Forget the language barrier when it comes to doing business trade in Russia – an appreciation of some of the etiquette surrounding deals can really help improve your chances of success there.
1. Identify the decision maker
Never underestimate the importance of personal relationships. Taking the time to build close connections with potential clients will pay dividends. However, make sure that you are targeting the real decision maker – often, there is only one person with the responsibility necessary to sign on the dotted line and if you haven’t got them on side, it doesn’t matter what promises anyone else makes you, it’s unlikely anything will get done.
2. Cultivate the right image
Russia has experienced many changes over the years and is likely to continue to do for some time to come. As a result, outlooks can be very different depending on where you are aiming to do business, so make sure that you know the kind of business person you’re dealing with – forward thinking or traditional? Tailor your business style to fit and be aware that Western attitudes of inclusivity and ‘open door’ policies may be viewed as weak in Russia, undermining your authority.
3. Pay attention to social mores
Business is often conducted over dinner in Russia. Russians tend to be heavy smokers; so don’t be surprised if they light up while eating. Drinking is also expected, so even if you’re a non-smoker, you’re unlikely to be able to avoid sharing a glass or two and joining in with the toast. Make sure you remain aware of how much alcohol you are consuming and don’t try to match your associates drink for drink!
4. Exchange business cards
Russians love business cards and exchanging them is viewed as very important. Ensure that you have plenty to hand so you don’t run out and pay attention to any card you are given. Don’t put it away without examining it first.
5. Be aware of the law – or lack of it
There is a strong culture of avoiding the law in Russia, so bear in mind that a contract is only as strong as your ability to enforce it – which is why cultivating personal relationships is so important. It is pointless to insist upon a clause your associate doesn’t want because you may struggle to hold them to it.