In 2016 I was honoured to work with Turkish fashion house Barrus. Leading a team to launch them at London Fashion Week I spent six months going back and forth working in Istanbul to help develop the brands market penetration strategy and launch campaign. During my time I learnt a lot about the culture and the art of doing business in Turkey. Below I share my tips and experiences as a way of giving you an insight into the do's and don'ts of international business, this time with a focus on Turkey.
Knowing The Hidden Gems
Turkey is full of many beautiful places and hidden gems. However if you work in fashion you need to be in Nisantasi, known for its forever-chic neighbourhood, luxury fashion district and fine Istanbul shopping. One of the most important areas of Istanbul, it is famous for its world-class brand boutiques, luxurious spas and gyms, and some of the best restaurants and bars in the city.
I stayed at The Sofa Hotel on Tesvikiye Street, which is a stylish building, full of contemporary art. Opened in 2007 it has been chosen among Europe`s top ten design hotels as it reflects an innovative and cosmopolitan approach to travel in every detail. The top floor of the hotel is home to Frankie Istanbul, one of the City`s finest dining venues set in an elegant and vibrant ambience against a breathtaking view of Istanbul`s sky line.
Understanding Cultural Nuances
Turks like to do business with food. I noticed that every meeting had Turkish sweets, cakes and Turkish Coffee (which is delicious). To not accept the food is seen as rude so I would advise to try at least some of what is on offer. I personally liked the Baklava which is a rich, sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey.
Overcoming Language Barriers
Whilst English is the language of business in Turkey, I would highly recommend that when attending important negotiation meetings that you have your own interpreter. My personal experience was that you never want to be in a room trying to do deals, knowing by the use of body language, that the meeting host is trying to do counter-deals right in front of you! So hire your own interpreter to translate everything.
As with most international trips it’s important to know the habits and communication patterns of the country you are doing business with. Effective communication can bring you closer to making a business deal successful. Turkey has many traditional beliefs and values, therefore an understanding of its culture will bring you closer to business success.
You will see in the video below that in Turkey people greet each other by either shaking hands or by kissing on both cheeks, however when I first met my client I went to give them three kisses as opposed to the two. Whilst a small mistake it could potentially reinforce to those you are meeting for the first time that you have not done business there before, so I would try and research these small, but significant communication traits.
Hand and expressive facial gestures in conversation are very common, which very much reminded me of home and Turks tend to stand close to you during conversations. I was once told that if you step back that its seen as a sign of disrespect, however I personally didn't get this impression, but it is something worth noting.
It is best to avoid speaking about religion and politics during initial meetings. What I particularly noticed in Turkey is that such topics are highly sensitive and they require local knowledge and an appreciation for the views of your host. Equally I was informed that the wearing of the traditional Muslim headscarf (hijab) is also a controversial topic in Turkey that should be avoided.
Because the meetings can all seem very personal, with flowing of food and light conversation, it is particularly important to send meeting notes straight after the meeting to confirm pointers agreed and actions to take. The last thing you want in Turkey, as with any country, is to have miscommunication on the agreed outcomes.
The best Lamb Shank I have ever tasted was served in Istanbul....try it, I promise you won't regret it!
VIDEO - Kubi out and about in Turkey discovering the city in between meetings.