Doing Business in Mexico – cultural tips

1 11 2006

When doing business in Mexico you are very likely to see some, or all, of the following during a business trip. It’s part of the Mexican business and social culture.

  • Late arrival for meetings by participants. This might be up to 30 to 45 minutes late.
  • Cancellations at the last minute.
  • Changes in agreed upon plans and agendas.
  • Long lunches or dinners, where business talk is not the major theme.
  • Meetings that seem to go on for a long time before coming to the business issue.
  • People will gesture and use their hands a great deal while speaking.
  • There will be a degree of emotion in business discussions and presentations.
  • People will be very formal and polite.
  • People will sit very close to you when speaking, and often touch your arm or shoulder while talking.
  • Your Mexican partners will not be forth coming and explicit regarding bad news.
  • You will not hear the word NO a lot.
  • Deadlines may not be met for reasons that you don’t understand or don’t believe.
  • Until you establish a social relationship with your Mexican business partners, your business discussions will seem very vague, cold and unsatisfying.
  • Decision-making may be extremely swift or excruciatingly slow. You never will know why.
  • Dinners, parties, weddings and social gatherings last for hours. There is no such thing as a 2 hour cocktail party.
  • You will be encouraged to eat everything, drink plenty and enjoy yourself while in Mexico. Failure to do this is seen as a refusal of hospitality or a sign that you are not comfortable in Mexico or with your hosts.
  • In a social gathering the men will tend to congregate in one part of the room or table and the women in the other.

 

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Great International Business Trip Results

16 10 2006

In any international relationship communication and understanding are critical for success.

Problems created by; language, stereotypes, misinformation, lack of information, and cultural misunderstandings combine with normal business problems to create a complicated scenario for anyone involved in international relationships and global business.

Prepare your international meetings and business presentations using the following questions as a guide to organize your ideas and focus on actions that will produce positive results for everyone involved.

6 Questions – Create Great International Business Trip Results

  1. What does this organization know about me, my company and my country?
  2. What do they think they know about me?
  3. What can I tell them that they do not know?
  4. What do I know about my international partner, culture and country?
  5. What do I think I know about this business, culture and country?
  6. What can they tell me that I do not know?

1. What does this organization know about me and my company. When you walk in the room an opinion has already been formed about you, your organization, and your ability to perform in the future. These ideas are based upon facts, information and past experience.

  • What has been the history of our relationship in their country?
  • Who has been involved in our mutual business, and why?
  • What promises have been made and kept by both?
  • What promises have been made and not delivered upon?
  • What have the major problems and success been in the past?
  • Press and media, our organizations promotional material.

2. What do they think they know about me. Clarifying the unknowns or presumed realities in a relationship is crucial to success. These ideas may be very damaging and limit your ability to trust one another. What stereotypical behaviour can you avoid or prevent? What can you clarify or refute through information or actions?

  • Behaviour and reacts based upon past experience with your organization.
  • Rumour and innuendo, press and media reports.
  • Negotiation styles.
  • Business objectives.
  • Behaviour, goals and methods of doing business based upon country and cultural stereotypes.

3. What can I tell them that they do not know. Today’s business world requires trust, information and solutions. Reinforcing your need to work with your international partner, providing important information or solutions, and clarifying misunderstandings can only help the relationship.

  • Clarify or destroy cultural stereotypes.
  • Clarify business objectives and why they are important in order to reach these objectives.
  • Provide solutions and alternatives to existing situations and challenges.
  • Provide information of value for their business and strategy.
  • Clearly identify current or potential business problems.
  • Predict and have answers ready for their questions.

4. What do I know about my International partner, culture and country? What do I know is true and not innuendo or interpretation? The numbers, facts, information, agreements and past performance history of the business. Information about the country and the business culture.

5. What do I think I know about this business, culture and country? What preconceived ideas and stereotypes are you working with? What are you assuming and what has been proven?

6. What can they tell me that I do not know? What questions do you need to ask in order to verify information or create plans. What pieces of your information puzzle are missing? This is the time to get your questions answered, what are they?

Related Links

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Leadership – who do you want to lead?

27 09 2006

One measure of leadership is the caliber of people who choose to follow you. ~Dennis A. Peer

The semi-mystical mix of qualities, attitudes and behaviours that make or define a leader will provide plenty of material for business writers for years to come. The focus is often on what makes the person a leader or what actions define a leader.

How about looking at the situation from another point of view.

What kind of followers or team do you want to lead?

Are you seeking a group that can be easily manipulated and accept your commands without questioning your authority?

Do you want to lead a team of highly independent people who might question the goals and direction of the group at any time?

Do your followers believe you are the smartest, toughest or most courageous in the group?

What kind of people, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours would your “ideal” followers have, and why?

Determining the qualities of the group you desire to lead, can provide insights into your leadership style and goals. It will give some definition of what leadership qualities you expect to project to others, and what qualities or responses you expect to see reflected in your team, and their behaviours.

Not many of us will be leaders; and even those who are leaders must also be followers much of the time. This is the crucial role. Followers judge leaders. Only if the leaders pass that test do they have any impact. The potential followers, if their judgment is poor, have judged themselves. If the leader takes his or her followers to the goal, to great achievements, it is because the followers were capable of that kind of response.” –Garry Wills in Certain Trumpets: The Nature of Leadership

Related Links

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Business in Mexico, conversation themes

15 09 2006

When going to Mexico for business, be prepared for conversations. Mexicans are social people. They love to gather in groups and socialize. You can be assured of plenty of conversations during your visit.

Most business meetings and business dinners will involve a great deal of conversation of off-topic ideas before getting to business. Your ability to participate and keep the conversation moving is an important part of creating trust and the bonds required for doing business successfully in Mexico.

What topics are of general interest in Mexico?

Be cautious about introducing your personal opinions about politics and religion. Asking others to explain the current situation, so that you can understand it, is a safe way to venture into themes related to politics and economics.

Currently (September 2006) the following themes are sure to provoke conversations, discussions and opinions when in Mexico.

  • The recent Mexican presidential elections. Predictions for the future, scenarios, how it will might affect business and Mexico.
  • Your industry or business sector. Any international or national news, information, gossip, trends or tendencies related to your business sector.
  • Infrastructure projects in the city or state where you are visiting
  • China and it’s impact on the Mexican economy
  • Children and family
  • News or current events that can be found on the front page of the local or national newspaper
  • Recommendations on when and where to vacation in Mexico

Related Links

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Cultural misunderstanding, it can happen to you.

15 09 2006

When we think of industry leaders in marketing and branding, Disney comes to mind. Geniuses in promoting their brand. Magnificent marketers. Leaders in the theme park industry. Universally recognized brand.

What could possibly go wrong with their expansion into Hong Kong and the Asian-Pacific market? Cultural misunderstanding.

Expansion into international markets and working with other cultures has created unforeseen headaches and problems for Disney once again. Disneyland struggles in Hong Kong

This is not the first time Disney has encountered cultural problems in international projects. EuroDisney also suffered from problems related to culture and customs that were not predicted or not taken seriously.

Disney is not alone. Virtually all organizations seeking to export and participate in international markets face steep learning curves about culture, customs and manners. Mistakes are made, at times very costly mistakes.

The lesson to be learned is to spend the time and money to understand your international markets and the culture where you will be doing business. It’s not enough to understand your brand and current customers. Never underestimate any cultural factor, and never assume that your model, project or way of life will be embraced fully and without reservations.

Related Links

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Create great international business relationships

14 09 2006

Working with individuals and ideas from cultures different from our own is complex, and filled with opportunities to misunderstand and offend everyone involved. It requires time to develop trust and understanding for all the players involved.

Take the time to learn how and why business is done in the country. Don’t judge the results based upon your culture and your country’s standards.

There is nothing more damaging to an international relationship than criticism based upon a lack of understanding. You must learn before you attempt to teach new ideas, strategies and procedures.

When doing business in Mexico remember that no matter what you feel or believe about your company’s products or procedures, Mexicans know their market and people better than you do. They know the correct business etiquette and the “invisible” cultural nuances that are required in order to do business in Mexico.

If you enter into business in Mexico with the idea that you are going to “teach the Mexicans how business is really done” I am confident you will suffer some serious problems.

Pushing procedures and business strategies into Mexico will surely cause divisions, it can turn into an “us versus them” situation for employees and customers.

I recommend that your focus be on learning and understanding how business in currently done in Mexico, and why. Once you have this knowledge, teach and explore your cultures and organizations solutions and strategies with your Mexican collaborators. I’ll bet the ideas will get modified if necessary, implemented and embraced quickly.

The creation of hybrid strategies, using elements from both cultures, will guarantee unification and understanding for everyone involved.

Before you start a revolution it’s essential to fully understand the status quo.

 

Related Links

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Stereotypes and global business

8 09 2006

A stereotype is defined as an unvarying form or pattern, specifically a fixed or conventional notion or conception of a person, group, idea, etc., held by a number of people and allows for no individuality or critical judgement. (Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1998)

Stereotypes are representative of a society’s collective knowledge of customs, myths, religion, ideas and sciences (McCrea,Stangor and Hewstone)

Working with global clients and international cultures provides the opportunity to breakdown and destroy existing stereotypes. Global business encourages and forces a confrontation of cultures and preconceived ideas.

Successful international trade and business is all about marketing. Marketing your product, yourself, the organization, your country and customs. Changing fixed and conventional notions and beliefs.

Interactions with other countries and cultures will be successful when we create an atmosphere of trust, build enthusiasm and excitement, and project an image of the organization or product that appeals to, and will be embraced by the client.

In essence, we are breaking the old stereotypes and helping to create new ones.

Related Link

International business traveller – ambassador, explorer, map-maker

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