International business analyst teaching Americans how to build successful entrepreneurial relationships in the Arab world and beyond


“The Arab Business Code” by Judith Hornok releases in March

We all know that the key to success is to take the right steps. But how do we identify the steps to business success in one of the world’s toughest and most dynamic markets?

After more than 15 years of research in the Arab Gulf, Judith Hornok has unequivocally earned the title of The Decoder among entrepreneurs around the world for her exceptional ability to understand and interpret international business practices, philosophies and culture. And now the native Austrian is translating her knowledge for American businesspeople in “The Arab Business Code” (March 10, 2020, Routledge).

Instead of dwelling on dry theories or relying on mind games, 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.

“I think it’s helpful for people to visualize their emotions as living, breathing creatures with personalities and imperfections,” Hornok says. “This makes them, in a sense, more real. Recognizing The Seven Emotional Hinderers is the first step to a positive business relationship. Decoding gives you the edge.”


“The Arab Business Code”

Judith Hornok | March 10, 2020 | Routledge
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0367265021 | Price: $38.95
Nonfiction, Business





JUDITH HORNOK is the decoder and founder of Hornok & Partner, an internationally recognized innovations company for business success. Hornok has worked as a journalist for publications throughout Europe and the Middle East, writing about people and business, as well as producing TV documentaries such as, “The Makers Behind the Stars – The Man Behind Michael Schumacher.” She is the author of the book “Modern Arab Women”, in which she decoded “the quiet reformers.” The book is featured in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. While writing her second book, “The Arab Business Code,” she created the figures of The Emotional Hinderers.

For more than 15 years she has studied the codes of businesspeople. She discovered that to conduct successful business, you must first speak the “socio-emotional language” of people and understanding their true motivations. Since 2009 Hornok and her team have shared this approach with CEOs, managers and employees at international trade organizations.

After researching “codes” in various relationships, Hornok develops techniques to identify “The Emotional Hinderers”. In addressing these, she and her team of experts help businesses forge long-term successful relationships.

Hornok is known for her lectures, including her presentations at IDEO/Stanford University and the European Forum Alpbach. Her key message: knowing the “codes” of people will foster success in business and private life, while also giving you the ability to create peace. She spends her time traveling between Europe, the U.S. and the Arab world.

In an interview, JUDITH HORNOK can discuss:
*What American business leaders can glean from her 15+ years of experience researching the business culture of the Arab Gulf
*What decoding entails and how she became a “decoder”
*How to identify and handle The Emotional Hinderers
*How Americans can be successful in the Arab Gulf business market

An Interview with JUDITH HORNOK

What is “decoding” and how did you become a “decoder?”
Decoding means to know “the passwords” that spur or hinder people in their actions or reactions. It may be a word, a gesture, a facial expression, a ritual or a traditional kind of food.

As a child, I was frail and afraid. I had asthma and was often in the hospital. The outside world made me anxious. As a teenager, I started to study people around me; this lessened my fear. I realized what’s important to them and without realizing I already had started to “decode” their behavior towards me. Only much later I realized how important it is to know idiosyncrasies for any kind of relationship.

Why is decoding important, especially in the business world (and especially in the Arab Gulf)?
Decoding is the “fast track” to the emotional and intuitive state of your counterpart. You communicate on the same level but much quicker. It´s like “speaking the same language,” but on a social-emotional level. This saves time and money, and one can concentrate on the really important things.

Knowing “the codes” is not only essential in the business world in the Arab Gulf – it´s essential for all kind of relationships.

Can you briefly explain The Seven Emotional Hinderers? Why is this important and who does it benefit?
The Emotional Hinderers are the “aggressive, negative” form of emotions and feelings. I have given them names to describe them better, such as The Frustrated Expectation and The Paralyzed Fear for example. I created seven of them. By studying the business world, as in the Arab world, I realized how dangerous these “creatures” can be. Sometimes they even ruin a business deal.

As I have always thought in pictures, I started visualizing them as “characters” like real people – with faces, hair and clothes. Looking at these creatures made me smile – how they struggled with themselves. I trained myself to visualize them in different situations, in business meetings or just shopping at a supermarket – it helped me to see situations from a different perspective, enabling me to “decode” people. My team and I started to analyze situations by identifying The Emotional Hinderers. With tips and techniques from experts such as brain researchers, psychologists, athletes, our goal was how to manage The Emotional Hinderers. I report about it on my blog.

Does empathy play a crucial role in business?
Being empathetic is a fantastic gift and a great personal trait. It’s a valuable basis for every kind of relationship – “to feel other’s feelings;” it´s a tool that will certainly aid success. But I am not sure if everybody can learn to be empathetic in every situation.

However, what I certainly know is that you can train yourself to recognize “codes” of people (in groups or individuals).

Can you share a moment in your business ventures when a misunderstanding or a difference in views could have led to conflict and how you navigated that situation?
Managing expectations was certainly my first lesson during my beginnings in the Arab Gulf. I remember a meeting with an Arab business personality. I was waiting for over 15 minutes; the secretary came in, told me the person will arrive soon. After waiting for another 20 minutes I felt frustrated and it felt like my body “heated up inside me” – I heard internal voices having a dialogue. It sounded like, “I never expected that? This person seemed to be respectful about time… Why? Why does that happen to me?” … “Are they crazy? Letting me wait for over half an hour! This is so disrespectful!” – The characters Frustrated Expectation and Aggressive Anger Rascal had arrived and started manipulating me. Exactly at this moment, the businessman entered the room, smiled at me and excused himself for being late. If I hadn’t trained visualizing The Emotional Hinderers, if I hadn’t known how to use one of the techniques at this moment, to calm “the creatures” down, I am certain that I would have communicated very aggressively in the meeting. But I was able to reply in a very friendly way, didn´t mention the lateness of the businessperson for a second and had a great meeting with good results.

How can businesses profit from your guidance?
Business is nothing abstract, it is always a deal between people, real people. With my work I try to highlight the obstacles that exist in relationships. Not only in the counterpart but also in oneself.

Understanding my work will ultimately save businesses a lot of time, be it by choosing the right partners or recognizing when to stop a deal.

How can the ideas introduced in your book be applied in different facets of life, not just in business?
Relationships are a big part of our lives. Many psychologists today are busy trying save marriages and preventing pupils from being mobbed at school. I believe that recognizing your own Emotional Hinderers will help you in every relationship. Starting with yourself, from the inside-out can make a change in how people look at you and deal with you.

Why is this project so important to you? What inspired and motivated you to help decode the businesspeople of the Arab Gulf?
After a lot of international and Arab businesspeople complained that it’s so hard to do business in the Arab Gulf, I took it as a personal challenge to decode what creates success in this part of the world. I love to talk with people, and it makes me really happy to see people communicating well with each other.

How can the concepts in “The Arab Business Code” help the USA establish long-term and successful relationships in the Arab Gulf?
Each culture has its own codes and American businesspeople are not necessarily aware of the codes of Arab businesspeople. My book is a guide to understand the other side, not just through spoken language. The book gives many examples of American managers and how painfully they had to learn the codes. I want to save American businesspeople time and money.

Tell us about your previous book, “Modern Arab Women.”
This book highlights how successful women operate in the Arab Gulf to reform the situation of women. I included the first female racing driver, the first female filmmaker, the first female minister and so on. These women followed “their own codes;” that´s why they became successful. I personally call them the quiet reformers. They all used “From Inside To Outside” (FITO) technique, that I also describe in my new book.

Do you have a background in business?
No, after school I started training in the hotel industry but quickly changed to journalism. I have a curious nature and love to communicate. I was very fortunate to learn from the best and trained in one of Austria’s well-reputed publishing houses.

What’s next for you?
Having written two books already, I see a third one coming soon. I would very much like to write a book that applies my techniques to a broader audience.

I am also looking to work more with my creatures, The Seven Emotional Hinderers. I have an idea at the back of my mind to bring them to life. And of course, there are the lectures to larger organizations that will take up part of my time.