How to Build Long-Term Business Partnerships in Saudi Arabia

With the largest economy in the Gulf region, a rapidly growing population and an expansive, transformative economic reform plan to bring the country out of its dependence on an oil economy and into a new age of productivity-based growth, Saudi Arabia is a nation that knows how to do business.

Dedicated to its projected growth projects National Transformation Program 2020 and Vision 2030, which dictate a lineup of expansion and improvement goals to be implemented by their respective dates, the Kingdom is in a position to stimulate increasingly diverse economic growth in the next few decades, meaning there’s no better time or place to invest your business ventures. But in order to succeed in the game of Saudi foreign relations and business, you need to understand the importance of business relationships in Saudi Arabia — because establishing trust and ties within the nation is crucial to launching your efforts.

While other markets may operate in terms of business only, Saudi Arabia places a crucial emphasis on understanding and engaging in local communication, culture, context, and customs in order to begin building trust with the decision-makers and figures that will determine your success. If you’re a business leader or corporation looking to expand into the Saudi Arabian market, here’s what you need to know about how to build long-term business partnerships in Saudi Arabia.

Follow Saudi Business Customs

When conducting business in Saudi Arabia, it’s important to understand Saudi business customs and how to adapt your strategies to work in a Saudi context. While Western business rarely focus on religious and cultural aspects of business, these are closely intertwined in Saudi Arabia, and they affect the nature in which business is conducted.

Entering a business arrangement without the proper knowledge of etiquette and customs can be perceived as disrespectful and insensitive in Saudi culture, and it may jeopardize your business prospects in the country. You should have a full understanding of business and cultural customs in Saudi Arabia before entering into any meetings or visits with prospective partners. For example, common best-practices in business communication do not directly translate in a Saudi context that rewards relationship- and trust-building gestures. Ignorance and unfamiliarity with how to conduct business, from first contact through execution and follow-up, can cause deals to fail.

Have an Understanding of Local Culture and Beliefs

Not only should you be familiar with business-specific cultural customs when establishing business relationships in Saudi Arabia, but you also need to be mindful and respectful of religious beliefs and how they affect country-wide culture, including business relations. For example, be aware that Muslims pray five times a day and work from Sunday to Thursday, reserving Friday for worship. Be observant and knowledgeable about Islamic holidays, and take care to learn and return correct Muslim greetings.

Observe Laws and Traditions

Because religious culture shapes everything from the work week to appropriate social exchanges, be aware that it also dictates traditions and rules relating to how business is conducted. Business meetings will follow Arabic customs in terms of hierarchy and communication, meetings will not be scheduled during daily prayer times, and open disagreements are often avoided to preserve the valued relationships. Be extremely mindful of unspoken cultural rules when building business relationships in Saudi Arabia.

Build Trust

More than anything, it’s important to build trust and respect with your Saudi business associates. Business will not be conducted until you have a strong personal and professional relationship, which you must foster with a foundation of respect, cultural adherence, frequent long visits and meetings and a careful understanding of custom.

Doing business in Saudi Arabia is complex, but here at the Quincy Group, we have many years experience doing business in the country. We have already built the critical relationships and can often “lend” this credibility on behalf of our clients as they work to establish themselves in the country. When it comes to establishing business relationships in Saudi Arabia, we have both the expertise and the access you need to succeed. Contact us to learn more about expanding your opportunities today.