It takes commitment and a different kind of mindset to be a part of this global change.
It is an exciting time to be in business in Australia … we are close to the new economic growth engine of the world – Asia. The pace of change in nations such as China and Indonesia, coupled with the desire to improve lives and the amount of funds moving around the region, makes for a dynamic moment that can’t be ignored.
Australia is well-placed to use its knowledge and skills to be a positive part of the development that different Asian nations are making. But it’s not enough to just be a neighbour to attract investment, or build a market overseas.
It means developing new ways of creating relationships and learning about a nation’s cultural past and how it is intersecting with its future. If this is not understood the danger is that Australian business will be left behind. That message is coming through from senior trade officials and others who are in the midst of the pace of change in Asia, and seeing how other countries are vigorously moving in on opportunities. As the nation’s Trade Commissioner in Indonesia said in briefings last year about the business being pursued “Australians are notable by their absence.”
So what can be done. If considering going in then these markets can be challenging, and are not for everyone. There is an understandable fear of the unknown which can curtail opportunities and the chance to learn. Business may not know how to work with partners from a different environment, operate in a space that feels constantly fluid, or know how to deal with issues such as corruption. And negotiating with business partners from another culture can also be challenging, with different kinds of communication meaning that mis-steps occur. However there are western-style business that are showing how to navigate this space while holding firm to values and a vision. It takes incredible patience and a determination to persist in a much more competitive market, and a willingness to build fruitful relationships.
In my experience there are small and useful ways to ease the uncertainty and develop a more considered understanding of an environment that initially seems strange.
There are specific actions that can be taken to create business partnerships to find positive ways to work together. I have been fortunate in my professional life to learn such actions and the value of them, even small ones, and of using them appropriately – which is usually, simply about making a sincere effort to connect and learn. It turned into a means of engagement – a series of steps to help me learn about potential partners and build a deeper (business) relationship that should ultimately reduce the risk in an unknown space. And we all know how uncomfortable an unknown space can be!
Working on building a relationship also ensures that there is a shared vision early on, one that is clear to both parties. While an effort to genuinely engage means there is less likelihood of flare-ups due to miscommunication.
A good example of taking the time to build relationships is a company called Pnors Technology. Almost two years ago it started looking at the market in Indonesia for its tech systems. The company’s founder Paul Gallo, even though busy, continues to make numerous trips to Indonesia, building trust with key people, learning about its systems, and explaining how the technology can be of benefit to Indonesia’s health sector, and its people. Late last year the company signed an MOU with the government body in charge of public service technology implementation. It has also led to interest in applying the technology in another industry.
The MOU is significant in this context because it signals that the two parties have found a way to work together and plan to keep doing so (more information on this here).
At numerous investor and business briefings in the past year there have been several times that the value of having a shared intent prior to signing a contract was a factor in successful partnerships. These events also stressed the need to spend time finding the right business partners, which one trade official commenting that “A third of our time is spent dealing with problems, usually through miscommunication with partners.”
Strong communication channels and a shared vision from the outset – these are ingredients that may not seem important in the Australian context, but are highly useful, if not vital, when considering business with, and in, Asia.
The motto of Bisnis Asia is “genuine friendships for a better business outcome” and we use communication and research skills to develop a strategy to build a fruitful and respectful business relationship. To learn more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The material in this piece is general in nature. If of interest, business is advised to seek specific professional advice suitable to their needs.