Why is Russia so important for our business? Why should I care for business etiquette there? Is it so different?
The business environment in Russia has been steadily improving since the transition from a centrally controlled planned economy to a free market, though the economic crisis has had a significant impact on the business climate. In recent years, many reforms have been implemented, the
tax system has become fairer and more transparent, Russia has become increasingly integrated with global markets, and customs have improved appreciably.
Many younger managers, especially in big cities, are educated in Western Europe or the United States and may be perfectly familiar with western business etiquette, while others stick to the soviet style. Therefore, it is always important to be flexible and to comply with the actual situation.
- Good things need time. Business in Russia is often very time-consuming and negotiations can go on for several months even if the Russian part is very interested in the deal.
- On the other hand your Russian partner will sometimes ask you to submit information or a document in extremely short terms.
- The Russians attitude to time means that a few minutes delay on their part is of little importance. However, they will expect you to be punctual.
- Meetings can be held in a very formal or in an informal way as well as in a combination of both. Alt-hough some principal issues can be discussed in an unofficial environment, final negotiations will beconducted in the office.
- Shake hands firmly when greeting and leaving your Russian partners and make direct eye contact.
- Generally, when beginning a meeting, the head of the organisation will open the discussion and introductions should then be made in order of importance.
- Physical contact during business meetings, for example a simple hand on the arm or even embracing is a positive sign. There is no word for ‘privacy’ in Russia; therefore the notion of social space is much closer in Russia.
- Presentations should be straightforward and comprehensible.
- Don’t as the Russian proverb states ‘hurry to reply’, but ‘hurry to listen’.
- Demonstrate unanimity among your team.
- Russians usually answer to phone calls even during important negotiations at least to tell that they will call back later.
- Be careful to announce your sales plans very clearly at the beginning from the negotiations. Russians sometimes consider such statements as aggressive.
- In situations of conflict try to avoid taking an official stance and remember that Russians are ‘people orientated’ and will respond to a more personal approach.
- Russians usually do not like to negotiate on prices and conditions, but make sure that you reach a clear agreement for all important matters.
- Paperwork and putting pen to paper is an essential part of all working practices in Russia. In general, they have little faith in unsigned documents.
- If you feel that your negotiations are getting stacked it can help to postpone them. Even if you do not reach an agreement, it is important to nurture contact for future business.