As a foreigner in Myanmar, I immediately struggled to understand the magic formula to get someone to work with me in business. I had tried to work with a few different people in business on entry but found that Myanmar locals that want to do quick deals, aren’t the ones you want to work with. This is generally true in the west as well but more easily decerned.
As everyone knows who spends 1 day in Myanmar, on the surface Myanmar people are friendly and open. After being in Myanmar a few years a trend in my dealings with Myanmar business people emerged. People trust differently in Myanmar. They are friendly and open initially but are slow to move any business together forward. I have written about the 7 meeting rule in a previous post about how it takes about 7 meetings for people generally to make a deal in Myanmar. The reason for this is that you have to build trust with them. If they didn’t grow up with you or go to school with you, they will not trust you immediately. They believe that you have to earn trust to be able to do business with them. Once you earn their trust then they trust you forever.
How is this different from western cultural values about trust? In the west primarily you can do business with someone that you have never met before. I have had several business relationships that were a result of a few emails and never meeting one another. Why is this? In the West you are trusted until you prove untrustworthy. If you break that trust, you can rarely get that trust back again.
So when you come to Myanmar, expect to move slower than you are expecting. Don’t partner with people that want a quick partnership. If you find a company interested and open but aren’t quick to partner, have patience. Try to meet with them as often as you can. Every meeting is another step toward working together. Remember that you are an outsider and do what you need to do to build trust.
By Ryan Russell (CEO of Myanmar Business Answers)