January 29, 2019

Doing Business in Singapore: What to Know Before Entering the Market

By Sona Mathews
The Republic of Singapore is a prosperous nation-state on the Straits of Malacca, near the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula.

For a variety of reasons, some of which we’ll explore in greater detail herein, Singapore is a fantastic place to do business.

Doing Business in Singapore: What to Know Before Entering the Market: eAskme
Doing Business in Singapore: What to Know Before Entering the Market: eAskme
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If you’re mulling your entrance into the southeast Asian market, Singapore absolutely needs to be on your shortlist.

Just be sure to prepare for your Singaporean market entry. In particular, attend to these eight issues in advance of your arrival.

1. Dispel With Any Preconceptions

Whatever you’ve heard about doing business in Singapore from colleagues, relatives, or old schoolmates, put it out of your mind.

As Pamela Young notes in The Australian Business Review, “an open mind will help you to see the possibilities and increase your chances of success” in Singapore.

2. Familiarize Yourself With Singapore’s Various Ethnic and Cultural Groups

Take some time to learn about Singapore’s diverse demography.

The nation-state is home to three major ethnic and cultural cohorts — Chinese, Malay, and Indian — and several less numerous groups, along with a sizable population of Western expats.

Five major belief systems are represented here: Islam, Taoism, Christianity, Buddhism, and no religion.

If you plan to build an extensive client network here, it’s virtually certain that you will interact with members of multiple ethnic and religious groups.

3. Work Closely With Local Partners

Before you enter the market, look for local service providers and business partners with proven track records of success on the ground in Singapore.

For instance, you might look to a venerable trust and corporate services firm like Singapore-based Asiaciti Trust for your fiduciary needs, and tap the expertise of the Singapore Logistics Association for your local supply chain needs.

4. Learn a Few Words of the Local Languages

Although English is the de facto business language in Singapore, demonstrating knowledge of other local languages is a good way to show your respect for non-Western customs. A few words of Mandarin and Malay go a long way.

5. Defer to Local Business Dress and Customs

Despite its steamy climate, Singapore is a formal place. Wear business suits at all professional functions, no matter how early or late in the day.

6. Follow de Facto Social Hierarchies

Traditional social hierarchies still matter in Singapore. The most important of these are age and rank, which are often correlated.

When meeting new clients or partners in a group, address each individual in order of rank, beginning with the most senior person. Never interrupt or correct an older or higher-ranking person in front of others.

7. Don’t Be Late

Punctuality is absolutely vital in Singaporean business culture. Keeping a business contact waiting is seen as a grave insult, even if the slight is unintentional.

Plan your travels carefully to ensure that you arrive early to all scheduled appointments.

Plan Your Singapore Debut

These aren’t the only matters you’ll want to discuss with your team before doing business in Singapore.

When in doubt, consult with your local business partners, service providers, and government liaisons to ensure that you’re meeting your corporate obligations and following Singaporean law to the letter. A lucrative future may await you in Singapore — provided you’re prepared.

You may need to run multiple tests.

You have questions? Share via comments.

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