Russia, like many other countries, has its differences in terms of culture and how to do business. So if you are going to do business in Russia it is important to learn and understand these differences so your trip goes smoothly.
Russia is undergoing some radical changes at the moment due to the removal of the old order; this has left a big gap in Russia both politically and economically. Although the old order is gone many Russian companies are still under the old laws of the soviet Union which are no longer valid and the new laws are constantly being re-written so cannot be enforced.
The only things that can be relied on are the close personal relationships in the workplace and a strong level of trust when forming agreements because if the business relationship falls apart the legal aspect of the agreement will end up meaning very little.
When dealing with a potential client or partner in Russia it is essential that you find out who is in the highest ranks, as Russian organisations are usually driven by one powerful person who makes all the strategic decisions without consulting anyone else other than a few trusted advisors. By finding out who that this person is you will save yourself a lot of time and effort than trying to gain answers from someone in a lower ranking.
Russian companies tend to have a focused interest in the short term of business activities so make sure you can provide the company with the short term benefits that they can gain from joining you as well as the long term benefits.
If team work is required it is best to allow the team to get to know each other well and then keep this team together as they will be more efficient if they have developed close bonds with each other, there should also be an appointed team leader who will be able to deliver clear instructions and show that they are in control.
Knowledge of the English language will vary greatly in Russia, some will be fluent in English as well as other languages and some will know very little. It is important to find out in advance if an interpreter will be required to prevent communication issues occurring.
More emphasis is usually put on the spoken word than the written, where possible aim to speak directly to the client or potential partner as this will be more efficient in getting the information across than sending the information in just the written format.
During meetings Russians tend to give little verbal or visual feedback, do not take this as a sign of disinterest or lack of understanding as it usually means that they are taking their time to think about the information given before replying.
A high percentage of the Russian workplace is made up of women, however, it is rare to find them in high level positions and if you are a woman going to work in Russia be prepared to be greeted with the old traditions of courtesy but ignored or treated as inferior by the male colleagues in meetings even if you are of a higher rank than them.
Russians tend to dress as well as they can based on their salary, it is important to look smart and appear to be dressed expensively as this will enhance the first impression you give to the client and in turn increase your credibility.
Remember that the weather in Russia can be very extreme, especially in the winter, so make sure you find out the weather conditions of where you are going and dress accordingly.
by +Steph Lyons