The Best Of What’s Going On In MENA

A Guide to Succeeding in MENA

You’re a gifted entrepreneur with an idea so brilliant it will work anywhere. Right? Wrong! The first part I’m sure you have. The second part will be stunted by cultural differences which could cause chasms between an idea or business that floats or sinks like a stone. For those considering starting your business in the MENA or expanding into the region, MENA Prestige has a few useful pieces of advice...

1. Pick your partners prudently. A lot of people perceive the region as having streets lined with gold. But with all the opportunities there are pitfalls. Once you learn to see through the mirage, only then will you be able to discover the fruitful oasis. One often makes ‘apple to apple’ comparisons between choosing business partners in the west, where you may focus mainly on credentials such as professional position and reputation, and in the Middle East where you will do better focusing on: does your prospective partner have the character and integrity you can depend on? How much do you feel he/she values your partnership? Is this someone you should be doing business with? The Middle East communities are often small-knit, so make a few inquiries. What are his/her successes and failures? If they have no experience of failure as yet, how might they react if something breaks down in your own partnership or business?

2. Patience is a virtue. In the Middle East, measuring time on a wristwatch simply isn't part of the culture. The Middle Eastern atmosphere of doing business over several coffees and extended conversation is a million miles away from the more frantic, busy business practices in the west. Doing well in the region takes tenacity and patience, as things very often take considerably more time than you might expect, whatever time it takes to build the right level of trust. The Middle East is a relationship market where building your personal brand means everything. Three key words to remember are: network, network, network.

3. Gain reward through gradual progress. Continuing on the same theme, trying to make a quick buck or being a fly by night will surely come back and bite you. Very much like the business attitude to building trusting relationships, the key to success in the Middle East market is to think long-term. Don’t come to the region looking for money. Come here with a great idea and as mentioned, the willingness to build trustful relationships over a period of time. With all these solid fundamentals in place, the money will come.

4. To make your new home work, do your homework! Make it your business to know the laws and cultural norms of the land. Don’t think you can play by your own rules and those of your home country. It won’t work. Neither is business in the Middle East done with a firm handshake as it was in the past. Don’t be fooled. Get a contract checked by a good local lawyer who knows the laws of the land. There are many ways to incorporate a business in Middle East, which varies between country and even different ways within a country. Research what business licensing options are available to you. Is it best to partner locally? Or set up in one of the many Free Zones? In any case, keep yourself informed, on top of the game and choose the right partners (see point 1).

5. Use the best of both worlds. Take, absorb and learn from the good things within the Arabian business environment: building relationships, finding lasting partners and gradually reaping long-term benefits. At the same time, don’t lose the good things you've brought with you. This is what makes you different and stand out from the rest. Don’t ever loose that. Adapt yourself to the good and constructive things you discover but equally differentiate yourself by what you can bring. Whether you are here for a short assignment or the long haul, you will undoubtedly learn a new perspective of business, meet an array of people and I’m very sure you will have a good time in the process. Enjoy and always remember to have fun.