As the General Manager for Asia at Mindjet, I am constantly scouring the net for best business practices. I found the following post by Susie Wee posted August 19, 2009 http://www.communities.hp.com/online/blogs/wee/archive/2009/08/19/top-ten-tips-for-doing-business-in-asia.aspx
- Plan your meetings carefully with an insider who knows and understands the people, the relationships, and the culture.
- Do not presume that you understand the culture; there are many levels of subtlety and depth that even the most well-studied and experienced foreigner will never understand.
- Plan meetings where you match the levels of the meeting attendees as much as possible. Send the meeting request to/from a well-respected person of the appropriate level.
- Be thoughtful, polite, and respectful at all times. This should be in the tone used in a meeting request, every interaction, the meeting itself, and the follow-up. Respect the people and their situation- there’s probably a lot more going on there than you think.
- Be humble and avoid any hint of superiority or righteousness. You might be well-established in your own community, but when you are working in Asia you have to establish yourself in their community.
- Focus on building the relationship as much as achieving the goal.
- Bonus tip: If you achieve trust in your relationship, then you will succeed.
- Read the smallest gestures (e.g., a light invitation, a small comment, or a small request) and reciprocate. This is a sign that things are going well.
- Provide a way for your counterpart to offer alternatives without saying No and without losing face. Conversely, provide a way for the host to end with a good result and save face.
- Do not force him/her into a corner.
- Do not force the conversation to go into other highly substantive or controversial discussions.
- Do not force decisions to be made on the spot. He/she usually needs to consult with others to make decisions.
- Allow your counterpart to prepare for the meeting. Give him/her an opportunity to consult with others on the issue at hand before the meeting.
- Do not presume anything about anyone. The must unassuming-looking person in the room could be the most influential. You will never know.
- Accept that you may need multiple visits to achieve the desired outcome, as it will only come when you build the relationship, credibility, and trust. This may seem inefficient at first, but if you stick with it the result will be a working relationship and friendship that is stronger than you could ever imagine.
One thing I’d like to note is that while this post is called “Top ten tips for doing business in Asia”, different Asian countries have very different cultures. For example, Japan and China are as different as France and Germany. But these tips should be universal and I’ll save some of the finer details I learned for later posts.