If you are like me, you want things to move forward without delay. In Myanmar though, delay is just what happens. Delays come in all forms and all are frustrating. One of the delays that can be most frustrating is thinking that you are talking to a person who can make decisions about buying something, partnering, discussing an idea about a proposal, and finding out that they can’t make those decisions.
It all happens this way. Your staff call the company and they tell them what you want to meet about. You say that you want to discuss an important business proposition and see if the company is interested. A meeting is arranged with someone from the company. You think it has to be someone that can make a decision or they wouldn’t be meeting with you. In the meeting the person seems to be someone important: Director, Manager, Chief of Operations, etc. At the end of the meeting the person says, “great, you should meet my boss about this when he comes back from the trip, he’s on.” You say, “ok……. well please tell him what we talked about so we don’t have to start from zero.” He says, “here’s his number, you can call him yourself and line up a meeting.” WHAT???
If you don’t want to waste valuable time finding partners or buyers of your companies’ product, you’ll need to target the decision maker in the company. Usually this person is the Chairman, CEO, Managing Director. If the person doesn’t have these titles, there’s a good chance they cannot make a decision for the company.
Why is this? Well there may be many reasons but here are a few that stand out as cultural norms. There is a strict hierarchical structure in Myanmar. People have lived for a long time in a world of Generals. Mistakes are not tolerated and often people that make mistakes are scolded (see also put down, yelled at, very very bad things happen). People in companies that are not in a position of power tend to have low initiative taking because of this. They have a fear of being scolded. A fear of doing something wrong……so they do nothing without the approval of the decision maker. They will even meet with you, like what you do, and often will not introduce you to their boss.
Introducing you to their boss is too much of a risk. So save your time and energy. Find THE decision maker.