After a week in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, I return with camel and dune bashing stories, visits to the largest malls and tallest buildings in the world, and a few reinforced entrepreneurial and life lessons:
Do your homework.
Take the time to do a little research and know as much as you can going into any situation–from names and bios to customs and directions.
Respect the culture.
Whether it is your customers or your employees, do not go barreling into anything expecting it all to be done your way. It is not about you.
Take the time to pay attention to the details and make your product or service the absolute best.
Dress the part.
The attire is one of the things that probably stood out the most for me in the region. I am not talking about the white dishdash the men wear, or the black robes, the abaya, for women. It is the suits, the fashion, the modesty, the lack of ripped jeans and T-shirts in the office that stands out. Even my teenage sons were inspired to dress a little nicer.
Be prepared and informed.
Keep up with current events and be aware of everything that can affect your business with contingency plans ready to go if at all possible. A tour of Etihad Airways World Headquarters revealed a command center that rivals NASA’s Mission Control with engineering and technology to weather and customer service teams all working together.
No matter where we went this past week, whether it was a 7-star hotel or the local market, employees went out of their way to help. Not once did someone act like I was an imposition on his or her time.
You can find someone to meet in any country. A mutual friend introduced me to @LynnGervais of the recently opened Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal. Following up on that introduction, my family was treated to a fantastic tour of the property not to mention the ice cream and cappuccino that followed after the tour. Never hesitate to add someone new to your network.
It could be a foreign country or your own backyard, learn to have a little patience with people who are just learning. Many cab drivers in Abu Dhabi have only been here for a few months if not days. Take a big breath and share your GPS or expertise.
Street addresses are relatively new in Abu Dhabi, if available at all. Sending a thank you note or a gift can be a challenge at times. That is still no excuse to ignore a show of appreciation. The entire family will send electronic thanks. We will also drop a handwritten note in the mail and hope for the best.
Time and time again, I go back to the basics. Master these common sense points and you will already be ahead of the pack.
[Image: Flickr user Hamed Masoumi]