Earlier this month, I was cited in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article entitled “Time Runs Differently in the Emirates.” In the piece, WSJ writer Emily Flitter discusses experiences of global businesspeople who have noted that expectations regarding the timing of meetings and the exactness of appointments may vary in certain UAE settings.
My own perspective, which was faithfully conveyed in the article, is that UAE business norms — especially those of multinational companies — are deeply (and increasingly) reflective of global corporate practices. The bulk of professionals are expatriate, and these expats often bring to the Gulf their global corporate culture. I point out that the Dubai office of a German firm may be no less punctual than its offices in Berlin or Frankfurt, especially if most senior managers are on secondment from overseas locations.
In informal settings such as a majlis (private reception room) or social gathering, however, appointments are far less precise. As many important business decisions — especially those relating to family businesses — are made in a majlis — it is important for international businesspeople to be aware of and sensitive to these forums.
The WSJ piece affirms the growing level of interest amongst US and other global businesspeople in effectively engaging the Gulf region. That this week’s Economist features the cover story entitled “The Rise of the Gulf” is evidence enough of this booming interest.
While tactical matters (such as when to show up for a meeting) are certainly important, as firms get more serious about the Gulf they need to adapt to the region at much more strategic levels. That’s why Dubai & Co.: Global Strategies for Doing Business in the Gulf States takes a deeper, corporate strategy-level perspective on the key elements of the core functions of a company, including:
- Market entry strategies,
- Marketing to Gulf buyers,
- Human capital strategies,
- The Gulf as a source of capital,
- Operations strategies,
- Organization design strategies, and
- Raising awareness at the global head office.
In the long term, building a deeply successful presence in the Gulf requires a holistic and strategic outlook.
The full text of the WSJ article is available to WSJ subscribers here.