Malaysia – A Competitive Economy
In a report released by the World Bank in October 2012, Malaysia is the 12th most competitive economy in the world for doing business placing the country ahead of economies like Sweden, Taiwan, Germany, Japan and Switzerland. It ranks Malaysia 4th in the world in the category of ‘protecting investors’ and 1st position, together with South Africa and the United Kingdom, in the category of “ease of getting credit”.
Malaysia presents the visitor with a myriad of different cultures within its business world. As it is very ethnically diverse, try to do as much research on potential contacts as possible before entering into business negotiations – these factors can have a telling impact on how things will proceed.
As most business structures tend towards the hierarchical with information flowing to the top and most decisions being made by key senior management figures, it is important to ensure that dealings are with the key senior figures. Individual aspirations are seen as secondary to the needs of the group. Rewards and motivation come from group success. Meetings can be lengthy, starting with a great deal of relationship building small talk. It is not unusual for initial meetings to focus solely on non-business related issues.
Relationships must be firmly established before business can commence. Do not underestimate the need to allocate time and resource to the relationship-building aspect of a project and do not destroy the harmony through being overly pushy when trying to reach a decision.
Meetings may start late or last longer than had originally been scheduled, so building delays into meeting timetables is essential. Politeness and diplomacy are prerequisites when doing business in Malaysia. Directness can be misconstrued as rudeness and is seen as the behaviour of people who lack respect.
English is widely spoken and very many people have a near-fluent command of the language. However, be aware that what is said is not necessarily what is meant. Look for the coded-meaning behind all communication. Women will encounter fewer difficulties when working in Malaysia than in some other regions.
Share your Malaysian business experiences.