Mother Russia. Typing those words sends a chill down my spine for various reasons. The Cold War and nuclear fallout come to mind. As do the chilling red flag and bread lines. I see tremendously large armies controlling small rural towns, controlling those who were against the communist ideal. The statue of Carl Marx and the birthmark on Gorbechav’s head are vivid. As I step back and think on that imagery and the negative connotation with the country’s name, I realize that most of my trepidation is due to a lack of knowledge.
Yes, there is a scathing history between Russia and the United States that is undeniable. The two countries are like super athletic brothers, both constantly picking on each other and completing feats of strength to prove who is the strongest and most powerful. One day, things seem amicable and friendly, the next the two are back at it again. However, in my short life, my experience has led me to believe that many times, when two people have this much disagreement, there is often times much similarity to be discovered as well.
Let’s learn about Russian business culture!
It didn’t take long in my research to find similarities between the Russian culture and the culture here at home. In fact, according to the experts, one of the first items to remember when doing business in Russia is to be confident in your actions and approach. (Foreign Staffing , 2015). Russian businessmen and women appreciate the individual who is not only confident in their products or services, but want someone who exudes it as well. I have yet to conduct business domestically when my team and I did not take the same approach. In fact, if I look at the failed attempts at partnership, I can say that when we lacked conviction and confidence is when we were unsuccessful in our pursuits (ironically that was also reflected in our pricing!).
Russians businessmen and women approach individuals with a firm handshake, looking them in the eye and giving a first name introduction (Foreign Staffing , 2015). Again, this is considered “business 101” in the United States. Think back to your first job (and if you do not have a job yet, consider this solid, free adviceJ) and you will undoubtedly remember getting feedback on approach from a supervisor, mentor or someone else in your office on the introduction or greeting. I have worked for three large global organizations, and in Leadership offerings, this point is reiterated in each. The greeting, the first impression is important.
Relationships are key in Russian business, especially considering the challenging past with the Communist/Socialist regime and their current government structure (World Business Culture, 2015). Relationships are important, and building a strong relationship, understanding the business partner is one of the more critical pieces of advice I can give anyone in doing business domestically. When I was young in my career, I did not understand the importance of networking and creating partnerships to grow business. 75% of all business won by my organization was organic growth, or customer’s we already did business with.
The last similarity between the business that I found striking…I almost thought I was reading about my experiences domestically…was that Russian businesses are often driven by a single, strong personality to provides direction to the rest of the organization (World Business Culture, 2015). The term “Chief Executive Officer” (CEO) is one of the more derogatory terms in the United States in many cultures. The term brings about vision of highly paid men riding around in private jets and playing golf each day, while their teammates slave away in the office. While that isn’t necessarily true (or untrue), the CEO is the central figure for most businesses, guiding and directing the organizations current and future initiatives.
Those four similarities, while a short list indeed, are striking to me because it is exactly the experience we have domestically and all play an important role in how we conduct business domestically. It can be argued that those four similarities play the most important roles in how we conduct business domestically.
There are obviously differences in cultures between the two countries and our past history, and the perception of that history and how it’s communicated to the masses, does and should shape our perspective to an extent. By opening our minds and digging a little more, we can find that the culture in Russia really isn’t that different at all and in fact, is more alike than different.
The analogy of two athletic brothers competing may just be the most accurate analogy of all.
Foreign Staffing . (2015, April 20). Russian Business Etiquette . Retrieved from Foreign Staffing: http://www.foreignstaffing.com/about/international-business-etiquette/russian-business-etiquette/
World Business Culture. (2015, April 20). Doing Business in Russia. Retrieved from World Business Culture: http://www.worldbusinessculture.com/Business-in-Russia.html