Work in Japan Advice Board
Despite UN sanctions preventing oil- and gas-related investments, as well as certain other areas of business, Iran is still a major center of international trade in the Middle East. While the global media paints a severe picture of Iran, it is generally a safe country where business dealings do go on with a range of partners from a number of countries. If your company is planning to expand into Iran or already working with Iranian businesses, you will need to know certain rules of etiquette before heading over to meet your Iranian counterparts. Use this brief primer as your starting point.
Points to Remember:
• Iranians want to know that they can trust you before they will proceed further in business dealings with you. Your primary goal should be to gain this trust.
• Patience is key in Iran. Try not to pressure your colleagues or rush the process of doing business.
• The strength of your proposal as well as your ability to connect to your Iranian counterparts will be the source of your success in Iran. Come prepared with a strong, clear, and translated proposal. Also make an effort to get to know your hosts.
• Business hours are Saturday through Thursday in Iran. Friday is not a workday.
• Make appointments four to six weeks in advance and reconfirm a week before the scheduled meeting.
• Iranians are generally not punctual, but you should be.
• The aim of the first meeting will be to introduce yourself to your potential partner and begin building a relationship. This is the starting point for doing business in Iran. The rest will follow in later meetings.
• Small talk is common and expected at the beginning of a meeting. It is acceptable to lightly speak about personal topics such as family and health. Wait until your Iranian counterparts shift the topic to business. Do not initiate this yourself.
• There may be an agenda but it’s common to experience various interruptions in and to stray from the agenda in meetings.
• In all negotiations, stay polite, calm, and patient. Iranians are quite comfortable with expressing strong emotions and this might be used as a tactic in negotiations. Be patient if you experience anyone storming out of a meeting or appearing angry.
• Iranians are keen on negotiation, so be ready to be involved in a lot of back and forth, and expect this to take time. You may have to negotiate with different people as well, dealing first with lower-ranking staff and moving further up the chain of command as you go.
• The final word will be decided at the top, by an individual or panel of high-ranking employees who head the company.
• Wearing a tie is not a common fashion choice in Iran. But otherwise stick with conservative attire, such as dark-colored suits.
• Women must make an effort to cover as much skin as they can, including arms and legs, as well as covering the head with a scarf. The more hair that is covered, the more conservative you will appear, which is probably best for a visitor.
More to Keep in Mind:
• Businesses are usually closed for two or three weeks around the Persian New Year, called Nowruz, at the start of spring. It may also be prudent to not plan your visit during Ramadan, the month of fasting in Iran. The exact dates these celebrations begin may differ each year, so make sure to check beforehand.
• There is a lot red tape in Iran that will slow things down. This is where it helps to know someone or have contacts. Otherwise, you will have to be very patient.
• You may want to consider bringing or hiring a translator to make your negotiations and transactions proceed more smoothly, and to avoid any miscommunications.
• Be sure to check your country’s laws regarding doing business in or with Iran. Even though it is for the most part a safer place than the media makes it out to be, there are still countries that impose significant penalties on those wishing to, or doing business with Iran.
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