A business relationship in Asia plays a more important role than in western countries and the referral has a much deeper meaning to those doing business in Asia. The name of the game is respect and that is something that takes time to earn. A relationship is forged only through time, honesty and consistency. It takes a period of time to get that relationship in place and then gain the respect of your Asian colleagues.
The one thing I have discovered that can speed up the process in building a relationship is if it starts with a referral. The right introduction from the right person to a potential business partner you are going to deal with is huge, but it is also seen as a much greater sign of respect in Asia than it is in the west.
In the western world, a referral is seen less as a vouching for someone’s character than it is seen as merely an introduction. If one of your partners referred a third party to you and the relationship with the third party went south, we usually don’t hold it against our partner.
In Asia, the partner would hold it against themselves and feel as if they had lost face simply because they provided the referral. We are in an age of social media platforms such as LinkedIn where introductions and referrals do not carry the weight they do in Asia.
If you are doing business in Asia and one of your Asian partners refers you to another Asian, it will give you a better result in developing that relationship and that respect than if you had introduced yourself or had a western partner refer you. Being referred to one Asian by another is really the only way you are ever going to expedite the relationship process.
There is no “one Asia” because each country has its own unique culture and traditions. That said, the business relationship and respect that comes with it can be seen across the large majority of Asian countries.