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The Importance of "Business Diplomacy"

As part of its mission, Weilian Poder Global Consulting touts itself as a “business diplomacy” firm. For some, this may be confusing – or even seem to be an oxymoron. While “business” implies efficiency and clarity, “diplomacy” attracts images of unnecessary delays, vague obscurity, and even corruption.

In today’s international political climate, such views are easy to understand, which is why I do this work to help others see a different approach. To me, “business diplomacy” is about identifying and managing your business’s position of power within a completely integrated global economy. It is about understanding that entities other than governments have a role to play in shaping the environment around us, such as physical, economic, and political factors. The term, through its juxtaposition of seemingly contradictory words, highlights how the role of businesses has been separated from this interconnected puzzle of modern life.

So why is it so important to focus on this topic? Haven’t businesses done just fine doing things under the old ways of thinking? My argument here is simple: most organizations have not truly tapped into the full potential of the global economy. For businesses, there is more money to be made out there, with greater market share and more stable social standing to follow. By focusing on a diplomatic approach, it is easier to craft more effective strategies to fast emerging crises; plus, the trials and tribulations of governmental diplomacy provide a useful platform for examination and learning from others’ mistakes.

Among other examples, the recent diplomatic tensions involving Saudi Arabia throughout 2018 immediately come to mind here. One smaller incident occurred when the Canadian official sent a tweet challenging Saudi human rights policy. While I personally agree with the nature of the tweet, I also have identified it as a strategic issue that worsened the relationship between the two countries. In short, this move failed to recognize or acknowledge the serious political efforts being made to reform certain parts of Saudi society, putting its leaders in a difficult position where they felt forced to be unwilling to change.

This focus on empathy and validation in bilateral relationships is often highly useful for international business deal preparation. I have witnessed similar tensions first hand (although these were admittedly on a much smaller scale). In my business supporting companies in China, 2018 has been a challenging year for negotiation due to the political risks surrounding trade policy between the US and China. My foreign counterparts repeated concern after concern regarding upcoming US import tariffs, even when those tariffs did not affect their industry. Productive conversations only continued once I had assured them that I understood their perspective and had analyzed both Chinese and US academic/media sources on the issue.

These two instances are not unique for business leaders today. In fact, since tensions with Saudi Arabia increased, large company CEOs have been thrust into de facto diplomatic roles over their participation (or lack thereof) at a major Saudi international conference. Smaller organizations need to be mindful of this trend and work to take similar measures to both protect themselves and enhance their business. Such a task consequently necessitates “business diplomacy” and experts that can guide you through a complex, often ad hoc, process – just like the services we offer at Weilan Poder Global Consulting.

Please feel free to comment or reach out to me at info@wpglobalconsulting.com to discuss further. Thank you for reading!

William VogtComment