Rick Stephen
Helpful hints on How to do Business in Asia

G’day from Asia! I have been here for almost four years now, and within that time I have received a number of emails and phone calls from quite a number of companies in Australia on how to do business in Asia. Some I have dealt with previously in business, and others have sought my advice through recommendations.

The Asian market is one of the most buoyant markets in the world. Asia constitutes 62 per cent of the world’s population and Australian companies are in a prime position to do business due to proximity, the quality of products and Australia’s reputation.

The following are points or guidelines I would suggest that Australian Companies follow.

These are in no particular order as all are important:

• Establishing an Asian partner or someone based in Asia who can help you through many of the hurdles that you will need to jump. Do not presume that one meeting will secure you any business.
• Pass on your professional knowledge, as usually in Asia we are wary of outsiders wanting to make a quick dollar. Show your true character and professionalism. 
• Always maintain what is known as ‘ Face ’ in Asia, and that is to deal with all people professionally without appearing condescending to the people you are dealing with.
• Patience we all say is a virtue — here in Asia we must practice this. Start by not showing hundreds of items or having too large a portfolio. Instead research what benefits your product or services have to the area or customer then hone in on the specifics.
• Building trust and relationships is extremely important. If you think going to a sleazy bar will do this, you are wrong. The people you want to do business with may go with you, but this could be a test to see your own character and what they will be dealing with in the future.
• With the above in mind when they visit you in Australia, conduct your business and engage in conversation, have a good dinner then conclude the night by dropping them back to their hotel.
• Do not presume or pretend to understand Asian culture. In some communities there are so many different cultures, customs and levels of subtlety and depth that even people living here a long time are still coming to terms with.
• Politeness and respect go a long way. If you show a hint of superiority or righteousness during a business meeting, you may not have any further meetings.
• Do not force any issues or conversation which you believe will aid your presentation, and do not highlight any fault in the Asian business or your opposition. Instead concentrate on the positives that you can offer and how their business may be enhanced.
• Make no presumptions about the people you meet with. Remember the person who is least assertive in the meeting may be the most influential.

These are a guideline for all to use, but mainly it comes down to business and professional etiquette. There are a few simple things when you first meet, and that is to present your business card with two hands, with the name side first. When you receive a business card make a point of reading the card before putting it away.

Try note to gesture with your hands when talking and look people in the eyes when meeting them or saying good bye. Do not pretend to know the customs — a friendly smile and a handshake will be well received rather than a poor or in-appropriate bow.

Happy business in Asia!

Rick Stephen CMC
WACS Continental Director – Asia