Practical guides to business in Asia

Australian businesses looking to tap into growth opportunities in Asia are encouraged to make use of the country starter packs developed by Asialink Business.

The Asialink Business Country Starter Packs are a “how-to” guide for businesses of all sizes looking to get started or expand in Asia. The first release of the suite of guides covers four countries, including China, Indonesia, Korea and Thailand.

The guides have been launched in response to market research conducted by Asialink Business, which acknowledges Australia’s strong interest in Asia and found that there were gaps in information available to businesses looking to engage with Asia.

The starter packs have received the support of Federal Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Small Business, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP.

“The Government recognises that many Australian businesses are actively seeking help to overcome the challenges they face doing business in Asia. I am confident that the Asialink Business Country Starter Packs will be a valuable tool for small businesses looking to engage with Asia,” she said.

Each guide offers practical case studies and highlights specific opportunities in different markets, and provides business, marketing and legislative information to support in country planning strategy and operations.

Key points include:

  • Seek professional advice and speak to industry experts.
  • Build relationships with local counterparties, but be patient. It can take time.
  • Understand local culture and prepare for meetings with local business partners. Be flexibile and open to any differences.

For more information, see Asialink Business Country Starter Packs.


Dr Margaret Byrne, management consultant, executive coach and expert on leadership and change management reiterates these points, and emphasises the importance of developing cultural competency when conducting business abroad.

“When it comes to Australians operating in Asia, the chance of clash is enormous because of a mismatch in fundamental assumptions and expectations about roles, about relationships, [and] who should do what and when”, says Dr Bryne, who was a featured speaker at the AICD’s 2015 Company Directors Conference in Kuala Lumpur.

She offers six practical tips to Australian businesses and boards looking to enhance cultural relations in Asia:

  1. Listen more and talk less: While certain behaviours such as being assertive and independent may be perceived as leadership traits in Australia, the preferred way of communicating in Asia is listening centred.
  2. Practice picking up hints and inference: Understand that communicating by inference, indirectness or implication in Asian cultures is common place. Australian businesses and boards should practice picking up hints and non-verbal cues in interactions with Asian counterparties.
  3. Build rapport and trust: Australian businesses should seek to establish trust in Asia by demonstrating qualities such as compatibility and accessibility. Focus on demonstrating trust in the way that it works for your counterpart.
  4. Clarify meaning: Australian business leaders should regularly seek to clarify meaning and clear up ambiguities.
  5. Share the intention behind words, but remain strategic: Australian business leaders should not be afraid to share the underlying meaning and intention behind their words, but should strike a balance by understanding the appropriate forum for discussion. Decision making in Asia is a lot more like caucusing and lobbying than open negotiation.
  6. Be personal and authentic: In order to make long term connections with Asian counterparties, Australian business leaders should focus on being authentic and sincere.

For further insights on successful cultural relations and doing business in Asia from Dr Margaret Byrne see: