Aside from a few major international companies, much of the business in Turkey is conducted between small businesses. Therefore, personal relationships are extremely important.
Because of this somewhat informal business culture, punctuality is not critical in Turkey. Delays of up to a half an hour are not only common, but perfectly acceptable (this does not extend to job interviews, however. Prospective employees should always arrive on time, even if the employer does not!).
Business meetings usually begin with informal small talk, then gradually progress to official business.
Business dinners in Turkey
In many cases, Turkish businesspeople prefer to meet in the evening over meals. Mealtime conversation will remain informal, for the most part, and possible topics may include family and sports. In fact, before doing business you may want to brush up on your knowledge of Turkish soccer teams like Besiktas and Fenerbahce.
A lengthy period of tea drinking, smoking, and discussion usually follows the meal. At these dinner meetings, the hosting party always pays the bill.
Turks want to do business with people that they trust, rather than simply agree to partner for pure financial gain. Therefore, when negotiating it is often advantageous to emphasize the influence and security you can offer over the profit margin.
In spite of the general informality, however, remain courteous at all times. Always offer a firm handshake when meeting a business associate, and greet groups of clients or colleagues by working your way from the most senior to junior employee.
Both men and women should dress formally at work and for meetings, dark suits for men and long skirts or pant suits for women. As a rule: if you are wondering if it´s too informal, don´t wear it.
Things to avoid
Be aware of Muslim holidays when scheduling meetings. This is especially true during the month of Ramadan, where business hours vary.
Along those lines, always remember that you are doing business in a Muslim country (albeit a fairly secular one). Make sure you know whether your associates drink alcohol before you order drinks at a business dinner, and be especially careful if you ever present alcohol as a gift. Asking ahead of time may seem awkward, but an awkward private moment is certainly preferable to a major embarrassment at a business function.
Women in Turkish business
Dress code and etiquette
Western women might feel isolated in the Turkish business world. Only 24% of Turkish women are employed, so the workplace is definitely male-dominated.
The Turkish constitution does guarantee equal opportunity, however, and the number of successful businesswomen in Turkey is constantly growing. The low numbers of Turkish businesswomen reflect cultural values rather than institutionalized sexism.
Thus, an interesting contradiction: while on average Turkish girls leave school 18 months earlier than boys, the percentages of women executives in some industries are actually higher than in many other countries. In the Turkish finance industry, for example, there is a higher ratio of women executives than in Germany, Italy, or France.
Nonetheless, women should avoid wearing short skirts, stiletto heels, or any revealing clothing in the workplace, lest they risk harsh judgment of their character.
Similarly, in some rural areas it is unacceptable for a woman to shake hands with a man.
If you are a man meeting a Turkish businesswoman, wait for the woman to extend her hand before you move to shake it. If you are a woman, the decision will be left to you. As a foreign woman, you will certainly be given wider latitude with your decisions, but you may nonetheless prefer to go with local custom in the interest of appealing to your clients.