On a more positive note, gone are the days when it was okay to be late in meetings conducted in the Philippines. Business people in this country now appreciate the importance of punctuality, as more businessmen arrive on time. Still, the pace of doing business in the Philippines is done casually and leisurely. As opposed to western practices, things usually unfold at a snail’s pace, which can be absolutely excruciating for the results-oriented foreigner. It would be best to adapt to these practices, as these have been the tradition over the centuries. It would take a long time to make a significant dent and adapt western modes of business interaction.
In addressing your new business acquaintance, use his or her family name. The address “Mister” is preferred by men, while Mrs. is preferred by married women. Avoid using your business acquaintance’s first name, unless he or she asked you to. It would be best for you to ask their preferred names to avoid awkward situations and show respect. If in doubt, address your new business acquaintance through his or her title, like Architect Lopez or Attorney Padilla. This is especially applicable when dealing with high-ranking government and military officials.
It is very proper to handout your business card, although the manner is less formal than the common practice of foreign businesses. Consider yourself very lucky if your contact has given you a personal number aside from the ones printed on his or her card. It only means that he or she is ready for a more personal and cordial relations, which will prove beneficiary to your business.
After the requisite small talk following the introductions, the meeting would proceed focusing mainly on the agenda at hand. Nevertheless, specific conclusions would not necessarily be achieved during the initial meeting. Businessmen in the Philippines like to hang around afterwards for more talks, even if the meeting itself has been tense. It would be considered impolite to go on ahead immediately after the meeting, even if you’re running late for another meeting or you’ve just lost a difficult negotiation. The right thing to do is to mend fences, leave with a smile and hearty farewell, and return to do battle another day. Despite of these, Filipinos are very open and willing to set up another meeting to discuss and negotiate on particular business matters. It may eventually lead to the finalization of contract of formal agreement, although it takes longer compared to what westerners use to do.
Moreover, Filipinos are not fond of confrontation. They avoid loss of face or public humiliation like in most Asian cultures. Therefore, Filipino contacts prefer an atmosphere of calm and restraint, avoid direct confrontation, and offer a polite reply combined with a smile rather than an outright negative feedback to other people’s ideas. A “yes” might mean a lot of things, thus, one should be aware of the subtleties of a particular conversation. You need to avoid raising you voice, using the wrong intonation, or implying that your business associate is incompetent. Arrogant and pushy businessmen do not go far in the industry….
To be continued…
Part three: Business Quirks