From Colleagues to Family: The Power of a Family-Oriented Workplace
August 1, 2023
From Colleagues to Family: The Power of a Family-Oriented Workplace
August 1, 2023

The Art of Business Relationships: Insights from Karaoke Bars in Korea

“Guy, you’re hired. Now, let me tell you what I need you for.”

Two decades ago, I was running a semiconductor businessmaking frequent trips to Japan and Korea to visit clients. Business in these parts of the world came with its own set of customs and traditions. One that loomed large was the culture of socializing.

Japanese and Korean business people, in particular, were known for their penchant for social gatherings, which often revolved around activities like karaoke and, perhaps more notably, drinking. Now, here was the catch: I don’t drink alcohol at all.

Recognizing the importance of these customs for fostering business relationships, I enlisted some help. Enter Guy, a Scottish gentleman I hired. Guy had a fondness for whiskey that matched the enthusiasm of our Korean counterparts.

On one of our trips to visit a client in Korea, I candidly told Guy that his primary role was to drink on my behalf. And drink he did. With his Scottish fortitude, he outlasted and outdrank even the most seasoned Korean businessmen at the karaoke bars.

At first, my Korean clients seemed a bit taken aback by my non-drinking. They wondered why I wasn’t partaking in the time-honored tradition of sharing drinks to bond and build relationships. However, as they got to know me better, they realized it wasn’t a matter of choice but a preference — I simply didn’t drink.

In Korean business culture, social rituals are important to connect individuals outside of formal meetings. Fostering these relationships was vital to achieving success in this part of the world.

My experiences in Korea taught me that creating opportunities for employees to bond is essential in every country, including the United States. Creating personal bonds among team members, clients, and customers can foster a shared sense of purpose at work.

Whether it’s having lunch brought in once a month to celebrate birthdays (as I mentioned in a recent newsletter one client does on a regular basis), achievement rewards or cash bonuses or company gatherings, successful companies make sure employees feel appreciated, respected and valued

Jesus (Jes) Vargas is the Principal at DPMG Corp in Sacramento, CA. Jes and his team consult, coach and mentor business leaders in areas such as strategic planning, leadership development and project management. They’re ready to plan a new product or fine-tune an existing marketing strategy for you. 

If you are concerned about the culture in your company, Jes can help you create a new one or improve the one you have. Call Jes at 916 712 6145. Or you can email him here.