x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Business rapport is not so much about what you do, but how you do it

Word of bad intention spreads faster than a sandstorm in the desert and, before you know it, you have lost all your loyal customers with little hope of finding new ones.

The key ingredient that makes or breaks a business relationship is intention. We Emiratis have honed our skill for cutting to the heart of the matter through centuries of survival in harsh living conditions. Intention is not something you proclaim in public, it's in your heart. You are answerable only to God as to whether your intention is pure. "How do you figure out intention?" I'm often asked. Prophet Mohammed said intention translates into action. If we act on our intentions, it's easy to characterise our personality.

This brings me to another sensitive point: although intention is very important to us, we also respect choice. For example, if I am seen by my fellow Muslims as earning profits from an un-Islamic enterprise, they cannot question me about it. It is my choice. They can, however, form an opinion of me and, when it comes to doing business with me, they won't feel comfortable.

As a foreign company hoping to do business here, it is very important your intention is clear for all to see. Actions that send mixed signals could be the difference between gaining an Emirati sponsor's trust and losing it. If I suspect a foreign company thinks they can make a fast buck out of me, I will promptly transfer my business elsewhere.

It's possible that this new company may charge me a little extra, but if I perceive their intention is to be fair I will willingly pay more for the same product or service. This is how much I value the purity of intention. In fact, I can predict the former company will lose not just my business but any Emirati who suspects its intention. Word of bad intention spreads faster than a sandstorm in the desert and, before you know it, you have lost all your loyal customers with little hope of finding new ones.

Good intentions and good reputations are two sides of the same coin; they are weighed and valued carefully before buying the product - you. A foreign company that functions on honourable intentions will easily find an Emirati giving them referrals. But not before he has carried out a background check on the company and its top management.

Sponsors want to be associated with a company or brand or person that will contribute to its own brand image. If you are able to project yourself or your product as being in synergy with that image, you've got it. But the moment the Emirati senses that you have a bad reputation, whether personal or professional, your chances are already bleak. This isn't about terms or conditions, those can always be negotiated, but if your intention or reputation is suspect, sorry, they are not going to invest money, time or energy.