It is by no means a secret that international business agreements are increasingly common. Many companies based in North America and Europe are doing a lot of business with companies based in Asia. But some are holding back due to the distance and the cultural barriers. Don’t be one of them! Just make sure that – before you do anything else – you understand how to do business in Asia when you are not based in Asia.
To start, you (or someone that works for you) need to hit the books and do some research. Know what companies that you’re interested in doing business with and look into their past deals. Try and find out what worked and what didn’t. Also take the time to look into the business culture of their home country.
It’s hard to speak generally about Asia as a whole, but there are a few things about business that are pretty common from one country to another: never be late for a meeting; always be direct and to the point; and always give your business cards to their senior team members first, and do so at the start of your first in person meeting. Other than that, there’s variation between different countries and what they like to do in their business communities, so you’re going to have to do some checking around. If you don’t then you run the risk of doing something that offends the companies you work with in Asia.
Next, you’re going to have to decide who – if anyone – should travel to Asia to represent you in meetings. You could have teleconferences (or video conferences) and avoid meeting in person altogether, but some companies like the personal touch. In that kind of situation you’re going to want to be careful about who is present at the meetings. Sending someone unimportant or unexperienced can be seen as an insult. Your best bet is to send someone who has an important, well-respected position in your company.
Alternatively, you might consider going yourself. Yes, the jet lag is uncomfortable, but it will show that you’re serious about doing business with them. They will almost certainly respect you for the extra efforts you put in by showing up in person. However, for regular business, this option is rarely workable.
The final option is to hire your own representative for the country that you want to target. In this case, they should be experienced and have a deep understanding of the culture, business startups and your business. Making sure that they understand your business should be a priority, but only after you have checked out their previous experience and recommendations.
No matter who gets sent where, or who comes over to your country to see you, there’s one last thing that is vital to doing business with any Asian country: you must have a good translator. There’s no getting around it. The target company may have their own translator on hand, and that’s fine for them, but you should always bring your own trusted bilingual team member (or arrange for one to be there). If you don’t have someone who can speak the language on hand, then hire them. Consider making them a full time employee if you’re planning to do a lot of business in the country in question. Otherwise, hiring them on as a consultant will be sufficient. Regardless, you need to make sure they’re fluent, polite, and versed in the language and culture.
As Startup Specialists we have used our knowledge and experience to set up a free portal of frank, accurate information. Do check out www.startupinthailand.com for more details on doing business in Thailand /Asia or for a free startup consultation.
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