Keys to Success

Tips on how to handle names, business cards, small talk, local interest, and self-promotion.

Among many business people, there is the common belief that "Business is business wherever you are." Yet it is more accurate to say that "Business is different wherever you are, and there are bottom line costs to ignoring the differences." Cultural gaffes and blunders often lead to broken deals and lost opportunities. Unfortunately in the world of international business both Asian and American companies in particular fail to focus adequate attention on the areas of cross-cultural and language training. This is a surprise, considering Asia’s dedication to education in general and America ’s long experience in international business.

Despite the rhetoric surrounding the U.S. Senate hearings on campaign finance, it became clear that Asians and Asian-Americans who contributed to the Democratic campaign coffers in the late 1990s did so in an effort to help overseas friends in high places gain contacts and prestige here. Their actions were NOT intended to buy improper political influence.

Check your supply of business cards before going on a trip to Asia so that you will not be caught short. Business cards are very important in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in Asian countries, and an executive who admits that he has run out of cards is an embarrassment to himself and others.

Gift giving is important in Asian countries, because of the significance of interpersonal relationships in their cultures.

What you need to do to minimize language problems in your Asia-Pacific business communications.

The two most useful phrases in international business negotiations are “I do not understand” and “what do you mean by that?” Yet these phrases are not used often enough, especially when the first languages of the negotiating parties are different.

One of the serious afflictions of International Communications Disorder ("ICD") is loss of business. And complications from ICD include the loss of valuable time and good will in building productive business relationships. In an area as large and diverse as the Asia-Pacific region, it is not possible to prescribe specific cures for ICD. Circumstances vary too widely. It is possible, however, to lay out some basic guidelines which, in combination with an understanding of the region's cultural signposts and individual countries, will serve the international business person well.

When pursuing opportunities and interests in an Asian country, whether you are a non-Asian or an Asian from a different Asian country, there are some important pathways to follow.

On the international scene, politicians enjoy an advantage over businesspeople. They can play to their constituencies back home or elsewhere, offend those with whom they are meeting, and ignore the business at hand.

History and lessons from the turmoil of the 1997-1998 Asian Financial Crisis.

There is so much international business going on these days that we seldom give much thought to the pitfalls of negotiations with prospective business partners or customers. Yet the road to riches in Asia is littered with aborted projects and canceled ventures that got off to a shaky start because businesspeople from different countries and cultures misinterpreted or failed to accommodate the practices of the other party.