|It’s often said that doing business in Asia involves drinking three cups of tea, and I’ve often spoken about the importance of thinking long term, placing trusted relationships before transactions, and turning up regularly to show your interest in the people as much as the business. I’ve even written a book on this topic “Three Cups of Tea – the Art of building Relationships in Asia” which you can download via this link.|
The question we all have to ask ourselves now is: how are we going to start, build or advance these relationships in Asia when we’re not able to travel as freely and easily as we were before? I think we can all accept that the global pandemic is likely to make travelling more difficult in the coming years, certainly harder than before, and we won’t be hopping on and off planes as easily or frequently as we did prior to the start of 2020.
Assuming that, like me, you find it difficult to build deep and meaningful relationships via Zoom and Teams, we’re going to have to find new and creative ways of showing our Asian business partners that they mean more to us than a link on our calendar to another online video call. Here are some suggestions:
- Send a gift. It’s not that hard to do and would mean so much to the recipient. You used to go to plenty of trouble to take gifts with you when you could travel to Asia, why not place an order online? (Hint: Today is the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival in Asia and its not hard to find local suppliers of moon cakes to make a delivery)
- Write old fashioned letters telling them what’s happening in your country, how you and your family are coping, how the business is going and share photos of your colleagues, kids and families. Encourage them to do the same. Keep it light, friendly, personal and orientated towards family, friends and your local way of life.
- Ask if there’s anything they need which you can help with in your home country? Perhaps they have a friend or family member struggling in lockdown who you can help or support? Or there is a particular product or item which they are missing which you could easily source and send to them? You may be surprised at how easy it is to respond to their requests and, if they can’t think of anything, just making the offer will show them that you’re thinking of them and willing to go well beyond the boundaries of normal business relationships.
There’s no business, transaction or order that will come directly out of any of the above, and I’m sure there are other ideas that I haven’t thought of (if so, please send them through). However, we’re living through challenging times, we can’t travel easily and we’re all going to have to find new ways of showing kindness, care and support if we’re going to maintain the important relationships we had in the past.