The New Kid on the Block: How to Launch a Successful Business in Singapore

For western entrepreneurs and small business owners, Southeast Asia is the new land of opportunity. While markets in New York, London, and other big cities are now saturated with startups and tech ventures, countries like Singapore are just starting to flourish. If you are bold enough to make a move, there are many benefits to launching in this part of the world.


Nevertheless, it can be a bit of a culture shock for those who do not take the time to learn a little first. While the core principles of doing business remain the same, no matter where you go, customs and etiquette vary. If you want to make new contacts, acquire the best resources, and find a fantastic overseas office, you need to know how to communicate.

Keep reading for some tips on doing business in Singapore and attracting the right kind of investors, suppliers, and sponsors.

Plan Your Meetings

You can impress your Singapore contacts by giving them plenty of warning about upcoming meetings and face to face discussions. They like to be prepared. If you do not have access to suitable boardroom or conferencing spaces, you could sign up to a virtual office. These providers make their conferencing rooms available on a ‘pay as you use’ basis. Check out to find out more.

Use Business Cards Correctly

Business cards are very special in Singapore. They are not throwaway as they often are in western cultures. It is best just to place cards face up on a table, in order to avoid causing any offence to your business contacts. They should never be put straight into your pocket because this is considered disrespectful. If possible, hold it in the top corners with your fingertips. It sounds like a trivial detail, but it can mean the difference between a great meeting and an awkward one.

Always Be Punctual

Ironically, Singaporeans are known for being late to social engagements, but they take their business arrangements very seriously. Obviously, it is not always possible to avoid being late for a meeting or appointment. It does send the wrong impression, though, so keep this in mind. You must let your guests know if you are going to be running behind. Also, try to stop meetings from running over schedule.

Get Your Shaking Right

You do not have to grasp hard and firm as you do when shaking hands in America or Europe. In Singapore, a weak handshake is not considered to be a bad thing. In fact, the real secret is the short squeeze. Try to squeeze their hand gently for around five to eight seconds. Co-working spaces are a superb place to practice this because they’re filled with entrepreneurs and executives.

Businessmen in Singapore

Don’t Stare or Glare

People in Singapore are actually averse to prolonged eye contact. It does not have the same associations with trust and honesty that it does in the west. It can be particularly important at meetings when everybody is sat around a table. Take care not to stare for too long at any one person, even if they are speaking and addressing the group. Again, this is something that you can practice easily in a public office or co-working environment.

Why Getting the Etiquette Right Does Matter

It is impossible to grow and nurture a business overseas unless you embrace the culture and its people. They will become the lifeblood of your operations, so you need to understand them and get familiar with their needs. This applies to the big market players like investors, sponsors, vendors, and local talent too. You never know when striking up a conversation with somebody new will lead to a great opportunity.