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Business negotiations in Turkey Business negotiations in Turkey
by Joseph Gatt
2019-11-05 09:47:22
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Every individual is different. Sweeping generalizations about business negotiations in Turkey, in no particular order.

-In Turkey, your network is going to be very important, more important than in almost any country. It's going to be very hard to get anything done if you're not “part of the family.” You will want to meet all the people in the business, and most businesses operate through networks. If you're looking for textiles, everyone in the textile business knows everyone else. If it's going to be cars, everyone knows everyone else. If it's going to be food, you will need to know everyone from the factory to distribution to the guys at customs. Carpets, they won't give you decent deals unless you know all the big names in person.

turk01_400_01-Notice that when you do business, you will be introduced to a ton of people. Hundreds of people in some cases. Treat everyone with respect, chat casually with everyone, and almost everyone will play some kind of role in the deal. So business in Turkey is rarely a one-on-one affair.

-The more you're comfortable with people, the better the deals you will get. If you're a foreign businessman, here's your homework: study the history of the presence of your country at the soccer world cup, study the history of soccer games your team played against Turkey, and try to find out the names of soccer players from your country who played in the Turkish league. Homework number 2: study any involvement of Turkey or the Ottoman empire with your country. If Turkey fought wars with your country that means you are brothers. Ignorance of that fact will be highly frowned upon.

-Language: English of course is helpful. But note that there are a dozen elite French schools in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, which are often run by Jesuits and a lot of Turkey's rich kids study there. So chances are, if you're doing business, French can be helpful. Turkey also has a huge community in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, so Dutch and German will be spoken in many places.

-Now if you're telling a boring or irrelevant or sensitive story, Turkish people will tell you something like “I know.” You'll go like “how do you know this story” and they'll go like “your friend told me” and you'll go like “what friend?” In many countries people will plain cut you off, but in Turkey rather than brutally interrupting people, they tend to say “I know” and move to another topic. They'll expect you to do the same thing rather than brutally interrupt them.

-The first meeting will usually involve drinking tea and a casual chat. This is where the notion of network is important. If you don't know anyone in the network, you will be stuck discussing soccer and travel. But if you know people in the network, this is where conversation can get a lot more technical and you can both gossip about the network and about how to get a done deal. Most deals involve many people, and in Turkey, no one is anonymous. It's not “the driver” and “the distributor” it's Ahmet and Mustafa.

-Turkish people will try to psychoanalyze you when doing business with you, often by telling you fishy stories to see how you react to them. Stories could be something like “last night I had a threesome with two wonderful women” or “last night I played poker all night” or “yesterday I went to the local Church and you should have seen all the wonders and spirituality” or “yesterday I got into a gun fight with a local gang who wanted my money.” These stories are just to test your reaction, they're trying to figure out whether they can get better deals if they bring women into the business, or whether perhaps they'll get a better deal if they let you win at poker, or perhaps you're the religious type and they will try to please you by having you lecture them on the Bible.

-Finally, friendship in Turkey is supposed to be for life. Perhaps not for life, but most friendships stand the test of time. You will be expected to check in with your friends as often as you can, and if you don't call your friends, here's what's going to happen. Let's say your name is John. When your Turkish network meets to discuss business, they're going to be like: how's John? No news? That bastard never calls. So call, email, send a Facebook message, something. Otherwise they will “delete” you from the network.

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