10 tips for doing business in Russia

Introduction to Russian business culture

You will come across as a sympathetic person if you display your own family closeness. In the harsh Russian environment, family was often the only enduring form of security. Intimacy appears to be more pronounced among Russian families than elsewhere in the world. So indicate your human side – emotions, hopes and aspirations. Russians also have an intensity about them, with a strong love of the dramatic and the tragic. Business associates often bond in the sauna (the banya).

Infographic: Top 10 business etiquette insights – Russia

You will also make a good impression if you keep your impatience with the Russian system to yourself. Remember, change takes time. If you start complaining and ranting at someone, they will probably just shut down. Russians have a concept of ‘face’ similar to Asians, and face must be saved at all times.

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Top 10 tips on Russian business culture

Here are 10 essential tips for making a good impression when doing business in Russia:

  1. Understand the history. Many Russians in business are highly informed in global affairs and it is important to understand the country’s recent history, from their perspective; Russians often feel their country is misrepresented in the international media. The immediate past has a very real effect on the mentality of Russians today.
  2. Be flexible. Schedules change all the time due to weather, long distances, traffic and general bad timekeeping.
  3. Find a local fixer. A trusted local advisor will guide you through the complexities of doing business in Russia and will be able to make introductions.
  4. Respect the hierarchy. Decisions are made from the top in Russia so make sure you are not wasting time dealing with a low-ranking individual.
  5. Be patient. Russians are used to hardship and long waits. Patience is a quality they respect and it is an essential aid to doing business. Negotiations and decision-making take a long time and Russians do not like to be hurried. Be prepared to do favours
  6. Friendships in Russia are based on mutual obligations and it is normal for friends to ask one another for favours.
  7. Embrace hospitality. Business entertaining is an important part of relationship building. Be prepared for long dinners, multiple toasts and emotional speeches. In summer, you may be invited to a family’s dacha, or country cottage. Put up with bureaucracy
  8. Everything in Russia seems to take longer than you would expect. Do not try to take shortcuts and always comply with regulations.
  9. Develop stamina. Like it or not, many Russians are heavy drinkers and you will be expected to join in.
  10. Tell a good story. Russians enjoy flowery language and may pepper presentations with metaphors and long, involved stories.

Do you regularly work across cultures? Would you like to improve your ability to communicate and influence with colleagues and clients from other cultures?

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About the Author

Terence Brake

Terence Brake is an author in the global learning & development field and has over 20 years experience helping executives to work better across cultures.

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