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How Do You Do Business In Turkey?


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#1 Ken



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Posted 19 April 2007 - 07:55 AM

I've been in Turkey for some years, and have learned that the way of doing business here is not very European, and in my case, not very American in the style. Turkish business seems to be more, well, adversarial, and less transparent, than what I'm used to. What's your experience?And what's the secret for success in Turkey? Is it the psychological aspect that gives one an edge? Is it "who you know?" I've talked to several people about their experiences and found some things in common, such as a more short-term focus and a lack of transparency. But would that approach work here as a foreign businessperson doing business in Turkey?Another aspect is the way that personal relationships are inter-mixed with business. You may, as a business person, be asked to do things outside of the business relationship, which throws some people who don't realize that the same requests would be expected on the Turkish side of the business. And it can be confusing. I have read, for example, that if something goes wrong with the personal relationship, that the business may suffer, regardless of the amount of loss to both parties.I've been asked "how do you do business in Turkey?" And my reply has been "if I ever learn the secret, I'll give you an autographed copy of my book." It may be easy to blame someone else for business failures, but there must be a certain logic behind business practices in Turkey. Once that key is found, it could open many doors, I think. But how does that logic operate? What are its rules?So that's the question here. How does a foreigner do business successfully in Turkey? How do you win and become successful here?

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#2 TurtleWebs


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Posted 19 April 2007 - 10:04 PM

Heres a couple of points from my experience.Turks will shop with family and friends long before they consider coming to you therefore make sure you have something unique to offer. Price and quality is not a factor when they shop with family and friends, you can be twice as good at half the price but they stil won't consider you. Often friends is free for service based business and you will never compete with that.Advertising doesn't work for small business, partly because of the previous comment, partly because Turks walk around with their eyes shut.If you do your job well you will be recommended, Turks and foriegners all pay good attention to recommendations.Expect your price to be haggled down, when dealing with Turks I always add on a haggling margin. Foreigners don't haggle so you can give them a straight price.British customers are very loyal and will come back to you time and time again once they have found you are good at what you do. Turks will be as long as one of their friends doesn't start doing the same thing.A 10am meeting can take place anytime between 10am and 10pm on any day in the following fortnight.Don't give a turk a price +KDV as they will then expect a cash price, always include KDV and if they ask for cash then say that is the cash price but obviously then put it through as including KDV.Be prepared to become a support agent for anything slightly related to the service you have provided, build a website and you'll be their entire IT support.If you can't start the job for 3 weeks never let on, tell them you are starting tomorrow and give a delivery date of when it would be if you started in 3 weeks and then actually start in 3 weeks. If you can't start now they will not be interested. Also every job is urgent and a rush, once they decide they want something it must happen yesterday, but waiting for anything they need to supply can take up most of the jobs time frame.Turks don't go and think about it, Brits do. If a Turk tells you they will think about it and let you know this is the last time you will see them, get the agreement at the initial meeting even better the deposit, this is also part of the haggling in that if you let them leave they weren't happy with your price and you weren't with theirs.Some of the above may appear as negatives but they are not you just have to get used to it. Really this is the best place to be a small business.Customers become friends and at every meeting you will be asked honestly about how your family are, you will offer or be offered Cay.Customers who later also become suppliers will treat you well and when this is don simutainously you will both give good discounts and even simple exchanges of services is unheard of.If you are good at what you do and are sucessful you will get respect for that.I have had problems as most businesses do in any country. As I provide mainly a service based product I make sure I collect deposits for all jobs I have heard of others that don't not getting paid. I am lucky I have been paid for job I've undertaken but sometimes it can be a struggle, with one guy I had to visit his restaurant everynight to collect any money - some nights I would get only 20ytl and it took him a longtime to pay me what he owed.Most important point for foreigners running businesses - keep it legal, get you ruhsats, work permits, pay taxes and insurance. If you don't and even just appear to be succesful someone will complain and you will be fined and maybe even deported.
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#3 Ken



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Posted 22 April 2007 - 01:26 AM


I have found everything you have said to be true. I also don't mean anything as criticism when I talk about the Turkish business mentality. Although many of the practices may seem to be illogical to us expats, there IS a logic behind it, and to learn it would be a great plus for anyone doing business here. The only thing I've seen on the Web about doing business in Turkey is business etiquette, how not to offend your Turkish hosts. Yet I have found that every Turk I've ever done business with is quite relaxed and understanding with foreigners. But they do have their way of doing things. May I add to your list and solicit feedback? And of course, feedback from ANYONE is definitely welcome.

Here are my additions subject to your comments and scrutiny:

1. Business Meetings: expect to be interrupted, and don't try to "get to the point" immediately. I found this to be true in Arab countries, and was quite irritated by it, but later I understood that when a person enters a room or someone calls in the middle of the meeting, the host doesn't want the person "interrupting" to think that he or she is not welcome at any time. But actually, that applies to me as well. I could also interrupt a business meeting between Turkish businesspeople, and not only the host but the businesspeople in the meeting would graciously accept the interruption and exchange pleasantries with me while they delayed their own meeting to accomodate me. As I think about it, I've never heard "call back, he's in a meeting" or "wait downstairs, we're very busy now."

2. Face-to-Face Contact: I have received e-mails from Turkish businessmen, asking me to visit their office for a meeting, only to go across town for a single question they could have asked me in the e-mail. The face-to-face aspect is very important. Sometimes they genuinely want to see you and want you to stop by for tea and a conversation. I've traveled to other cities in Turkey for business, only for what could have been done with e-mails. Sometimes I've managed to get 45 minutes of business done in a two-day visit, the rest of it being all social banter, and fish and raki dinners. Since they paid for the dinner, and the hotel, well, that's not so bad after all. To me I could look at it as a waste of my time, but to the Turks, it's hospitality.

3. Debt Payment: At least in the travel industry, Turkish companies may take three or more months to pay a debt (to a hotel or other travel agency). But the squeeky wheel gets the oil. Unfortunately when your work on the project is done, you'll have additional work to collect the payment. If the perception is that you don't need the money as bad as they, or their other creditors do, then you'll be put on the bottom of the stack. If you're very insistant because of all of the horrible problems the non-payment is causing, you'll get higher in the stack of invoices to pay.

4. Winning the Negotiation: I heard this from a Turkish businessman talking about business negotiations: The first one who starts yelling and slapping the desk wins (do you think that's true? See point 3!!!).

I definitely agree with you on these:

1. Advertising: It works for expats. Not so much for Turks since they've seen all manner of things advertised and have learned to disregard them. Good business here stands on the foundation of good relationships (I have a lot to learn here).

2. I Want it Now: They do expect things immediately. But if they have to give something to you or do something first, it will wait. And you have to call a few times to get it. And don't expect to be paid in full and on time.

Regarding Web development, I have a friend in Fethiye who owns a Web development company called "Plan B." When I first saw the name, I laughed, because I know exactly why he picked that name. Turkish business owners (and really, business owners from any country) cannot possibly be expected to understand all of the technology of the Web and how a Web site is properly made, and how and why people visit Web sites. So to them, their nephew Mehmet, who just took a course on making Web sites, is just as good as any professional company. The only difference is that Mehmet will do it for free or very cheaply. I've talked to more than a few company owners with Web sites who asked me to take a look at their site. Often my first question to them is "you're not getting any business from this site, are you?" The answer is "no, we're not. Can you fix it?" I then search Google, Yahoo! and the other search engines and they are nowhere to be found. Hence the very appropriate name for his company, "Plan B." What an appropriate name!!! :) And it even translates perfectly into Turkish!

Some additional questions for you or anyone else who may wish to answer:

1. Personal Appearance, Demeanor, and the Implication of Power and Influence: How much does the role of personal appearance play in dealing with a Turkish businessperson? There seems to be a certain persona that Turkish businesspeople have, the dress, the car, etc. And a certain persona that they respect. How much does that matter? And what is the best "image" to present? Are Turkish businessmen more impressed, and more willing to do business in a proper way with people who have the suit, the car, and the powerful presence than someone who is simply trying to let their talent, honesty, and good character be their appeal, while wearing bluejeans and a T-shirt?

2. Who you Know: How much advantage is there regarding who you know in Government, or other important people? To a Brit or an American, I think we couldn't care less who somebody knows or who they're connected with. But I think Turks are different. Is that true?

3. Transparancy and Honesty: How transparent should you be? I have found that Turkish businessmen are NOT transparent, that is, what you hear is all positive, nothing negative (you may get that part later). Would it be productive to be the same way? Would being transparent about inabilities or obstacles be perceived as weakness?

4. Mixing Business Relationships with Personal Relationships: This has hurt me before... I once lost a partner over a social gaff and no apology would repair the damage (if you knew how small the gaff was, it would surprise you). Even though they had much to gain, they walked away. We are only now again on speaking terms. Now, this was a woman, so there were probably other dynamics involved in her mind, but maybe not... I think that if something goes wrong with the personal relationship, the business relationship will suffer, regardless of the loss to both parties. Have you had this experience before, and, how did you manage it? What do you do when there is a conflict between the business and personal relationship, and how do you prevent one?

Turkish Business Women: Have you noticed differences in how Turkish women approach business?

Sorry for all of the questions, but I am quite interested in this and I hope it will help others as well. I'm about to make a new foray into doing business with Turks, and I can use all the help I can get! Anything I learn will be posted here.

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#4 TurtleWebs


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Posted 03 May 2007 - 12:06 AM

Sorry must have missed this before.

1. Business Meetings: expect to be interrupted.
Yes it can be frustrating to have your meeting interupted like this if you happen to have a lot on and need to be in and out. However a lot of times it can lead to more business, I've had a few occasions when the interuptee has then passed business on to me. Also it is the social side of business here that makes the life so enjoyable and appealing, for the few times it causes frustration it is more than worth it.

2. Face-to-Face Contact:
Turkish people put a lot of value into trustability and honesty as well as the social side, this can't be achieved over the phone or emails.

3. Debt Payment:
I've even had 'you're British, you're rich you can wait'

4. Winning the Negotiation:
Not so much who is first but who is loudest!

1. Personal Appearance, Demeanor, and the Implication of Power and Influence:
I have to admit I am jeans and T-Shirt. There are a number of businesses looking for the suit, car, appearence but in small places and with small businesses I have so far found that a lot of these are just trying to make the show and sometimes at the expense of skill or ability. If I have to go to larger businesses then I do suit up but mostly I sell my abilities and this is what people are buying, again its down to reputation for delivery of service.

2. Who you Know:
Every one knows someone, they'll all tell you they are best mates of the mayor, head of polis, etc. Mostly this is to help pursuade you to do something dodgy. It matters who knows YOU!

3. Transparancy and Honesty:
Never admit a weekness, weekness is not in the Turkish mentality. I remember career advisors telling how to handle the interview question 'what are you weeknesses?' They would say admit a weekness and turn it into a strength, here just go direct to the strength.

4. Mixing Business Relationships with Personal Relationships:
This is par for the course here and mostly it can be fine, but remember it is a different culture, different sence of humour, etc.

Turkish Business Women: Have you noticed differences in how Turkish women approach business?
Not really, mainly its been differences between Turkish men and women anyway. A Turkish business man will always get someone else to make or fetch the tea, a turkish business woman will often do it herself - just like in the village houses. Women tend to be more open, pay easier and I could say more trustable.
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#5 Ken



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Posted 18 May 2007 - 06:54 PM

Amazingly, your observations are much the same as mine. Thanks for some great info... I think I've learned a lot, as they say I'm getting my "Turkish MBA" now. I've invited several expat business friends of mine to post here, and haven't seen anything yet. I'll get on them to post their experiences, we can all learn from them as well. Jeez, I have to go back to the pub again now. Why can't they all go to a nice coffee house?By the way, in a job interview, if they ask about your main weakness, tell them that you tend to be too much of a perfectionist. They love that.
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#6 lozengelegend



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Posted 11 July 2007 - 02:36 PM

This is all really interesting and I agree with all of the observations.

I have a couple I'd like to add myself though.
1. Personal Appearance, Demeanor, and the Implication of Power and Influence:
Without exception, people doing business here dress for business. I have seen this taken to ridiculous lengths like investing vast quantities of unearned money in office, vehicle & clothing but image seems to be very important. I have to say I think there is some sense in it though - creating a good impression is important whether that impression be formed by your website, your office, your car or your personal appearance. Which is a shame for me because I love my flip flops and cutoffs, and I ride a pushbike!

Turkish Business Women:
Maybe I can get away with saying this because I'm female so unlikely to be accused of misogyny: the three most successful businesswomen I know here, I treat with the greatest of caution! Maybe it's because Turkish businesswomen have to try even harder than western businesswomen to achieve the same success as men, or maybe it's just a personality trait of these particular 3, but quite frankly, I like to do business with genuinely pleasant people that I can trust, male or female... That said, they also run incredibly tight ships. Maybe they all studied at the Alan Sugar school of business.

On the other hand I know several women who freelance and they are without exception genuinely charming, helpful and efficient, and a pleasure to work with.
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#7 scarfie


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Posted 05 April 2012 - 01:39 PM

I'm a bit late to this but found it fascinating - does anyone see Turkish business culture developing as new generations enter the workplace? This report: http://www.big-resea...details/news/18 seems to imply that 50% of the country's residents are under the age of 25 - do the old ways of doing business still apply?Would be fascinated to find out what people think...

#8 sunny


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Posted 05 April 2012 - 03:41 PM

Welcome to our forum Scarfie. Thank you for posting that interesting overall picture of Turkey for the business person.As far as I am aware things have not changed much. It will take a few more years before the younger generation become old and experienced enough to make changes in the systems, if they wish to do so.
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#9 aine


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Posted 05 April 2012 - 04:55 PM

Was somewhat confused by the word logic as from my point of view İ find it is not usually applied by Turks. Things that drive me mad.1. Communication - doesn't happen.2. Anticipation - not needed.3. Consideration - What?4. Planning - why?5. Consultation - But everyone knows anyway.The whole family left Adiyaman at 12.20pm at 20 mins notice to travel to Amasya my European friend was furious. The family merely continued packing presents,children, food etc into two mini buses and off we went.

#10 sdietz


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Posted 07 October 2013 - 01:54 AM

Hello All,


  I am a graduate student and I am receiving my Master of Industrial Distribution. I am looking for information on the following. Any assistance is greatly appreciated. Thanks Again.


For a distributor of automotive parts:


How should customer relationships be managed in Turkey's automotive industry?

Are there differences between different customer types (repair shops. dealers. Retailers with repair)?

What type of sales approach/sales force will be effective?

#11 Samer



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Posted 17 March 2014 - 08:07 PM

Ken and Turtle Webs, this was amazing, I will never find such info in my MBA books, this is spectacular!!!ThanksSam

#12 Ken



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Posted 19 March 2014 - 08:06 PM

That's why we call it getting your "Turkish MBA." :lol:

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#13 Krish


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Posted 11 June 2014 - 02:13 PM

From my 8 months of experience I can say following things: they do pay attention to clothing / personal appearance.


Also deadlines always slip and often the slippage is not communicated (my foreign clients get furious as expected), in meetings we discuss 5 mins of relevant info and 15 mins of "stuff" 


People dont like to say "No" here, even when they fully know they can not meet the demand, they still say yes. I have tried to explain that not delivering hurts the reputation in international market more than saying No in the first place but ....


Relationship, connections, word of mouth or in other words your Social Capital is worth a lot more here so investing in relationships is the way to progress.


The worse part which drives me really NUTS is their fascination with Notarizing everyyyyything. It feels like a state sponsored scam. People want to put their trust on a document with bunch of signatures on it when the person in front of them who made the document can say it in the first place. 

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#14 GDB


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Posted 12 June 2014 - 07:37 AM


The worse part which drives me really NUTS is their fascination with Notarizing everyyyyything. It feels like a state sponsored scam. People want to put their trust on a document with bunch of signatures on it when the person in front of them who made the document can say it in the first place.


Notarising a document makes it Legal - should it go to the courts.

If you light a lamp for another, your own way will be lit." - Nichiren