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From Europe to Malaysia
Building a Broker-to-Broker Business

It’s taken John D. Pinson five years, but he’s built solid relationships in the southeastern Asian country of Malaysia, for which he serves as the National Association of Realtors’®  (NAR) president’s liaison. “I’ve made 14 trips there, and my contacts have come here, too,” says Pinson, CIPS, CRS, broker at John D. Pinson Inc. in Palm Beach. “The relationships take a long time to develop.”

Most Malaysians are ethnic Malay, but the country also includes a number of Chinese and Hindu Indians. The cultural mix might make learning local customs difficult, but Pinson says there are a few firm rules for doing business in Malaysia. “Don’t wear shorts—ever,” he says. “And don’t point with your finger. That’s really, really bad. To call somebody over, with your palm facing down, pull your fingers inward.”

He also says it’s best never to raise your voice or lose your temper in business discussions, a rule that probably translates across the globe. “You’ll lose all the trust and respect you’ve built over the years,” he says. “Instead, disagree in writing.

“The most important part of the Malaysian culture is sharing food,” says Pinson. “If someone offers you something to eat, don’t reject it.”

Pinson got his start in international real estate in 1988, when he began attending Florida Association of Realtors, NAR and Federation Internationale des Administrateurs de Bien Counselis Immobilieres (FIABCI) meetings, which helped him make contacts throughout the world, primarily in Great Britain, France and Italy. He says, however, that he hasn’t had the same luck building business by attending international trade and property shows. “I haven’t had that great of a return,” he says. “For instance, I attended a trade show in Great Britain, and it was just a way for people to come off the street and dream of getting away. Real buyers actually get on a plane and explore their location.”

The best advice Pinson gives for expanding your international base of business is to work through other brokers. “Raise your name awareness with other brokers, who can send you referrals, through NAR and FIABCI,” he says. “Brokers expand your market.”