Take your time

Everyone in business appreciates that ‘time is money’, but in the Arab world you will find that other considerations may have priority.

Your Arab counterpart will always want to give sufficient time to getting to know you personally. Even if he is an MBA and used to thinking of mega-corporations, he (or possibly she) will always want to focus on the individual they are dealing with.

When talking with your Arab counterpart, it is well not to rush in with opinions on local matters and criticism of the government, etc. A tactful line is always to say that you have come to learn (from your counterpart) about the local situation. As your relationship develops, you may well find that he or she will be happy to discuss local matters freely.

Do not even think of rushing in straight from the airport to conclude the deal and fly off again. Huge contracts have been lost because the Arab partner has felt insulted by the lack of time the visitor has felt can be devoted to the personal side of doing business.

In the Arab world a man’s sons can be expected to be part of the scene: it is the norm for an entrepreneur to be training his son(s) to run a business. Time spent meeting, say, an 18-year old will not be wasted as he/she could be a tycoon within 5 years.