Russia is a growing market for exporters, but doing business in the country presents specific cultural considerations that differ from Western practices.
The U.S. Commerce Department states the following about opportunities for exporters to Russia:
An emerging middle class with disposable income is fueling demand for automotive products, household goods, financial services, retail products and a medical equipment and services; a major construction boom is creating a need for equipment and materials; franchise businesses are growing in both the food and non-food sectors; opportunities for services and equipment for infrastructure upgrades in power generation and telecommunications are growing; and high energy prices are driving demand for oil and gas field equipment and services.
Doing business in Russia mixes formality with a personal touch.
Businesspeople are expected to dress formally and conservatively. In the initial meeting, Kwintessential recommends that Western businesspeople err on the side of formality.
Russian businesspeople are also big on written material; they may expect slides, brochures and samples. These written materials, as well as one's website and business cards, should present a high-quality image, according to the Australian Trade Commission.
Russians also expect agreements and deals to be written and signed. For example, at the end of meetings, they may want to sign a protokol, basically the minutes of what was discussed, according to Kwintessential.
On the other hand, Russian businesspeople, before they discuss hard details, like to chat and get to know potential business partners on a personal level. Once a Russian partner becomes more familiar with a foreigner, physical contact, such as a pat on the shoulder, is not uncommon.
During business negotiations, it's also common for Russians to show emotion. They may even lose their temper, walk out of the meeting, or threaten to terminate the relationship, according to Kwintessential.
Sometimes, they use these tactics to extract concessions from the opposing party.
Another tactic they may use is dragging out the negotiation process, hoping to take advantage of the impatience of the opposing party.
Therefore, it might not be a good idea to let a Russian business counterpart to know of one's deadlines and time constraints.
Russian businesspeople expect Western counterparts to be on time for appointments; however, they themselves may be late in order to test the patience of their partner, according to the International Business Center.
Russian businesspeople may expect to be offered concessions on initial proposals; therefore, it may be wise for Westerners to view their first price as a starting point for negotiations, according to the Australian Trade Commission.
One thing Russian businesspeople expect quickly is a comprehensive follow-up after a meeting from Western businesspeople. A business deal may stagnate and not move forward unless this happens.