“’Still a long way to go’ was the only way an Asian businessman could describe Australian understanding of Asian cultures when he received the Connect Malaysia and Cultural Synergies announcement for the upcoming Understanding Malaysian Culture for SMEs workshop,” said Connect Malaysia Principal Consultant, Mr Joe Perri.
Commenting further, Mr Perri said, “Unfortunately, cultural blunders, mistakes and a lack of appreciation for Asian culture beyond a superficial level continue to be the norm. The first and hardest hurdle is to think outside the ‘Aussie cultural bubble’ and realize the importance of time and frequency that is required in the process to establish and build relationships”.
Malaysia has been a top ten trading partner for Australia over many years, with the country’s pro-business economy acting as beacon attracting many entrepreneurs to venture north. The Malaysia Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) that came into effect January 2013 is another incentive making the Malaysian marketplace attractive for SMEs.
“Unfortunately, lack of understanding of local language, culture, customs and many other factors continue to scuttle prospects for success in Malaysia at the first P2P encounter for the hopeful Australian businessman,” continued Mr Perri.
This need and desire to assist Australian SMEs was the motivation that brought Cultural Synergies and Connect Malaysia together to develop the Understanding Malaysian Culture for SMEs workshop to be held at the office of MATRADE, Malaysia’s external trade agency located at 432 St Kilda Road, Melbourne.
The workshop program has been developed and will be presented by Malaysian-born Dr Tom Verghese, an internationally renowned expert, consultant author and main platform/workshop presenter on cross-cultural awareness and Cultural Intelligence (CQ).
“Although a destination with many commercial opportunities and potential, Malaysia can also be a challenging experience. Failure to understand and adapt to Malaysian cultural rules and business practices will invariably result in frustration and misunderstanding,” said Dr Verghese.
“The Understanding Malaysian Culture for SMEs workshop on Saturday May 6 will focus on providing practical information and advice on the various aspects of living and working in Malaysia, as well as conveying an understanding of the underlying elements that shape Malaysian culture inside and outside the workplace.
Cultural differences in business etiquette is where things can really go off the rails,” emphasised Dr Verghese.
“Organisational hierarchy and attitudes towards management roles are a reflection of the country’s societal values or level of social equality. Hierarchy in the workplace defines roles and responsibilities across the organisation and means that those in senior management positions command respect and expect a certain level of formality and deference from junior team members,” explained Dr Verghese.
In contrast, Australian companies emphasise social equality and tend to have comparatively flat organisational structures that include relatively informal communication and an emphasis on cooperation across the business.
So when bringing together operational teams with diverse attitudes and expectations of organisational hierarchy, it can be easy to see why these cultural differences can present a challenge.
Effective communication is therefore essential for success when doing business overseas, but it is particularly critical when messages can be ‘lost in translation’. Hence, it is imperative that it is done so correctly.
Dr Verghese concluded, “While navigating cross-cultural communication can be a challenge, approaching cultural differences in Malaysia with sensitivity, openness, curiosity and respect are the all-important building blocks.”
Mr Perri reiterated, “The purpose of the Understanding Malaysian Culture for SMEs workshop is to provide an introduction to the challenges and opportunities of working in Malaysia and preparing SMEs for doing business in the country.
We also plan to follow the workshop with a roundtable late July / early August at which the attendees will hear from business owners operating in Malaysia, who will provide actual insights into their experiences on the ground in Malaysia.”
Following on from the roundtable event will be a familiarisation program to Malaysia in October, with Cultural Synergies and Connect Malaysia facilitating meetings and introductions for interested SMEs.
NOTE: The Understanding Malaysian Culture for SMEs workshop will be held on Saturday May 6. For enquiries and registration please contact Cultural Synergies by email at [email protected] or telephone 03 9909 7456
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