Lessons for Doing Business in Asia

In January 2016, Access Prosperity’s Investment Attraction Officer, Pam Steckler, attended a Government of Alberta Mission to Asia.  Among her goals for the mission was developing a foundation with international partners, and she learned some valuable lessons in that regard that any business can apply to their international business explorations.

Lesson #1: Expect to Connect – Relationships Are Key

Pam found that the method in which business is conducted in Asia is far more personal than she originally thought. The Asian way of conducting business is based on building relationships first rather than this sterile format used in North America.

Some examples:

[In China], meetings are about building relationships and exchanging information – it is rare for a decision to be made within the meeting…. As a result of this approach to meetings and their serial nature, patience is very definitely a virtue. Impatience will achieve nothing other than delaying things even more. From worldbusinessculture.com

[In Japan], meetings are often preceded by long, non-business polite conversation which could cover such topics as mutual contacts, the merits of your company, Japanese food etc. Do not become exasperated by this use of your time, as it is an essential element of the relationship-building process. Show your impatience at your peril. – From worldbusinessculture.com

Lesson #2:  Do Your Homework – Culture Plays a Big Role

Each market Pam explored on the mission was unique with regards to the level of formality and various customs.  Even the structure of the Investment Seminars staged in each local varied in format, schedule, individuals in attendance, and adherence to the agenda.

For example, the Investment Seminar in Hong Kong mirrored the fast paced way in which business is conducted there.  The condensed itinerary here included an investment attraction component but also included the Asian Financial Forum in the limited time frame.  Doing business in this city is efficient and formalized.

Singapore was the most laid-back leg of the mission. It took an informal but still effective format that characterizes connection activities in that area. Even a meeting with the president of a multi-national company was relaxed but efficient.

Tokyo, of all the cities Pam visited, turned out to be the most welcoming after hours of social event coordination.  Interestingly, Tokyo was also by far the most formal and rigid in terms of scheduling.

Having knowledge of such cultural nuances can make or break a deal, so do your research. worldbusinessculture.com/ is a valuable resource if you’re planning to expand your business interests internationally. The site provides comprehensive descriptions of customs, communication styles, dress codes, and many more factors in business dealings for nearly 40 countries around the globe.

Lesson #3: Know Your Business, and Prepare to Act Quickly

Keep in mind, a company must be prepared when expressing interest in branching out internationally.

Understand your capacity for international conversations. Know your numbers and have a plan to explain them, including current and future fiscal forecasts.  Know how to explain your directive or strategy for growth.

When you know your stuff, hit the ground running and prepare for a business transaction to be quick.  Worldbusinessculture.com cautioned patience in Lesson #1, and relationships will always be important, but Pam also recognized that in dealing with some large capital investors, they were willing to write a cheque in short order if the ROI could be demonstrated.

Lesson #4:  Last, but not least…

Remember that Access Prosperity is your resource for accessing international markets.  For more information on opportunities, missions, and support, contact Pam Steckler at 403.342.3103 or pam.steckler@accessprosperity.ca.