Learning from a Fellow Countryman

Sunshine, mild temperatures and little rain – this is how the Azerbaijani executives from the middle and upper management levels experienced the city of Celle and the surrounding area in autumn 2014. German companies were very interested in establishing contact with the group, although many company representatives knew very little about the country. The success was clearly visible: A number of MP participants are now planning projects with German partners worth millions of euros.

Celle. Foreign language skills are of key importance for business life in Azerbaijan. English is not the only language in demand either: Participants reported that very few manager positions in Baku were filled by someone who was not fluent in Russian. Turkish is also helpful – and German corporations often work with Russian or Turkish representatives in Azerbaijan. The 22 Azerbaijani participants were not just unique for their above-average language skills: The MP trainers praised participants’ overall high level of education and German firms were also very positively impressed by the group. During the visit, both sides engaged in very fruitful discussions and the German business people got to know Azerbaijan as a potential sales market.

The Azerbaijani executives particularly enjoyed their visit to Dinotech, a trading firm whose owner, Ramig Aliyev, is also from Azerbaijan. He provided them with a lot of useful information on taxes, duties and certifications, and talked about the extent to which the German tax system affects a company and the influence it might have on the participants’ planned joint ventures. Above all though, Aliyev shared how he came to be an entrepreneur in Germany, a journey characterised in part by intercultural challenges.

Some participants demonstrated a real talent for research and intercultural skills by planning their own individual business meetings. They travelled by train to a total of 72 appointments and were favourably impressed by Germany’s rail infrastructure, noting that Baku residents were very dependent on their cars. This praise faded in the third week of the programme, though, when the German Train Drivers’ Union (GDL) went on strike from November 6-8. While it took a great deal of extra planning, the executives were ultimately able to attend every business meeting despite the strike. For their trip to Berlin to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall though, they played it safe and leased a car.

by Inga Markwart
Deutsche Management Akademie Niedersachsen