After the fall of communism, Russian business culture has undergone tremendous change, however traditional standards and values are still its core. Despite this ongoing transformation, their business culture is characterised by caution, persistence and modesty. Patience and persistence are also very valuable elements in order to close a positive deal with your counterpart.
- Primary Contact: A local connection is quite vital when doing business with a Russian counterpart as they are very careful with whom they do business with as well as value personal relationships as having the highest importance. Appointments should be made well in advance and they must be reconfirmed a few days prior to the actual meeting.
- Punctuality: Punctuality is of the highest importance in Russia as they expect for their counterparts to always arrive on time. However, they sometimes tend to be late just to test the patience of their potential collaborator – patience is a virtue. Meetings are most likely to run over time, as they don’t tend to stick to a very strict schedule.
- Greetings: Firm handshakes are the norm when greeting someone, with direct eye contact. A slight nod of acknowledgment may also suffice.
- Gifting: Exchanging gifts especially during an initial meeting is quite common and considered to be a gesture of respect. Small gifts either with your company’s logo or gifts representative to your country are considered to be very appreciated.
- Dress-Code: Russians value quite a lot being well dressed and nicely groomed, therefore the dress code is formal for both men and women. Men are expected to wear dark coloured suits while for women conservative business suits and dresses are appropriate.
- Business Cards: There is no formal time when exchanging business cards, however it is usually done either at the beginning or at the end of a meeting, without any particular formality. However, it is quite important that your business card is translated on one side into Russian – this is considered a sign of respect and it is likely to impress Russian associates.
- Business Meetings: Meetings, especially the first ones are likely to be be quite formal and their purpose is usually to determine whether the relationship is worth forging. Business meetings generally tend to have quite a formal atmosphere and follow very strict procedures. During meetings it is very important to talk to your Russian counterparts as equals and not to come across as condescending. As they are generally quite status-conscious, it is important that your team matches the Russian team in terms of ranking and number of people present. Interruptions during meetings are common as participants follow different discussions. It is recommended to maintain direct eye contact while speaking and not to show the soles of your shoes as this is considered rude.
In conclusion, personal relationships are the key to signing a good deal with any Russian professional. Trust and honestly are the main values guiding a Russian counterpart in the decision of a potential collaboration, and sometimes it can be the sole motivator that helps achieve progress during negotiations. Ensure you have patience and offer as much time as you possibly can as relationship building takes time.