I’m not entirely convinced that this is a wise idea, but apparently it happened. Technology entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan says that if you’re having business meetings in China, taping them and having them translated online can sometimes give you an edge in negotiations.
Picture by Allen Sima
In a post for TechCrunch, Kogan shares his tips on doing business in China (where virtually all of Kogan’s product is sourced, though in the modern world that’s hardly a unique point of distinction). One tip concerns how to deal with a meeting where you don’t speak the native language.
Kogan had been meeting with a team of executives, only one of whom spoke English. Between his translated comments, the executives frequently spoke amongst themselves, with much laughter. Kogan was curious as to what they were saying, but had no tactics for getting a translation until an idea occurred to him:
While they were having a chat and a giggle, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and switched on the voice recorder. I then casually put the phone down on the table and recorded the whole meeting. As soon as I got back to my hotel room, I uploaded the audio file and then posted a translator job on a few online job boards. Within a few hours, I had received full transcripts of the entire meeting — including their “private” discussions. I now knew all their pricing, the strategy they were using against me and more importantly, what the lowest price they were willing to deal at was. With some quick lateral thinking, I had gained a significant advantage in the negotiation.
This is a clear candidate for our dark side tag: tactics which are questionable even if they can sometimes be applied legitimately. Obviously, the completely ethical way to handle this is to alert people of the taping ahead of time (you can always say you want to be able to review the contents later). Of course, once you’ve done that, those you meet with are less likely to attempt interesting side conversations.
The flip side is that if the managers hadn’t indulged in the (by Western standards) rude behaviour of conducting a conversation in an unknown language, they wouldn’t have exposed their strategy. Business can be nasty.
Doing Deals In China [TechCrunch]