When establishing business relations in Russia for the first time, contacting potential business partners can be the first major hurdle. In Russia, personal contact is preferred. Just writing is perceived as too impersonal and dispassionate. Russians expect to best assess their interlocutors by meeting face to face. For this reason alone, faxes and e-mails often […]
German business people are seen as cold and distant by the more people-oriented Russians. They appear to be fixated on one thing, one project, precise terms of contract and numbers. They negotiate with a company and not with individuals, even if they welcome positive personal working relationships.
Germans separate their personal feelings from the objective aspects of work and life. As a rule, one fulfils one’s professional duty through self-discipline and self-control. Personal life is kept away from everyday working life and best friends tend not to belong to the working group. ” Duty is duty and schnapps is schnapps” is a frequently quoted saying.
Russia is one of the countries in which individuals identifies themselves as part of a group. This manifests in a strong bond within the family, a class association, a working group, a circle of friends and a social and professional network. This group of “one’s own”, whom one trusts, is juxtaposed with the group of “strangers”, to whom one much less loyalty is owed.
For centuries, these personal networks were crucial for survival, as there was no functioning service sector and professional relationships between service providers and customers did not work well. The private network principle has been reflected in business life, which is often based on personal contacts, mutual services and even occasionally on secret or open gratuities. What may appear to be corruption in the eyes of many Germans is, for many Russians, simply a system of support and reciprocal commitments.
Recommendations from the field
Successful business relationships in Russia can be initiated primarily through personal contact. You have to know your partner and be able to accept him as a human being. Such contacts can be made at trade fairs and exhibitions, at economic conferences and networking events, at conferences or business trips. The latter not only enable contact to Russian companies and institutions, but also, in most cases, the important access to decision-makers in authorities.
However, the quickest and most effective way to establish connections with potential business partners in Russia is through already established networks. Personal recommendations can not only relieve you of time-consuming searching, they can also open important doors. Impersonal telephone or postal communication is usually less successful. If the initial contact is successful, the Russian partner will invest time and energy to get to know their German counterpart as a person and potential business partner, although the joint project is often not yet included. The German interlocutor’s knowledge of Russia, its history, culture or minimal knowledge of languages will make a big difference! This is where the German mind and the Russian soul can meet.
You can achieve stability in your Russian business dealing through becoming personal friends with your regular associates. And cheating on a friend is generally out of the question. Loyalty will always be maintained, even in the face of worsening circumstances – after all, relationships are more important than business. Therefore, it is not advisable to change your contacts too often in projects and negotiations with relationship-oriented Russians.
A German subsidiary with Russian employees should make sure that a lot of emphasis is placed on social relations ( by organizing excursions, birthdays, parties). It is important to respect Russian traditions, but also to set limits and to keep a certain amount of distance as the boundaries between professional life and private life are easily blurred for Russians.
A small marketing company in Germany that works for Russia employs both German and Russian staff. On March 8, the female Russian employees stop working somewhat uncertainly after a little while and start setting up a few homemade snacks. They want to celebrate, but their German colleagues keep on working. Knowing about Russian festivals and traditions, the German manager knows that Women’s Day on March 8 is an important holiday in Russia, which is celebrated together at the workplace, and arranges for all employees to work only until 2 p.m. and then to celebrate together. He treats everyone to flowers, cake and sparkling wine.
“In our globalized and competitive world, it’s not just expertise and quality products that are critical to success. Reciprocal friendliness is just as important when dealing with Russian business partners. This is most likely to be the case if you familiarize yourself with the political and cultural backgrounds of your foreign partner beforehand and treat other customs and mentalities with knowledge, tolerance and respect.” (Handelsblatt on 07/19/2008)
Dr. Heidrun Igra