I used to work with Tom. Tom was promoted as our business development manager in charge of expanding our business in Africa. Tom had only operated in western countries and he was at ease with the western culture and its customs. For his first international business trip, he was sent to Nigeria to meet our current clients and new prospects. As we all know business development is not about selling but rather about building relationships to consequently offer services to fulfil the needs of your clients. Tom’s first business lunch was with Franklin, the managing director of an international oil and gas firm. Franklin was used to working with Phil as our company representative, and this lunch was an opportunity to pass over the management of Franklin’s account. It is customary with some countries to give to your client a traditional gift from your country, such as chocolate from Harrods or Scottish shortbread; anything that represents the British culture. These little details show that you care about the foundation of long-term business relationships. Unaware of this custom, Tom didn’t bring anything to the lunch. To show his discontent, Franklin used Tom’s business as a toothpick. This was so embarrassing. The business relationship was damaged and it took a while to reposition it back to where it was previously.
I have travelled across the world during my international career. I studied cross cultural differences with fascination and I learned a great deal through my business experience. I have seen managers failing to sign deals just based on their lack of cultural awareness. In my previous business article, I taught the importance of personal branding. In this article, I will reveal to you a few tips you need to know to break challenging markets such as Asia.