One concern entrepreneurs have about going global is what to do about bribery. NPR conducted an interesting interview on the subject with Nigeria's anti-corruption chief, Nuhu Ribadu, this morning. Steve Inskeep asked about Western companies offering bribes in order to get business in the oil-rich nation. Ribadu indicated it wasn't uncommon; indeed, he's currently investigating a company that became a Halliburton subsidiary.
So what do you do when your competitors are giving bribes, and your suppliers are asking for them? Here's what reporter Nitasha Tiku advised in answer to that question in the April issue.
It's a dilemma that entrepreneur Bülent Celebi faced when he moved from the Silicon Valley back to his Turkish homeland. He was starting a wireless-router company called AirTies; I wrote about his successful, and complicated, move in an April-issue story called Fully Committed. He immediately saw that bribes were common and expected—he was asked to hire certain 'consultants', and give certain gifts. Celebi chose not to give bribes, figuring that once he started, he wouldn't stop. (Besides, he said, he didn't have the money to do so anyway.) But it probably hindered the growth of his business. When he was seeking government contracts or approvals, or trying to get boxes of routers out of customs, he had to wait, and wait, and wait—while some of his competitors greased the wheels and got ahead faster.
I wonder whether paying bribes is ever justified: if all your competitors do it, are you hurting your business by refusing to?