Your first business trip to Libya need not be too daunting. If you have a representative who can assist you with translation in the case of language barriers and help you to understand the local laws and customs then you will be on your way to enjoying all that the country has to offer.
Your business visa is key! You need to either have a host business obtain your visa or you can use a third party. Your business visa must be issued and approved by the immigration department in Libya before it is faxed to your nearest Libyan embassy. If all possible, try to get a scanned copy of the approval letter before you head to the embassy.
One of the most important parts of the trip is the exchange of business cards. Most introductions begin this way and it is a good idea to ensure your business cards are bilingual – your native language printed on one side and Arabic on the other. Tradition in the country depicts that the first part of the meeting should be about general conversation and small talk. This is an essential means of building relationships with your Libyan associates. Mutual trust and compatibility need to be established and are chief requirements for conducting business in the country. So getting to know your Libyan colleagues in this manner is extremely important.
Naturally negotiations will play a central role within the business culture and often the process of negotiating is of the utmost value to Libyans in order to gain respect and honor. This dance of dealings may slow processes down somewhat but once again relationship building is key to business. Libyans are exceptional negotiators and well known for their trading abilities. Locals not only pursue financial gain but also non-monetary related incentives.
Libyans will place a greater value on your spoken word as opposed to a written contract. In times gone, a handshake and spoken agreement was far more favorable than a written contract. Contracts were considered as an indication of understanding and not actually as a fixed agreement. The business scene has modernized though and written agreements are mandatory, particularly for larger organizations. You will want to use a good Libyan law firm to help draw up your contracts.
Before you arrive for your first business trip, make sure you book your hotel – there are numerous international chains in Libya now that are fully equipped for business travelers. Car hire, if required is easy to arrange and make sure you have your business visa well before travel.