Ten top insider tips for doing business in Vietnam
In terms of the ease of doing business, of all the countries in the world, Vietnam was ranked the 91st in 2016 by the World Bank. In 2017, that improved to 82nd, and planned government reforms will likely see further improvements in the years ahead. But barriers remain.
With over 20 years’ experience of living, working and doing business in Vietnam, and helping many others, DEEP C has garnered a wealth of experience and expertise. We make no apologies for the first tip:
1. Choose DEEP C as your partner
You will need a reliable, trustworthy partner, not least because you will need someone with Vietnamese, English and other language skills, the right business and government contacts, and a track record of getting it right. A glance at our long-term partners listed on this website should give you confidence.
2. Learn Vietnamese
As we’ve mentioned before, business relationships in Vietnam will become personal relationships. Apart from the advantage you will have when it comes to initial negotiations, speaking Vietnamese will be of immeasurable help during social occasions and move you from being an outsider to an insider.
3. Rules & Regulations
As you’d expect from the World Bank’s rating, Vietnam has a complex business system. While it is improving, having a partner with knowledge and contacts is invaluable in dealing with such matters as construction permits, registering property, obtaining electricity and other utilities, opening a bank account, establishing credit, paying taxes, and international import & export regulations.
4. Be patient
This applies as much to your business life as it does to living in Vietnam. From the start, putting a business in place will involve a mass of paperwork and often many days waiting for official permission to go ahead. And as we mentioned in the previous blog, building the vital personal relationship with business contacts will also take time.
5. Enjoy networking
Vietnam is full of energy as well as opportunities. The more you network, not just with expats —in general they will be supportive — but with the Vietnamese, the more you will be rewarded and the more inside information you will glean.
6. Appreciate Vietnam
Step aside from business and appreciate the sheer beauty of the country — it is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites — its culture, people, and food. In turn, that will give you more to share and discuss in building the vital personal relationships that go hand-in-hand with business.
7. Be open minded
Forget how it worked back home, this is Vietnam. It is very different and in some sectors is still developing in terms of its procedures and systems. Do not expect the same standards and do not be afraid to ask for advice when you don’t understand something. The key is to drop expectations, adapt and be flexible.
8. Respect your elders
It is traditional in Vietnam to accord high respect to elder people, a convention that impacts business management structures as well as social life. Be aware of it both in negotiations and at business dinners—e.g.: direct your toast at the latter to the senior person at the table. And remember that the order for a Vietnamese name is: family name, middle name and then given name. When addressing or referring to someone, use his/her given name with the appropriate honorific, the latter as we discussed in a previous blog.
9. Learn to be humble
While it would be difficult for a Vietnamese to openly admit even a minor mistake through fear of losing face, you can help build a more trusting and open relationship by admitting yours. This is especially true during your early days when you will not have been expected to master all the intricities.
10. Smile and show respect
Establishing a business in any country is stressful. In Vietnam in the recent past it proved so stressful many foreign companies packed up and went home. But those who stayed have reaped the benefits and continue to do so. Become one of them — and do it with a smile not a grimace, respect not anger, for the challenges you will face.
In the next blog we’ll look at arranging successful business meetings.