- Punctuality is very important. Arrive on time, but also be flexible if delays occur throughout the meeting.
- The most senior person present is usually the last person to enter a meeting. Introduce yourself to them first before greeting the others present.
- Always give and receive business cards with the right hand only or both hands together. If given a colleague’s business card, take a moment to review it in front of them before putting it away.
- Meetings in Iran may be between men only or women only as genders sometimes socialise separately.
- If your Iranian counterpart is chairing the meeting, take time to graciously praise their hospitality and the care they put into organising the meeting.
- Iranians are generally comfortable getting down to the matter at hand faster than their Arab neighbours. They may ask you what your intentions are from the beginning.
- Their hospitality and can slow discussions down. Their indirect approach also often sees them take a longer time to communicate their point. Therefore, it is a good idea to allow more time for the meeting than you normally would.
- Iranians can be tough, persuasive negotiators and will expect you to persuade them in return. If you are met with refusal, do not see this as an immediate indication that you should give up. Iranians have great belief in their ideas, and your quick submission would indicate you are not so sure about your own position. Try and be persistent until you are sure you will not get the answer you want.
- You can expect them to negotiate as if they are coming from a position of strength regardless of whether this is true or not.
- Decisions are usually reached slowly and almost always come from the top down.
- Meeting agendas may be interrupted by the prayer sessions of practising Muslims. If you know your Iranian counterpart prays (not all do), it’s a good idea to schedule in the time for the midday prayer. This is the prayer most likely to overlap with the working day. Be patient and respectful if some or all Iranians present leave briefly to pray. They will return when they have finished.
Business relationships are fundamental to progress and negotiations in Iran. If possible, it is best to get a third-party introduction with your Iranian counterpart. Doing this will exhibit your networks and contacts, making them more willing to trust you. Either way, expect a lot of the preliminary stages of negotiations to involve rapport building as they acquaint themselves with you. Remain honest and transparent about your business intentions, be hospitable and show genuine sensitivity/interest in the Iranian perspective, people and problems.
If doing business in Iran, you may notice that they seem suspicious about what the aim and intention of negotiations are. To this point, it is valuable to consider that the government of Iran perpetuates a sceptical view of the Western world and its business motivations and interests in the Middle East. Therefore, Iranians can take some time before trusting or warming to foreign business people. As negotiations progress over a period of time, continue to build a personal rapport with your business partner. This will help differentiate you and your business from the narrative of Western business ventures in Iran. Business is built on these personal relationships. They want to know they are dealing with ‘you’, not the ‘business representative’.
It can also be a good idea to stress the broader benefits that your business venture could provide for Iran. Iranians are often particularly conscious of making choices that can potentially support the country’s economy. This is far less relevant when doing business with an Iranian.
- Always use formal titles when addressing business partners.
- The Iranian business culture is hierarchical and input from subordinates is not always warranted. Suggestions can be made from below, but they should respect the authority and be posited in a way that doesn’t question management.
- Academic achievement is a prerequisite for any leadership/managerial position.
- The Iranian emphasis on and diplomacy can make them very difficult to scrutinise. It may be very difficult to get a solid indication of how you are regarded.
- Generally, people will be particularly eager to listen to you and do business with you if you have expert or technical knowledge that they lack. They often are quick learners and attuned to new ideas and innovations. However, if this dynamic occurs, be careful to not present yourself as superior or teach in a way that degrades their own technological capabilities. They will notice if you seem to undervalue their own knowledge and expertise.
- Business partners within Iran tend to seek foreign investors to invest off-the-bat (in order to create employment in Iran) and reap the rewards later.
- People are generally not confrontational but may chose to passively resist something they disagree with. For example, someone might ignore instructions or carry them out very slowly in a more subtle form of defiance.
- On the (2017), Iran ranks 130th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 30 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat corrupt.