Arab Business Structures

UAE:

The question,‘Who am I dealing with?’ is also critical when thinking about company structures and how they impact on the interface with any local organisation.

Are you dealing with the subsidiary of an international organisation headquartered outside the UAE? If so, they are likely to be heavily influenced by the approach,processes and methodologies of the parent company – and the key staff are likely to be expatriates.

If, however, you are dealing with a locally owned business you are likely to find that they are family-owned and controlled. Nepotism is a still a way of life and key positions will often be filled by trusted family members. Who can you trust if not your own family? As with most family-owned organisations, the company will be organised along strongly hierarchical lines with the majority of power being held at the top by the senior, usually older, male family members.  It is important to try to get access to these key decision-makers, even if you are initially being dealt with by more junior employees.

All major decisions will be made at the top and you will need influence at that level.  As all business is family and relationship-based, it is absolutely vital to be prepared to devote as much time and effort as necessary to relationship-building. Every contact within an organisation is important, as you may not be aware of everybody's connections. A seemingly lowly employee may prove to be a favoured relative of a senior figure and therefore of greater potential help than some other apparently more important contact.

It is also important to find out if the company you are dealing with is Sharia law compliant. If a company is Sharia law compliant, this will mean that the company is subject to the tenets of Islamic law and its actions will be overseen by a Sharia council consisting of appointed Muslim clerics. This Sharia council will monitor the activities of the organisation to ensure that no Koranic edicts are transgressed,

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