Taiwan: the importance of relationships
Virtually devoid of its own natural resources, Taiwan is a highly successful economy, which is heavily dependent on foreign trade for survival. It is a place of ambiguity where traditional Confucian values compete with rampant capitalism and opportunism and where relationships are all-important – yet where negotiations can often stick on the smallest of points.
Taiwan’s economic landscape is dominated by small to medium-sized, family controlled businesses which are usually dominated by one, older male member of the family who makes all key decisions.
Initial meetings are usually used to aid the relationship building process with little or no emphasis placed on the actual business ideas on the table. It is important to take these preliminary meetings seriously and to try not to push things along quicker than the Taiwanese are comfortable with. Relationships are of primary importance in business dealings and it is very much in the best interests of profitable long-term business to allocate resources to these early get-togethers, even build some ‘relationship’ meetings into the business plan.
Communication patterns can be vague and coded, which can make their true meaning difficult to decipher, which can make meetings slow and difficult. The giving and receiving of gifts is part of the all important ritual of business relationship development – and in a country where relations are placed firmly before business, gifts are therefore an important business tool. Avoid expensive gifts, especially in the early stages of a relationship. If an expensive gift is to be given, present it to the head of the delegation as a gift for the whole group. If individual gifts are to be given, ensure all present receive one with a slightly more impressive gift going to the senior person. Single malt whiskey or cognac is always appreciated. Gifts should be wrapped and are often refused two or three times before being accepted. They are rarely opened in front of the giver.
Do you have any experience of doing business in Taiwan that you can share?