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Na Zdorovie: Doing business with Russians explained

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Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once famously said: “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Even though Russia has undergone extraordinary political and cultural transformations and successfully embraced Western-style capitalism after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many people in the West still regard Russian business culture as very mysterious, incredibly intricate and difficult to understand. 

I am originally from Russia and currently live in Moscow, although previously, I studied, worked and lived in France and the UK. I now work for a Russian tech company and mostly deal with foreign colleagues from all over the world. Often, the people I meet seem surprised that I am Russian.  

Given my own experience, I can admit that Russian businessmen have to deal with a lot of myths and stereotypes about Russians. These may be true sometimes, but a lot of the time these myths turn out to be completely wrong.

Despite the tense political and complex economic situation, Russia still remains an important player on the global stage and undoubtedly does have massive business potential. In order to be successful in negotiating and establishing relations with Russian business partners and embrace all the existing opportunities, one needs to learn some valuable tips about getting along with Russians.

Myth 1: Russians do not smile 

While smiling is usually seen as one of the most important communication behaviors, Russian people are often accused of being gloomy. However, contrary to popular opinion — Russians DO smile, but only when there is an appropriate reason to. We smile in specific social situations, for example, when something is really funny or a person is very happy. Russians never just smile out of simple politeness, but when we do — one can be sure these smiles are sincere. 

Surprisingly, sometimes smiling in a work or study environment is not seen as appropriate in Russia – except for employees of a Western corporate environment who are expected to follow the Western style of communication. This is because ‘serious contexts’ are not considered to be a place to smile.

Not smiling to strangers is thought to be a cultural norm in Russia, since it is assumed that there is no special reason why we should greet a stranger that way. Some Russians are a bit shy when speaking English and when they see someone who doesn’t speak their mother tongue, they can get frustrated.

Myth 2: Russians are rude and aggressive

Sometimes it’s quite hard to understand Russians because of their high level of emotionality. Compared to their Western colleagues, business partners in Russia can be more direct, critical and challenging. In fact, they are not impolite, just not playing the so-called ‘small talk’ or ‘mind games’. Russian can say straight to your face everything they think, which is often seen as rude in the West. On the contrary, in Russia, that means people are actually interested and they want to know more about what you are delivering to them.

Russians value everything real, true and honest. They can fight and argue with you at the beginning just to understand who you really are and what you stand for. If you act sincere and play real, they will like you and eventually become your true friend. Keep in mind that good business relationships in Russia are always personal and in many cases business and its outcome depends on how well you can get along. In this sense, Russian culture is similar to Oriental cultures.

Myth 3: Russians never plan ahead and do not set long-term goals

From time to time, Western partners tend to be surprised by Russians missing or even ignoring deadlines. It is partly true: small Russian enterprises and startups are not keen on planning, putting emphasis on the present rather than the future. However, large Russian companies are nothing different from the West: planning is necessary and employees have to set long-term goals and stick to deadlines.

That being said, a good part of the Russian mentality is a high level of crisis mobilization: in urgent situations, Russians tend to unite under pressure and mobilize. They may eventually deliver impressive results under tight deadlines or stressful circumstances.

A good example of this could be the so-called Singles’ Day, the annual global shopping festival organized by Chinese online retailers on November 11th. According to Yandex.Checkout, last year’s stats from the sale saw the YTY 31-fold increase in orders from Russia. All the Russian and Chinese employees demonstrated impressive results and personal dedication to work. 

Myth 4: Russian companies are not competitive with Western companies

Contrary to popular Western opinion, there are many Russian companies that have accepted and embraced international standards of business etiquette. Those Russian businesses are very well aware of international trends and that ensures the flexibility of business process and make them strong competitors for many Western companies. 

Let’s not forget that 40 percent of US Fortune 500 companies were founded by either immigrants or the children of immigrants, many of whom have Russian origin.

Even though Russia’s economy has been tumultuous, a strong technological and entrepreneurial culture has developed in the country over the last five years and produced a number of fast-growing businesses. For instance, Russian tech is big, powered by programmers and developers who are able to solve non-trivial tasks and want to change the world with the help of cutting-edge technologies.

Some companies of Russian origin have already gone global and proved to be successful internationally (Telegram, Kaspersky Lab, AnywayAnyday, Abbyy, Game Insight, Xsolla to name a few). Other tech companies with Russian roots are just about to make their first big step onto the international scene but are already considered promising.

Myth 5: Russians are not aware of international trends and innovations

I travel quite a lot and was pretty surprised to discover that some things in Russia are way more innovative compared to Europe and even the USA. In the US, additional features are often provided by separate startups, Russian banks prefer to keep this functionality in-house as it gives them more control and room for development.

In constant pursuit of new clients, Russian banks have been moving more of their services online, merging Internet and mobile technology to bank the unbanked in Russia and other CIS countries. As a result, Russian banks and PSPs are ceasing to be ‘banks’ in their pure form, and are becoming more of ecosystems with a full range of services, available online.

The most important banking advancement in Russia is mobile banking which can be used by customers to carry out most necessary transactions independently without the need to visit the bank in person. According to the Global Finance Magazine’s 2016 list, the best banking app in Central and Eastern Europe is Sberbank’s mobile banking app.

Russian banks and PSPs are offering a wide array of additional instant services in apps, such as online payments for utility, parking, taxes, traffic fines and so on. Yandex.Checkout was the first in Russia to provide peer-to-peer money transfers via iMessage and also to enable online stores to accept payments via Telegram Bots, allowing their customers to pay for goods and services directly in the messenger.

Furthermore, contactless payment systems, such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, are quickly gaining popularity in Russia, being used mostly for online shopping, food delivery, housing services, cellular networks, and money transfers.

Myth 6: When entering the Russian market, it’s better to partner with international companies 

There is a widespread belief that it’s easier to partner with international companies when entering a new market. However, the specifics of the Russian market prove it’s wiser to work with local leaders, who have much more business expertise and knowledge of the market.

In Russia, just like China, localization is the key to business success. Thus, try to invest more time and effort into finding the appropriate local Russian partner who you can trust, and build a good relationship with them. 

Overall, the Russian market is quite unique: innate cultural beliefs and traditions mingle with new business attitudes and prosperity. Having boundless natural resources, with a highly educated population, aspirational and consumerist in nature, Russia offers tremendous opportunities for international players who know how to navigate the business climate. Therefore, do your homework properly and try your best to see things through Russian cultural lenses.

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Connected, engaged, but often overlooked: The US hispanic market

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As the CEO of a media incubator, I’m proud to have publications across the world, from the U.S. to Latin America and Europe. Getting insight into these communities, and seeing just how engaged separate readerships are in different parts of the world, has become a source for learning.

As an example, one could assume — especially when dealing with startup and business publications — that people who read a Colombian-based tech and startup publication would predominantly live in Colombia, or perhaps its neighboring countries. However one thing that surprised me is that in many cases, more than half of visitors come from within the U.S.

It appears that first, second and even third generation Hispanic Americans are keeping a close eye on the social, economic and business climates in the countries south of the U.S. border, and while their respective governments might be knocking heads, there is still a large connection between Hispanic Americans and the countries their families came from many years earlier.

Here are three other facts which you might not know about the hispanic market in the United States:

A growing market that prefers both English and Spanish

According to the U.S. Census, the number of Spanish speakers living in the United States has grown steadily from an estimated 10 million in 1980 to 37 million in 2015, and it is projected to reach as high as 41 Million by 2020.

In the 2014 study Your Next Big Opportunity: The U.S. Hispanic Market, undertaken by the ‘Think with Google’ think tank, Lisa Gevelber argues that the U.S. Hispanic market has often been overlooked by leading companies and marketers.

The fact that the Hispanic population growth in the U.S. has been steadily shifting from immigration-based to U.S.-born-based over the last decade has posed somewhat of a challenge for brands, who have been unsure as whether to create content in English or Spanish.

As outlined in a recent Forbes article, in 2016 Facebook released its “Facebook IQ” study which conducted in-depth interviews with 500 Hispanics in the U.S. from different language usage backgrounds -predominantly English, bilingual, and predominantly Spanish.  

The study revealed some interesting insights, including that more than 80 percent of respondents felt the Spanish language helps them remain connected to their culture and more than 80 percent of predominantly Spanish speaking American Hispanics use Spanish at least half of the time when they consume content online.

The study also showed that 79 percent of Spanish-dominant and 60 percent of English-dominant Hispanics believe that brands should communicate to consumers in both English and Spanish.

A market ahead of the digital curve

With Hispanic Americans projected to account for roughly a third of the US population by 2050, the time to start targeting this market may be now. When it comes to marketing to this market, it is important to leverage digital channels.

The earlier ‘Think with Google’ study shows that while often overlooked, this market is ahead of other demographics when it comes to early adoption of new devices and it is above average when it comes to mobile usage and video consumption.

However for marketers, it does depend on the age group being targeted. A recent study by Pew Hispanic shows that while the vast majority of 18 to 29 year old Latinos, 94 percent, and 30 to 49 year old Latinos, 89 percent, use smartphones to access the internet, only 58 percent of Latinos ages 50 to 64 and less than half of those ages 65 and older do so.

A 2016 study published by Christina Choy, Insights Manager at Yahoo points out that in comparison to the general population of the U.S., Hispanics are spending more time watching digital video and less time watching traditional TV every year. According to a Nielsen report, the average Hispanic American spends more than eight hours watching online video each month—over 90 minutes longer than the average.  

From an advertising perspective, the study highlights that 64 percent of Hispanics said they are okay with receiving video advertisements if they are receiving access to free content, however that predominantly Spanish speaking American Hispanics were more open to native ads on videos than predominantly English speaking Hispanics.

This group remains the most active on social media

In addition to an increasing population, social media usage remains above average amongst U.S. Hispanics as compared to other demographics. The earlier 2016 Nielsen Social Media report shows that more than 30 million US Hispanics use smartphones as their primary means of accessing social media, considerably higher than any other ethnic group. In terms of content consumption, Hispanic Americans spend more time on social media channels than any other channel.

Whatsapp remains the most widely used communication tool, although a recent study also claims ‘Facebook is the number 1 go-to platform for US Hispanics’ communication’.

According to the earlier Facebook IQ study, U.S. Hispanics are increasingly using social media to connect with their favorite brands and as a discovery platform for new ones. The same study shows that nearly half of Hispanic Americans surveyed view Facebook as a great place to share information about brands, brands, and promotions with family and friends. However, be aware that recent studies show that this market won’t just share any old ad within their communities. 88 percent interviewed said the advertisements which they connect with most include aspects of their culture, regardless of the language.

Hispanic Americans are fully embracing the digital revolution and are more connected and engaged that many other groups in American society. In part because of this, we are likely to see this group take a more vocal position in the country in terms of cultural and economic importance.

Said entrepreneur Hamlet Baptiste, CEO at Ranksense, when discussing his experience in a Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, “I was surprised to learn that combined, the alumni here alone have annual revenues north of $760 million and employ more than 12,000 employees.”

In 2015, U.S. Hispanics accounted for $1.3 trillion in buying power, a 167 percent rise since the year 2000.

To put this into perspective, this is more than twice the 76 percent growth in all non-Hispanic buying power during the same period. Assuming things continue on the same path, Hispanic buying power is estimated to reach $1.7 trillion by 2020. 

That should be enough to grab the attention of media and marketers all over the world.

This article was Co-Written by Craig Corbett

This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily shared by TNW.

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How any leader can become a meetings hero

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“At Facebook, we hang posters around our campus to inspire us – Done is Better than Perfect, Move Fast and Break Things, Fortune Favors the Bold. Two of my favorites say “Ruthless Prioritization” and “The future belongs to the few of us still willing to get our hands dirty.” Those posters influence how I plan my day — I spend my time on what matters most, and I still get my hands dirty every day.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Meetings are tough. Too many meetings can ruin your whole work week and cause you to get nothing accomplished, while too few meetings or meetings that aren’t effective can have the same effect on your teamwork. Finding the right balance of time spent, productivity, and collaboration is the key to making meetings work, but most people aren’t focusing on the right things. Learning how to make meetings work for you is the key to success in business in any sector.

How much time is wasted on meetings?

The average person spends nearly 12 hours a week preparing for and attending meetings. A lot of that time is wasted on things like trying to get your tech to work, dealing with internet interruptions, and getting the attention of folks who are doing other things instead of paying attention.

In the average 38 minute call, 8 minutes are wasted getting started with greetings and banter, 13 minutes are wasted with interruptions and distractions, and there is only about 17 minutes of productive meeting time. Even meeting rooms pose problems – how often do you walk into a meeting room and everyone is able to instantly connect to the internet without any issues?

Setting clear goals can help

Listen, no one wants you to spend all week laying out guidelines for meetings. “Planning for meetings is almost as much of a waste of time as wasting time in meetings,” says Alex France the director of Design Bundles.

But you do need to set clear goals. Are you catching up in a status meeting or is there some sort of major decision everyone needs to be prepared to plead their case for? Just a quick email laying out the guidelines for what the meeting is about and then end goal will help keep everyone on track.

Is it time for a tech check up?

More meetings today happen online or over than phone than in real life, a dramatic shift made possible by the wonders of the Internet. Conference calls are nothing new, but video conferencing and other collaborative meeting tools are straight out of Star Trek.

It’s just a matter of time before we are having meetings through virtual reality or augmented reality. If you’re still dialing in to the conference line on a regular basis it may be time for a refresher – there are some new options available to make your meetings more productive.

Utilizing better tech can lead to less stressful and more productive meetings. Among workers who want better meetings, 51% say they want tech that works at the touch of a button, 44% want wireless meeting tech, 44% want their meeting tech to work seamlessly across different devices, and 40% want to conference with colleagues in multiple locations more simply.

Collaboration is key

Gone are the days when the boss handed out assignments and waited for you to turn in your work. Today’s workplace demands collaboration by self starters. It’s up to you as an employee to make sure your work is done seamlessly and collaboratively. Meetings are supposed to be more about coming together to figure out how to solve problems as a team than they are about everyone reporting to the boss where they are in their part of the project. Collaborative meetings hinge on making the best use of the tools you have available

Keeping documents where everyone on the project can access them is a big time saver. So is making sure everyone is trained to use the same collaborative tools to work on projects. When projects run more smoothly, meetings follow suit.

Bringing meetings into the 21st century

Virtual and Augmented Reality tech can make long-distance meetings seem closer, but there are lots of other 21st century tech solutions that can make meetings more effective. Interactive whiteboards, screen sharing, and mind mapping technologies help to keep everyone on the same page in a futuristic way.

Screen sharing is a great way to ensure people at multiple locations have access to the same information, while interactive whiteboards and mind mapping can help visualize what’s on your mind during active collaboration times.

Mastering meetings is about more than just showing up and listening the whole time. It’s about planning ahead and making your collaboration as efficient and effective as possible. Set clear goals and upgrade your tech and watch the magic happen. Are you ready to take your meetings to the next level?

This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily shared by TNW.

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Contributors

How any leader can become a meetings hero

Published

on

“At Facebook, we hang posters around our campus to inspire us – Done is Better than Perfect, Move Fast and Break Things, Fortune Favors the Bold. Two of my favorites say “Ruthless Prioritization” and “The future belongs to the few of us still willing to get our hands dirty.” Those posters influence how I plan my day — I spend my time on what matters most, and I still get my hands dirty every day.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Meetings are tough. Too many meetings can ruin your whole work week and cause you to get nothing accomplished, while too few meetings or meetings that aren’t effective can have the same effect on your teamwork. Finding the right balance of time spent, productivity, and collaboration is the key to making meetings work, but most people aren’t focusing on the right things. Learning how to make meetings work for you is the key to success in business in any sector.

How much time is wasted on meetings?

The average person spends nearly 12 hours a week preparing for and attending meetings. A lot of that time is wasted on things like trying to get your tech to work, dealing with internet interruptions, and getting the attention of folks who are doing other things instead of paying attention.

In the average 38 minute call, 8 minutes are wasted getting started with greetings and banter, 13 minutes are wasted with interruptions and distractions, and there is only about 17 minutes of productive meeting time. Even meeting rooms pose problems – how often do you walk into a meeting room and everyone is able to instantly connect to the internet without any issues?

Setting clear goals can help

Listen, no one wants you to spend all week laying out guidelines for meetings. “Planning for meetings is almost as much of a waste of time as wasting time in meetings,” says Alex France the director of Design Bundles.

But you do need to set clear goals. Are you catching up in a status meeting or is there some sort of major decision everyone needs to be prepared to plead their case for? Just a quick email laying out the guidelines for what the meeting is about and then end goal will help keep everyone on track.

Is it time for a tech check up?

More meetings today happen online or over than phone than in real life, a dramatic shift made possible by the wonders of the Internet. Conference calls are nothing new, but video conferencing and other collaborative meeting tools are straight out of Star Trek.

It’s just a matter of time before we are having meetings through virtual reality or augmented reality. If you’re still dialing in to the conference line on a regular basis it may be time for a refresher – there are some new options available to make your meetings more productive.

Utilizing better tech can lead to less stressful and more productive meetings. Among workers who want better meetings, 51% say they want tech that works at the touch of a button, 44% want wireless meeting tech, 44% want their meeting tech to work seamlessly across different devices, and 40% want to conference with colleagues in multiple locations more simply.

Collaboration is key

Gone are the days when the boss handed out assignments and waited for you to turn in your work. Today’s workplace demands collaboration by self starters. It’s up to you as an employee to make sure your work is done seamlessly and collaboratively. Meetings are supposed to be more about coming together to figure out how to solve problems as a team than they are about everyone reporting to the boss where they are in their part of the project. Collaborative meetings hinge on making the best use of the tools you have available

Keeping documents where everyone on the project can access them is a big time saver. So is making sure everyone is trained to use the same collaborative tools to work on projects. When projects run more smoothly, meetings follow suit.

Bringing meetings into the 21st century

Virtual and Augmented Reality tech can make long-distance meetings seem closer, but there are lots of other 21st century tech solutions that can make meetings more effective. Interactive whiteboards, screen sharing, and mind mapping technologies help to keep everyone on the same page in a futuristic way.

Screen sharing is a great way to ensure people at multiple locations have access to the same information, while interactive whiteboards and mind mapping can help visualize what’s on your mind during active collaboration times.

Mastering meetings is about more than just showing up and listening the whole time. It’s about planning ahead and making your collaboration as efficient and effective as possible. Set clear goals and upgrade your tech and watch the magic happen. Are you ready to take your meetings to the next level?

This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily shared by TNW.

Read next: The Essential Phone just became a really good deal now that it costs $500

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