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Jess Lederman
The Arab Business Code
In “The Arab Business Code,” Hornok guides business leaders in the U.S. to create and maintain long-term relationships with their peers in the Arab world and beyond with insightful case studies of renowned international and Arab businesspeople and a colorful new concept that she calls The Seven Emotional Hinderers. This approach introduced in “The Arab Business Code” aims to help readers overcome the barriers to conducting business in the Middle East through the method of decoding.
Hornok’s workbook offers practical guidance for non-Arab businesspeople seeking opportunity in the Arabian Gulf, one of the world’s most booming emerging markets. Drawing upon many everyday examples and case studies, and displaying acute sensitivity to the assumptions and beliefs of all parties in cross-cultural communication, Hornok lays out crucial, general rules: develop chemistry with potential business partners, acknowledge the importance of family ties, honor and understand culturally specific rules of respect and face-saving. She also highlights some specific circumstances non-Arab business leaders might encounter, giving advice on eye contact, handshaking, saying “no,” and apologizing after one party causes another to lose face.

The material is strong and likely to prove helpful to its intended audience, but the book suffers from its lack of an index and chapter summaries, and its structure is haphazard. In the extended fourth chapter, for example, a scheme of nested, numbered sections with vague names (“Golden Rules,” “Key Codes,” “Strategic Codes,” “Tools,” “Building Blocks”) does little to lead readers to specific topics. A reader eager to learn about how a non-Arab businesswoman should handle feeling ignored by Arab businessmen in a meeting is unlikely to intuit that this gets covered under “Cultural no-go ABC 3: Eye contact” under “Key Code 4” of “Golden Rule 3: Respect.” Case studies are visually set aside in gray boxes but then referred to as though they’re part of the main text.

Hornok packs her six chapters with vivid examples, illuminating original quotes from Arab and non-Arab businesspeople, and lists of precepts and tools. Readers who take the time to highlight and organize their own favorite tips from her book will find them well worth returning to. She’s an engaging, informed coach, and business-minded readers will find much here that’s worth considering when it comes to avoiding pitfalls and managing expectations in cross-cultural deal-making.

Takeaway: Non-Arab businesspeople interested in deal-making in the Arabian Gulf will appreciate this sensitive, thorough guide to cross-cultural business interactions.

Great for fans of Great for fans of Rana Nejem’s When in the Arab World, Erin Meyer’s The Culture Map.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: C+
Illustrations: B
Editing: C+
Marketing copy: B