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Business In Bulgaria

If you are considering doing business in Bulgaria - buying a property, opening up a B and B or a bar, running an export company etc., - then you need to understand some of the business culture in the country. Bulgarians prefer to do business with people face to face. Doing all your business via emails will not work.

 

In Bulgaria business relationships are very important. You'll need to work hard to get these relationships and maintain good contacts with partners and customers.

Whilst normal office hours are 9 til 5, you will find Bulgarians commonly doing business and having meetings in the evening and on Saturdays.

Making appointments can be particularly difficult. It may take even months to meet the right person, particularly if they are at a senior level in their organisation. Also, don't be surprised if they ask you to confirm the appointment in the morning of the day just in case their diary changes. The Bulgarians are not very good at planning ahead and like to take things as they come during the day. It is not uncommon for the meeting to be cancelled and you have to start all over again. Meetings can be lengthy so always allow a good amount of time. If you are delayed for the start of the meeting by more than five minutes, call to let them know - they will expect you to arrive on time.

Office dress is usually formal, so if you are undecided, dress up rather than down.

July and August are the main summer holidays and nearly all Bulgarians go on holiday during those two months. Avoid these two months for making business appointments as they are nearly impossible to obtain. Similarly Christmas and New Year.

Meetings are usually quite formal. You will absolutely be offered refreshments and it is best to accept, even if you don't really want anything. Make sure you have business cards as, after the handshakes, these are the first things which are exchanged. If you can have them translated, so much the better and if your company has been in business for a long time (15 years or more) then add the date of establishment.

Remember to shake hands with everyone at the meeting, don't leave someone out. Meetings can be quite formal and it is unusual for people to address each other on first presentation by Christian names.

If you don't have sufficient Bulgarian language skills, take an interpreter. Whilst most business people in Bulgaria speak English, it is still a good idea to have someone with you to avoid any potential misunderstandings.

When presenting your business and services, keep eye contact otherwise they will think you are untrustworthy and insincere. Make presentations visual if possible. A key thing is to avoid too much "sales puff", so keep over-salesy statements to a minimum. You may be surprised at how much detail the Bulgarians will go into - be well prepared to have all facts and statistics at your fingertips. Whilst you may have a deadline to do business with them, the Bulgarians are not deadline oriented, so be patient and don't rush. Probably because of the communist past, Bulgarians often talk in a roundabout way, skirting a subject, when they are worried that something they may say could be used against them later. Don't worry if they do not reply directly to your question but see if you can phrase it in another way.

It is quite rare for one person alone to be able to make a decision, so try to get everyone who is needed for a concensus at the meeting. There is nothing worse than having done a wonderful presentation only to find that the person you have been talking to cannot make the decision on their own. You will then be left in a position where you are relying on somebody else to present on your company and services.

It is not unknown for Bulgarians to turn up to business meetings with gifts. If you wish to do the same, then organise good quality pens with your company logo. A bottle of special fine wine also goes down well.

Meetings may also be held over lunch or dinner, and do be aware that there will be smoking breaks even in the middle of salad!

Relationship building is key to doing business in Bulgaria so try to spend some time getting to know the people you would like to have as partners; successful ventures will not happen overnight.