If you want to ensure a successful transition into foreign countries, here are a few tips.

Face-to-face communication is preferred.

It's important to attempt to speak with business people in person. The culture in the Middle East and Asia is reliant on trust and friendship.Meeting in person is the only way to build that. Face-to-face interaction is also important because the process of coming to an agreement takes much longer in the region. This results in more time needed to get to know each other personally and professionally. If face-to-face interaction is not possible, the secondary method of communication is a phone call. However, some cultures are averse to negotiating over the phone. In the case that you do need to send written communication, such as an email, it is important to follow up with a phone call. Written communication is considered less important and less personal, meaning you must have people on the ground. Pulling this all off yourself will result in significant travel expenses. Since you're flying cross-continent, you may end up being anxious because you are seeking an ROI which may not allow you to be at your best in building the rapport and being patient in negotiations.

Understand the culture.

Underestanding the local culture is a must. You simply cannot conduct business if you don’t. When speaking to Hassan Hussein, chairman, CEO and managing director of El Taamir Mortgage Finance Company, he said, “Cultures and people are fundamentally different to the point of being, in some cases, opposite. Therefore, understanding the culture of your counterparts is a primary element for building successful personal and professional relationships.” Listen to companies and people in that country and if possible, hire people from that country. Hassan works primarily in the Middle East. When speaking about the culture and how to conduct business here, he said, “The Middle East culture is one that is quite emotional and rests predominantly on trust, and to a certain extent, on compassion. Personal charisma and chemistry are among the key contributors to a healthy, smooth operation in that region. It goes without saying, of course, that business feasibility, profitability and sustainability are still a predetermining element in negotiations. However, trust that is a result of a deep understanding of the ME culture is always an icebreaker and an excellent way to establish a valid proof of concept.”

Get results fast. 

Although "time is money," is a cliché that is often heard in the business world, it is most true in Far East Asia. Today’s professionals are always under high pressure to deliver results of strategic value in weeks, not months. Missed deadlines are considered catastrophic and inexcusable. While you will be pressured to give fast deadlines, it is better to hold your ground and be more conservative. If you miss a deadline, it may result in the end of the relationship.

Consider getting a local partner.

While it may be tempting to hire a marketing expert that possesses market knowledge and relationships with local businesses, you're better off bringing on a strategic partner to help you. Partners want equity; marketing professionals want retainers. A committed partner will be a better investment.

According to Julie Rasmussen, majority owner and chairman of Hertz Russia, “Hire someone who knows the market you are expanding into intimately; preferably someone who speaks the local language in addition to being fluent in both spoken and written English and American business concepts; someone who can bridge the differences in the local market business and social cultures and American business and social cultures; someone who can break through red tape and corporate inertia to get things done and achieve the company’s mission in the market."

Although expanding your business into new foreign markets can be intimidating, it is critical that you keep the above tips in mind. These tips will ensure that you start your expansion on the right track and give you the confidence to conquer the vast landscape that is the global economy.

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