How Michael Dell missed his chance to enter the Russian market

by Ximena Reyes

When doing business the first wrong assumption is that it is all about money, it is but how you become a trusted partner or provider requires of Intercultural awareness in order to understand the mindset of your counterpart.

On January 2009, Michael Dell from Dell computers, shared the panel with Vladimir Putin, in the World Economic Forum in Davos, as his turn to speak came, he started by prizing the Russian accomplishments like providing internet to remote areas and the talent in the IT sector, then he closed by saying: ” So my questions to you (Mr. Putin) is how we as the IT sector can help you broaden the economy as you move out the crisis.”

Nothing wrong with this question as it had follow the structure of complimenting, describing a situation and then taking a step forward to become part of a solution, with a very well intended offer.

Mr. Putin’s answer started with ” you see, we don’t need help, invalids need help, people with limited capacities need help” and then he spoke for 10 more minutes.

To many of the people who attended the forum, the reaction and answer by Mr. Putin was odd and difficult to understand, and this is exactly why, intercultural business understanding and intercultural communication training is required for anyone doing business internationally.

If we look at the words used by Mr Dell, the all well known and used, “How can I help you” as a business opener, as a gesture that shows good will, they are not offensive by themselves. However, if one looks it from another perspective It does put one of the parts on a superior position while the other part has to reach out for help.

In this case it was not just about the use of the word help, it was the context, the place , the people surrounding, the exposure and loosing face.

If you want to know more about how to do business internationally, contact [email protected].