Case 05: Managing Distribution Channels in Asia, Discussion
1. Frank obviously had not heard about the famous Iron Rule #2, which applies everywhere in today’s global marketplace: “The seller adapts to the buyer.” The Thai importer/distributor buys goods from Thunder Bucket and resells them to local end-users, so Frank is expected to understand Thai expectations and behave accordingly. Instead he phoned the boss of Chiang Mai at midnight her time. That would be considered rude behavior in any culture, more so in Thailand – a strongly relationship-focused, hierarchical society. Frank then made things worse by using a deal-focused approach and by speaking bluntly, a big faux pas in any high-context culture. Finally, Frank insulted Aya by implying she hadn’t read the installation manual.
2. This is an easy one. You should make an appointment with Aya as early as possible, fly to Chiang Mai (your largest market) and spend a week there. Find out as much as you can about Aya’s personal interests in order to bring appropriate gifts, and discuss with her about how best to work together on translating Frank’s installation manual into Thai.
And yes, Frank would no doubt benefit from some training in intercultural competence.
We use this case to remind Westerners that business problems in RF cultures are most often solved by taking the time to build strong personal relationships.