Over the last three years, quite a number of foreign entrepreneurs have reached out to me on LinkedIn asking for advice for starting a business in Taiwan, drawing from my own experiences as a foreign entrepreneur in this region.
I’d like to take this opportunity to share four pieces of advice that might help others understand Taiwan’s business landscape, and prepare for their venture into the market.
A Bit About Me
Originally from Hong Kong, I ventured into the Taiwanese market in 2019 and founded a digital marketing and book publishing agency in Taipei. What prompted me to start sharing my knowledge and experience two years ago was the glaring gap in English resources about doing business and marketing in Taiwan, which often becomes a barrier for non-Chinese speaking entrepreneurs to start a business here.
Four Essential Tips for Foreign Entrepreneurs starting a business in Taiwan
1. Find a Local Business Partner
Mandarin Chinese is the predominant business language in Taiwan. From company registration to opening a bank account, you’re bound to come across a sea of documents written in Chinese. Engaging with government and bank officials will also require a fair bit of Mandarin.
I would suggest to foreign entrepreneurs, especially those who are non-Chinese speaking, to seek a local partner who is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. Your local partner will not only help translate in these interactions, but will also bring in local nuances that can be invaluable.
2. Invest time on networking and relationship building
In Taiwan, the concept of “guanxi”, which roughly translates to “relationships” or “connections”, cannot be stressed enough. It’s deeply entrenched in Taiwanese business culture.
Business decisions are largely influenced by mutual trust. If you share a good relationship with someone, it implies reliability and integrity. These relationships can be pivotal during negotiations.
My suggestion to foreign entrepreneurs, especially those who are new to Taiwan, is to invest time in relationship building, as having the right connection can go a long way in aiding the success of your business.
3. Invest Time in Learning Chinese
As reiterated, Mandarin Chinese dominates the business world. A basic understanding can significantly ease daily operations such as client communication or interaction with employees.
4. Acquaint Yourself with Taiwanese Cultural Nuances
Taiwanese people often prefer an indirect mode of communication, a marked contrast to the Western communication culture, which embraces openness. This preference stems from a culture of valuing “face,” a complex concept that encompasses honor, reputation, and respect. Owing to this, Taiwanese individuals might refrain from direct opposition or confrontation to prevent someone from “losing face.”
By understanding this preference for indirectness and adjusting your communication style with locals during business interactions, you can prevent potential misunderstandings and foster better relationships.
Starting a business in a foreign country is always challenging. But with the right approach, insights, and a willingness to learn and adapt, success is within reach. I hope my journey and these tips help aspiring entrepreneurs in their Taiwanese ventures.
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