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Visiting Russia
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Visiting Russia
Preparation for Negotiations
In the Negotiating Theatre
The Negotiation
On Stage
Some BEs and Conclusion
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NEGOTIATING WITH RUSSIANS

Stuart Prior, New Zealand Ambassador to Russia,2003-2006, Prior Group Chairman

 

These notes are offered as a guide to help the New Zealander visiting or living and working in Russia to succeed as a negotiator or contribute to the success of his or her company or team’s negotiations with Russians, whether they are with private business or with the public sector. They are based on my personal experience of Russia (and the Soviet Union before it) over three decades.  Having worked in the New Zealand’s public sector for thirty years I moved to the “dark side”, establishing my own company Prior Group in 2006 to promote New Zealand’s business with the new Russia. Why? because of the  amazing opportunities for contributing, via business, to the development of this exotic, great country whose future shape matters to the world. I hope that the picture which emerges from these notes is of a country of present promise which is going through understandable and essentially normal processes of change. It is an exciting time to be here in Russia – it is hard work but it can also be a lot of fun. This is a country with the “wow factor”!

 

Russia today is a true negotiators’ paradise. It is a “can do, must do” society, rather than a “can’t do, won’t do” society, and the question constantly asked is “why not?” rather than the negative “why?” But everything has to be negotiated.  Positions in the economy have to be fought for and won, defended, given up, fought for again and again, as the economic battles ebb and flow. If it sounds like a “peaceful war” – that’s what it is. The negotiating process provides as many ups and downs, twists and turns, tests of mettle - and tests of metal - as a negotiator could possibly wish for.  It gives wonderful insights into Russia and its peoples. You will have the chance of eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations with proverbial “bad cops” and subtle and elegant negotiations with proverbial “good cops”.  The funny thing is, they almost always are singing from the same song sheet. You will learn that there is almost certainly a “good cop-bad cop” genetic marker which sets Russians apart.

The good news is that to do well in Moscow, and in Russia, gives the visitor professional and personal skills and knowledge which will transfer to any environment in the world. The good news is that everything is possible and that you can be as good as you can be. The bad news is that pretty well everything is hard and success in negotiations, as well as in life with the Russians generally, does not come easily. You can’t come to Russia, hit the ground running and expect to be doing the big deals immediately (not unless somebody else has set them up for you). The big deals will come – but only after a lot of hard work and thorough preparation, may be of two to three years, or more. Then it’s time to move quickly: “Russians take a long time to saddle up, but ride very quickly.”

The bad news is that it is not a zoo but a jungle out there. The good news is that seeing a real Russian bear – both of the literal and metaphorical variety - in the wild is a unique and unforgettable experience. The good news is that you should never be bored – Russia will guarantee you a roller coaster ride which will exhilarate and appall. But Mother Russia does not discriminate – this is the reality for Russians as well as the reality for you as a foreigner living in Russia. Don’t forget: if it’s hard and uncertain for you, it’s harder and more uncertain for the locals.  This is a country living on the edge – like New Zealand.  We have a surprising amount in common.

Russia demonstrates the energy of what I like to describe as constructive anarchy. Moving at the rapid pace of a flying BRIC (the acronym coined for the dynamically developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China), the Russian economy provides for every level of negotiator: from the trainee, wet-behind-the-ears novice, to the seasoned multinational negotiators and traders in all types of goods and services. Within Russia you will meet every form of commerce - ancient, modern and post-modern – practised everywhere from humble stalls to huge and sophisticated malls and high fashion stores which rival anything in the world. It’s an economy on steroids demonstrating the powerful, not to say earthshaking drive, of a mighty Russian rocket lifting off from the Baikonur space port. The Russian economy thrusts forward with a mixture of refinement and brute force – it may not be pretty – but it is effective. 

For contrarians who believe in the true, untrammeled, unmitigated forces of capitalism, Russia provides a haven, probably, alas, only temporary, from the management gobblydegook and political correctness which bedevil creativity and innovation in other, more mature economies.  Here success is measured in profits and failure in bankruptcy. Nobody has time to write stacks of internal strategy and policy documents which serve only to deplete the world’s forests and hasten global warming.



 

Stuart Prior, Honorary Consul for Belarus in New Zealand

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