UAE Business Structures

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,

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in the United Arab Emirates

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Overview

The United Arab Emirates is still predominantly dependent on oil revenues but, having said that, represents the most diversified economy in the Gulf region. All the Emirates have made concerted efforts over the past couple of decades to develop a future in which the country could continue to prosper in a post-fossil fuel world.

As a result of this drive for economic diversification, the UAE has become a magnet for international companies looking to develop new markets and increase their global footprint. As an affluent society, the UAE offer good opportunities across a wide-range of both consumer and industrial areas and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

However, the UAE is a Gulf state and needs to be approached with a degree of caution. Things work differently in the UAE than they probably do ‘back home’ and if you are considering doing business in the United Arab Emirates then it is essential to do some homework in advance. Do not be fooled by the fact that the country is home to a large number of expatriates from all over the world – the decision-makers are Emirati and you need to understand their local culture and business mentality if you are to have any hope of success.

Remember that relationship -building is the key but that it takes time and patience to build those relationships. Don’t try to rush things and don’t expect immediate results – you may be lucky but usually patience is an essential trait when working in the UAE.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Emirati business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips