Asia Task Force

Doing business with Asia – a woman’s perspective

Patricia Freshwater : women can bring new perspectives to trading in Asia

Patricia Freshwater : women can bring new and valuable perspectives to trading in Asia

To celebrate International Women’s Day today Patricia Freshwater, Commercial Director of Global Flood Defence Systems (GFDS) shares her insights as a woman doing business with Asian markets.

The speed of our market entry into the ASEAN market has taken us all by surprise: but then, we do have an extraordinary product that is in demand these unusual times.

Flooding is an increasing global phenomenon and it seems that hardly a week goes by without another catastrophic event occurring somewhere around the world. Our phones do not stop ringing at all times of the day and night as distressed individuals and companies reach out to try to find long term solutions to this harrowing problem.

As appalling floods engulfed parts of Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines in June and July 2011, our products were suddenly in high demand and potential distributors were knocking at our door.

It was clear that we needed a robust international business development strategy to meet this demand. I strongly felt that alongside our core product offering, we would also need to articulate our values as an organisation, since these would be pivotal in helping us to achieve international success:  Trust,  Integrity, Passion,  Innovation

As a woman doing business in overseas markets, I find talking about these values extremely easy and they work well in the early stages of discussion with all potential new clients.  They are effective in building rapport and helping to break through international communication barriers as these beliefs are a universal currency.

My top tips for doing business in Asia

•  To build a successful Asian business, you need to be able to spend as much time as you can with your partners and get on their wavelength – don’t be surprised if the first hour of your meeting is taken up by personal chat before you start talking business.

•  Always respect any cultural differences and traditions. For example, ensure you dress appropriately (particularly if you are a woman) for your meeting and in accordance with the cultural norms there, this will help you gain respect quickly especially in the sector I operate in.

•  Food is enormously important, so forget your diet and don’t be afraid to eat everything that is placed before you – it is an honour to sit at the table and a privilege to share in the gastronomy of other cultures.

•  Family is important and you will need to develop a really good understanding of the social and familial hierarchy within the organisation.

• Make sure you speak slowly and clearly at all times and never assume that just because you have finished speaking, everything has been totally understood.   

• SE Asian cultures are so polite and your behaviours will need to mirror and match those of the people around you.  Keep good eye contact and don’t forget to smile on every occasion possible.

• I try to learn a few words in the language of each market I go into.  People really appreciate the effort and might laugh at your mispronunciation – but that is how you make friends and build the business relationship.

• Most of all have fun!

Patricia will be speaking on the importance of communication and what you need to consider to be successful in market at Explore Asia: your path to success on 19 March with the Asia Task Force.

Read Global Flood Defence Systems full case study on the UKTI website

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Asia Task Force

About Asia Task Force

The Asia Task Force (ATF) was created in December 2004. Its aim is to bring together experts from industry, education and government to focus on boosting British exports to, and investment in, Asian countries.
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2 Responses to Doing business with Asia – a woman’s perspective

  1. Pat Laing says:

    I was interested in your article as I am considering entering into the Asian market. Most of what was said is common sense and good manners, but it still needs to be said just to remind our western sensibilities that the world is not all the same. That what you have said is not always understood applies to nearly every meeting you go to, but obviously because of the language barrier it is more so. This does go both ways though. As much as they might not understand you, you might not have understood them. I work with a German company and sometimes the wording in emails is a bit jumbled and on occasion I have no idea what they were saying at all. Far from making my work difficult it brings a smile into my day.

  2. John Leigh says:

    I agree with Pat, the language barrier can be a big hurdle to cross, moreover the local working culture. My wife and I run our own foriegn run company in North Cyprus, which is more of an asian society than a european one, our experience that the above all correct and represent good business manners, but also don’t expect that business practices, such as, attending business meeting on time or when they promise to ring you back. Always ring before you attend a meeting to make sure that your prior arranged meeting stil on schedule, be prepare to waite, if you don’t recieve the phone call you are expecting, make the affort to ring, they not ignoring you but perhaps skipped their mind, always be polite and patient.

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