By guest blogger; Dr. Dirk Frese, Director Marketing and Sales at JULABO USA Inc., Allentown PA
In continuation of my first blog about Western Europe (http://northstarteamdevelopment.com/899/blog/managing-across-the-seas-a-balancing-act/)l let’s now focus on us Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Our next and final installment will take us to China.
For business leaders to be successful in either doing business or managing employees, it is key to understand the regional differences.
As in the first part of this mini-series, I stress to clarify that my anecdotal observations are based on my very own experiences and are not intended to come across as generalizations or stereotypes of any kind, nor should they give rise to any.
The Russian Experience
Finding Russian companies to partner with is a must for most businesses. Working in Russia means accepting the local rules. The work attitude is very good and employees need direct personal contacts frequently. The enormous hospitality and warmth in Russia can rarely be experienced elsewhere. After long business hours, a joint dinner cannot be turned down. Being literate in culture, specifically that of Russian heritage is a good starting point for any conversation and earns you a lot of respect.
The Czech Experience
The Czech economy is growing strongly and you can sense this everywhere. Unemployment is virtually nonexistent and many companies from the West are entering this highly skilled labor market with manufacturing plants, be it in the automotive, chemical, food industry or mining sectors. Together with the very high level of education and the long-standing tradition of heavy industry trailing back to times before WW II, this makes up a successful combination. The cultural heritage, which is adding to the overall flair, is not to be forgotten here. The Czech people are proud, very kind and helpful. For example, if you lose you luggage and you arrive in Prague without it, you will be treated in the nicest possible and – most importantly – most efficient and reliable way. Have this happen somewhere else and nobody will really care! Sometimes language is a barrier but nobody is giving up on it. There is always a way to overcome these issues.
The Polish Experience
Acknowledging that Poland was torn apart a few times in history, you find Polish influences all over the globe. As Germans, for example, many of the Polish influences stem from sharing the Baltic Sea culture, as well as many imported culinary experiences. This makes it easier for Europeans to connect more easily with Polish people than for some Americans.
The citizens put a tremendous amount of effort into rebuilding the country and bringing it up to the modern standard. In turn, they are rightfully expecting you to acknowledge their efforts. The business relationship you foster in Poland has to be a very personal one. If you have reached this level, success is inevitable.
The Greek Experience
Even if Greece is struggling as an economy today, the people from there are very good business partners. Most are well educated and are specifically strong in maths. This can sometimes give them an advantage in negotiations, as most of them pair this skill with a very strong business sense. My experience goes back to many of my business relations in the U.S., where Greek people can often be found in leading positions or owning the companies I have worked with.
The Turkish Experience
Turkey’s being part of Europe as well as Asia gives it a magical touch. Being situated on the bridge of such different cultures, literally and figuratively, fertilizes a special openness and cosmopolitan spirit. Istanbul, as the city between the two continents, reflects it in all aspects. People working there or coming from there are especially fascinating to me. I was once surprised when having a meeting with the top executives of a large pharmaceutical company. I found myself sitting across from eight female top managers, while being served tea by a male. I would have predicted the opposite scenario, as the overall presence of women in top corporate functions is still comparatively low in both Europe and North America. In Turkey, however, it was a natural occurrence, due to the fact that pharmaceutical sciences are considered a Life Science, and as such, to reside in the female realm. In contrast, the studies of engineering, electro mechanics, construction etc. are more or less reserved for men. Additionally, the state of manufacturing plants with regards to cleanliness, professionalism and quality is mind-blowing
The Middle Eastern Experience
Although I have not worked in the Middle East, I have had co-workers from this region who always have this unique and compelling mixture of business sense and charm, as well as wit. This always turned out to be a winning combination, especially in sales Negotiation skills are on the daily agenda growing up and that is incomparable to any Western education. Middle Easterners are not afraid of charging for a product or service, and discounting is rare
As the use of the English language has to develop further in many cases, I highly recommend learning at least a few words in the local language. It gives you credit, and likability, and makes the negotiations and discussions to follow so much easier. Your counterparts will highly appreciate your attitude
About: Dirk is a German citizen, studied Chemistry, achieved his PhD in Biochemistry there and lived and worked for nearly two decades in Switzerland managing companies and teams in 17 countries before he moved to Pennsylvania in 2014.