- You should make appointments well in advance and arrive punctually. However, consider they may be cancelled on short notice.
- Engage in a long period of socialisation before beginning to discuss business.
- Be patient and expect meetings to run for a longer duration than scheduled.
- There may be multiple interruptions to the flow of the meeting as people follow different tangents and discussions.
- Provide a long and detailed presentation that gives a solid history of precedent cases on the subject you’re talking about.
- It is wise to follow up meetings with an email clarifying what you have understood to take place. This includes perhaps contacting business partners and customers to reiterate the outcome of the meeting.
- Russian negotiators are often very experienced. When several people from their business attend a meeting, they speak with one voice – reaffirming a single position. It will usually be clear which among them has authority.
- They may ask you to speak first to evaluate your position before giving their own.
- The initial objective they present is usually an understatement of what they expect to achieve.
- Talk to them as equals and do not come across as condescending. They are quite status conscious.
- If you have the upper hand, do not overplay it. Though this might be their tactic during negotiations, over-emphasising your superior position can humiliate them.
- Consider that Russians generally have a positive and courteous listening pattern in meetings. This can give the inaccurate impression that they are interested in the offer being presented.
- Introduction of new ideas or sudden changes to the plan can cause discomfort; it may put people in an awkward position, as they cannot always commit before they have sought approval from higher up.
- Bear in mind that flexibility and willingness to compromise can be perceived as a sign of weakness in Russia. If negotiations come to a deadlock, they tend to be stubborn and prefer to patiently wait it out unless the other side is especially firm in their position. This can sometimes prompt the other party to grant more concessions out of impatience, giving them the better deal.
- In any kind of high-pressure situation, consider that they may be more willing than you are to walk away from the deal.
- They often ask for big concessions without offering many in return. Instead, they may include smaller additions in their initial proposal that they are already prepared to concede.
- Russians tend to make agreements when the whole settlement is conceptualised but not necessarily worked out in detail. This can lead to difficulties later when working out each step in implementation.
It is important that you build a good rapport and trust with your Russian counterpart. Favours and opportunities are often provided on the basis of emotional trust alone (see Blat in Core Concepts for more information). Personal business relationships can sometimes be the only motivator that helps achieve progress during deadlocks in negotiations. However, developing these kinds of relationships can take some time. Russians like to believe that you are authentic and are often quite focused on understanding what your personal ambitions and goals are rather than your commercial objectives.
One of the fastest ways to build relationships is to drink with them and open up outside of meetings. Sometimes, indicating your scepticism of overriding authority or excessive can give them the impression that you are honest and critically minded. It can also be helpful to grant them a favour early on in the business relationship. These should be granted as a gesture performed on the basis of your friendship rather than something done out of weakness.
- The Russian workplace and business culture will generally have a strong at all levels. There are clear mandates for all tasks.
- Respect the strong power structure within a business. Ignoring a seating arrangement or speaking order can make it awkward. Do not try to single out a Russian from the group to speak out, as dissidence is not popular and conformity is preferred.
- Expect rules and policies to be less rigidly enforced. While some aspects of business are regulated and taxed heavily by the government, there is often less concern for procedural requirements.
- While meetings and negotiations can be prolonged and slow, the Russian business cycle can progress faster than that in Australia. It is common to sign contracts on the same day they are proposed. Consider that if you don’t maintain a consistent dialogue outside of face-to-face meetings or follow up after meetings, a business relationship can run cold quickly.
- A contract is not necessarily thought of as constantly binding unless it continues to be a mutually beneficial agreement for both parties.
- Try to frame directions as personal recommendations rather than official/regulatory requirements.
- Introduce changes and new ideas gently as they are likely to avoid ambiguous situations.
- Consider that Russians are typically less flexible and adaptable, and entrepreneurism is not as common in Russia.
- While a tendency for procrastination was once a common feature in Russian workplaces, this has changed. Today, many Russians work multiple jobs. It’s common to have a ‘main’ job in one’s trained profession, as well as a job on the side (for example, in tutoring, sales or their own business).
- The 2021 ranked Russia 136th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 29 (on a scale from 0 to 100).1 This suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat corrupt. Similarly, the Global Corruption Barometer estimated 27% of public service users paid a bribe in 2016.2
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