Indirect messages and business etiquette in Mexico

28 11 2006

A comment from .hj highlighted an important issue when doing business in Mexico.  He wrote ” (Mexicans) will try to deliver a message using indirect messages and almost never telling things directly for it is consider unpolite”

Etiquette and formal behaviour is expected in Mexican business negotiations, especially with international clients or suppliers.   This will become more relaxed and informal over time, as the trust is reinforced and expectations are met on both sides.

It is all about mutual respect.

The formal rules and behaviours (etiquette) that enhance and create an atmosphere of respect have been broken down or eliminated in the USA, but in Mexico they are critical and very much a part of business dealings.

The Mexican business person does not like to create a confrontation or criticize openly, it is considered rude and ill mannered.  One should be very perceptive to what is being said by your Mexican partner, what is being avoided and the implications of each behaviour.

One should avoid open criticism of the Mexican partner.   They expect the same formality given to you, it is embarrassing and awkward if one begins to point fingers and rant and rave.

Make comments and observations about areas that need attention, strategies and solutions that must be adapted and challenges that must be met instead of criticism of past performance.  Discuss what is working and what isn’t working, but don’t personalize it.

You may not hear direct criticism of an idea or proposal, instead there might be suggestions of alternatives.

Your ideas, proposals and solutions may be greeted by nodding heads and smiling faces, but it may only signify that the audience is listening, and not in complete agreement.

Decision-making on sensitive or unpopular issues may be delayed and not openly debated.  Give your Mexican partner time to deal with these issues, and don’t force a decision in public.

If able to plan the meetings in advance, propose an agenda, and include the issues you need to discuss, or that require a decision.  Give them time to prepare for the meeting and the decision-making required.  Don’t demand a decision in an open meeting.

Lunches and informal settings are where the real business discussions and dialogues will take place, and even then, will be presented may be in a vague and non-confrontational manner.  Use these moments to explain and explore the ideas, benefits and alternatives.  Listen.

Present yourself and treat your business relationships as a well educated respectful gentleman, not like a threatening conquering warrior barbarian.  Participate, listen and react to business situations with poise, calm and politeness.

Related Links

How to negotiate with Mexican business people

Doing Business in Mexico – cultural tips

How to speed up doing business in Mexico

Speeches and Protocol in Mexico





Christmas parties and holiday business gifts in Mexico

27 11 2006

The month of December is Mexico is filled with Christmas and holiday parties and social events.

The population of Mexico is 95%+ Christian and openly celebrates Christmas in private industry and government displays. Be aware that there are other religious groups in Mexico that do not celebrate Christmas in order to avoid offending suppliers or clients.

These Christmas and holiday reunions are usually mid-day dinners or late suppers. There will be get-togethers for friends, business acquaintances, associations and any committees or other groups that you might belong to.

There is also the company Christmas party.

Failure to attend the holiday events are noticed and considered rude. It’s better to arrive and steal away early than to avoid the reunions all together. Remember Mexico is a very socially oriented culture, failure to attend and participate in the social events will not help you, it might work against you.

Corporate and business gift giving is very important, and in many cases expected at Christmas time. The low end gifts range from the traditional; calendars and pens, agendas, calculators or other promotional type gifts to the higher end: fine liquors (Tequila, Scotch whiskey, Cognac, Red wine), fine food baskets, electronic equipment (Palms, IPods, etc.), gift certificates to restaurants, etc.

Unlike the USA, it is common in Mexico to give holiday gifts to the decision-makers in the purchasing department unless the companies have a policy against it.

Cut flowers or live plants are not considered an appropriate business gift.

Holiday gifts are given to important (and not so important) clients or to key people in the clients organization with whom you have a personal/business relationship (for example the secretary who answers all your calls or the logistics person who solves problems all year long).

Some transnational companies have tried to limit and reduce the amount and quality of business Christmas gifts in the past few years. It is not looked upon kindly by customers who always reflect upon the amount of money they have spent with the supplier, and believe the Christmas gift is a “thank you” and recognition of their support and loyalty throughout the year.

Work begins to slow down in Mexico at the beginning of December, and after December 12 (The Day of Guadalupe) efficiency grinds to a halt. It’s impossible to get major decisions, and many times difficult to locate business owners and managers due to events and social engagements.

Most Mexican businesses (not in tourist areas) are closed during the week between Christmas (Dec. 25) and the New Year (Jan 1). The Mexican government prohibits highway transport of certain goods and tractor trailers during this peak family vacation period.

Related Links

How to do business in Mexico

Mexican official and unofficial holidays

Tipping guidelines for Mexico

Doing Business in Mexico – cultural tips

Advice on what to expect when doing business with Mexico

Corruption, bribes, mordidas, tips – doing business in Mexico





Mexican politics – what business people should know

22 11 2006

In order to begin to understand Mexican politics (an impossible task), it’s important to learn some fundamentals of the political system in Mexico.

  • There is no re-election for political officials for the same post in Mexico. Current office holders can sit-out a term and run again for the same office, or they can run for another political post.
  • The political parties control the selection of party candidates who run for office, at Federal, State and local levels. Political parties, and their leaders are very important.
  • In order to be remain in politics one must please both the party and the electorate.
  • The term for the President of Mexico is for 6 years, with no re-election.
  • The term for State Governor is 6 years, with no re-election.
  • The term for Senators is 6 years, with no re-election for a consecutive term.
  • The term for the Camara de Diputados (similar to the House of Representatives in the US) is 3 years, with no re-election for a consecutive term.
  • The term for local mayor is 3 years with no re-election for a consecutive term.
  • The term for State representatives and local elected positions is normally 3 years, with no re-election for a consecutive term.
  • Changes in the Mayor, Governor or President, cause major reshuffling of bureaucrats and administrative officials. This causes a slowdown or “unofficial” shutdown of some government offices between the election date and the date of the new administration start-up.
  • The lack of re-election encourages and favors the current politicians and parties in power to seek out projects with short term visible benefits. They are pushed to show successes, infrastructure projects or other tangible benefits during their term of office in order to get promoted and elected to future political posts.
  • In the Mexican states with stable, well defined political party tendencies and majorities, there is more focus on medium and long term projects and planning as the benefits can be attributed to the party.
  • If selling a long term project to the government, it should include short term benefits, or tangible results, so that the politicians involved can claim credit.
  • Never try and initiate the sale or negotiation of a major project to the State government during the last 6 months or year of a Governors term. It will be stalled, and you will have to “resell” it to the new administration.
  • Get to know as many local and State and Federal political officials as possible, in 3 to 6 years they are all sitting in different positions of power and influence in the government.

Related Links

How to do business in Mexico, Politics and Political Parties

How to speed up business decisions in Mexico

Patience, chaos and doing business in Mexico

Official websites of the Mexican states

Best States for business in Mexico – World Bank Report 2007





Sourcing and supply chain strategy – Mexico

16 11 2006

Purchasing from Mexico and Mexican suppliers?

Don Gringo at Catemaco News and Commentary brought these items to our attention.

Sourcing in Mexico gets easier.  The article points out that doing business with Mexico is easier than in the past.

  • The proximity of Mexico to the US markets impacts communication, logistics, costs and time factors.
  • Mexico has a history of dealing with the US, and are familiar with competitive manufacturing techniques.
  • Relationships are critical to success.
  • Beware of stereotypes.
  • Take the time to find the “right” partner.
  • Do’s and don’ts for doing business in Mexico

Does your supply chain strategy include Mexico?  It should.  Al Brown president of SupplyMex writes that Mexico offers:

  • Logistics infrastructure, highways, rail and port system that has been improved over the past 10 years.
  • Free trade agreements with 42 countries.
  • Global production and quality standards.
  • Stable political and economic environment.
  • Skilled workforce.

Thanks Don.
Related Links

Purchasing.com

Why you should pay attention to free-trade treaties 

Maquiladoras in Mexico

Industrial and Business Parks in Mexico





Corruption in Mexico

15 11 2006

Corruption in Mexico.

Quite a bit of interest generated from the piece regarding corruption and bribery in Mexico. Corruption, bribes, mordidas, tips – Doing Business in Mexico

Don Gringo says “Mexico possibly has one of the best governments anyone could buy. And cheap, too.” Catemaco News and Commentary

Bernard Wasow writes in the Globalist “It is no secret that the at law enforcement in Mexico is a “for-profit” business.” Greasing Palms: Corruption in Mexico.

Wide Angle presents a Corruption Chart; How big is Mexico’s problem. Which gives a great state by state overview and comparison of corruption levels in Mexico.

A quote from the page: “According to anti-corruption czar Francisco Barrio, the cost of corruption by government officials and by everyday Mexicans surpassed the amount budgeted for education by more than three percentage points — some 9.5 percent of Mexico’s GDP of $550 billion. Recent studies by the World Economic Forum, an international organization that works to improve worldwide economic conditions, found that the business environment such as rule of law, transparency and corruption were disincentives for foreign investment in Mexico. Corruption, which is often described as a tax, adds to the cost of doing business. The Opacity Index, a study conducted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, found that Mexico lost $8.5 billion in foreign direct investments in 1999 due to corruption and other suspect legal or economic practices.”

Corruption exists in every country in the world, in politics, in business, in everyday life. In some countries it’s more sophisticated or hidden, in others it’s obvious and required in order to get things done. Mexico is no exception.

People seem to ignore corruption in their own countries, and react with shock and anger to corruption in others.

Depending on where you live in Mexico, what you are trying to do, and who you are dealing with, your experience with corruption and bribery will not echo anyone else.

Evaluation of Mexico, China, Brazil, India or any other country as a potential business location or market should include an analysis of how corruption will threaten and affect your operations, efficiency and bottom line.

Your organization should have a clear understanding of the situation and create a set of rules governing how to deal with the reality and any situations that might arise.

You have to ask and answer the question, “do I want my organization to participate and be involved in corruption and bribery, and at what levels”?

Get advice and information from local businesspeople and consultants on the reality of corruption and bribery. Learn how the culture deals with it, detects it and punishes it before you commit to a strategy, path or action plan.

Related Links

How to do business in Mexico, Parts 1 – 28

Tipping guidelines for Mexico

Doing Business in Mexico – cultural tips

World Corruption Perception Index – 2006

Patience chaos and doing business in Mexico





Questions – Answers, Doing business in Mexico

14 11 2006

Have any questions about how to do business in Mexico?

Any specific problems or dilemmas related to doing business in Mexico?

Questions about the business culture in Mexico or Mexican culture in general?

Would you like to know more about a specific theme related to Mexican business?

Need references or information about organizations, people or associations in Mexico?

Send your questions to me at   lee.iwan  at  gmail.com
or post a comment here.

Related Links

How to do business in Mexico

Official government websites of the 32 Mexican States 

The definitive dialing guide for calling Mexico

Shorten your learning curve about Mexico

Business South of the Border





How to speed up business decisions in Mexico

13 11 2006

When doing business in Mexico, one of the fundamental complaints I hear from non-Mexican business people is the speed at which business in transacted.

They say there are 5 speeds to the Mexican economy, I believe they also apply to negotiations in Mexico.

1. Slow.

2. Slower.

3. Stalled.

4. Going in reverse.

5. Dead.

It can be quite frustrating, but it is part of Mexican business culture.

There are several options available that may help speed up the decision-making process in Mexico.

  • Make certain you are both working for the same goal. Write it down, discuss it, and determine that everyone is seeking the same thing. There should not be any hidden agendas.
  • Set fixed and specific dates when the data or information must be available or the decision will be made. Get personal commitments from the other participants. Don’t settle for vague answers, get them to agree in public to bring the specific data or make the decision on a specific date. Personal, not institutional responsibility.
  • Does everyone have all the information required to make the decision? Write down what is missing and assign responsible parties and dates for completion.
  • Follow-up with phone calls and written communication and verify that everything is running on schedule. You will have to dedicate more time to “motivating” or “prodding” than you are used to in your own country.
  • Don’t get angry. If there is no decision it is because of a reason you don’t understand or hasn’t been verbalized. Anger is seen as threatening, and not part of a good relationship, it will hurt you more than help you.
  • Be patient. It always takes longer than you think it will.
  • Keep up the communications, in fact increase them. Contact all the team members involved, try and discuss the project or decision informally (outside of the office or work environment).
  • It might be the money. When everything looks perfect, and still no decision, it might be due to money (or lack of it). Try and discuss this privately with the head decision-maker.
  • It might be the risk or control involved. Bring the subject out in the open and discuss the risks and control issues involved for both sides. This is best done informally with the team members, one on one.
  • It might be NO. Mexicans do not like to say no or give bad news in certain situations. They believe it is impolite, and many times will not respond or will allow the situation to continue until it fades away without a “yes or no” decision being made.

Related Links

Patience Chaos and doing business in Mexico

Doing Business in Mexico – cultural tips

How to negotiate with Mexican business people

How to do business in Mexico





Foreign direct investment in Guanajuato, Mexico

6 11 2006

The State of Guanajuato, Mexico has over 572 companies with foreign capital registered and located in the state.

The following information has been translated from an article dated November 6, 2006, published in the newspaper Correo, by Vicente Ruiz, Link.

49% of these foreign companies in Guanajuato are involved in manufacturing, and 29% are commercial operations which together represent an investment greater than 1,000,000,000 (one billion US dollars).

Due to changes in laws regarding foreign investment in Mexico (in 1993, 1995, 2001), 90% of all economic activities in Mexico are completely open to foreign participation and investment.

Mexico’s growing national economy, free trade agreements with 32 countries and geographic location provide great economic and logistics advantages to companies opening operations in Mexico.

In Guanajuato, 50% of all the foreign companies are located in the city of Leon (281), followed by Irapuato (71) Celaya (52), San Miguel Allende (31), Silao (26), San Francisco del Rincon (25), Guanajuato (19) and the rest (67) throughout the state.

Guanajuato occupies the first position for foreign investment of the all the Mexican states in the North-Central region.

Principal industries in Guanajuato that received direct foreign investment include:

  • The automotive industry received US $ 874.2 million
  • Processed food industry (concentrates, preserved products) received US $ 99.1 million
  • Manufacture of paper, cellulose and derivatives received US $ 18.9 million
  • Commerce of non-agricultural items received US $ 17.3 million
  • Chemical manufacturing received US $ 15.9 million
  • Clothing manufacturing received US $ 7.5 million
  • Textile manufacturing received US $ 5.2 million
  • Plastics manufacturing received US $ 5.4 million
  • Food products received US $ 4.8 million

Who has invested in the State of Guanajuato, Mexico:

Country…. Investment (Millions of US dollars)…… %

United States of America……..1’ 009, 214.00………..92.7

Holland………………23, 277.90………….2.1

Spain………………….18, 234.00………….1.7

Germany……………14, 267.30………….1.3

Denmark……………..4, 913.90………….0.5

Taiwan…………………4, 426.00………….0.4

Others………………..14, 549.60………….1.3

Total: USD $ 1’ 088, 882.70 (Millions)

Related Links

Aumenta inversion extrañjera en el Estado de Guanajuato: SE (Spanish)

Secretaria del Economia de Mexico (English)

State of Guanajuato webpage (English-Spanish)

Correo (Spanish)





IMF predicts strong economic growth for Mexico

5 11 2006

Good news for Mexico and Mexican business.

The IMF (International Monetary Fund) released their Regional Economic Outlook: Western Hemisphere on November 2, 2006.

They are predicting a 4.4% growth rate for this year and strong indicators for medium term growth due to a strong financial sector in the country.

Get the entire report here: IMF – Regional Economic Outlook: Western Hemisphere (pdf file)

Related Links

Press Release: IMF sees continued robust growth in Latin America and in the Caribbean

IMF – Regional Economic Outlook: Western Hemisphere

IMF – Regional Economic Outlook: Western Hemisphere (pdf file)

BBC News: IMF praises Latin American growth

Bloomberg: Mexico’s growth to beat earlier forecast, IMF says





The definitive guide on how to dial to Mexico

4 11 2006

Starting today, November 4, 2006 there are changes on how to dial to cellular phones in Mexico.

The program called “El que llama paga”, which means “whoever calls, pays for the call”, allows you to call any cellular phone in Mexico and the recipient of the call does not have to pay. Previously the cost of the call was shared between both parties.

If calling Mexico from out of the country (International long distance):

  • To a fixed landline phone: the exit code of the country (in the USA – “011”) + 52 + area code + telephone number
  • To a Mexican cellular phone: the exit code of the country (in the USA – “011”) + 52 + 1 + area code + telephone number

If in Mexico, calling from a fixed landline phone to a Mexican cellular phone

  • To a cellular phone in the same city: 044 + area code + telephone number
  • To a cellular phone in another city: 045 + area code + telephone number
  • To a Nextel of the same city: telephone number
  • To a Nextel of another city: 01 + area code + telephone number
  • From a fixed landline that is NOT Telmex to a cellular phone of another city:  01 + area code + telephone number

If in Mexico, dialing from a cellular phone

  • To a fixed landline in the same city: telephone number
  • To a fixed landline in another city: 01 + area code + telephone number
  • To a cellular telephone in the same city: area code + telephone number
  • To a cellular telephone in another city: 045 + area code + telephone number
  • To a NEXTEL: telephone number
  • To a NEXTEL in another city: 01 + area code + telephone number

Related Links

How to call Mexico from the USA

Changes for dialing long distance to cellular phones in Mexico





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.

 

Related Links

 

Patience, Chaos and Doing Business in Mexico

How to do business in Mexico

Criticism – how to do business in Mexico

Meeting people in Mexico

How to negotiate with Mexican business people

How to call Mexico from the USA

Great International Business Trip Results

16 Essential questions – the international business traveller’s quiz





Patience, chaos and doing business in Mexico

27 10 2006

To successfully work with Mexico one must understand some fundamental truths inherent in the country and culture.

Patience and Chaos are important factors in understanding the people, culture and history.

Patience.

Mexicans are patient people. The have great tolerance for human error. They run on a schedule that is influenced by work concerns, family concerns, their own mental health, and takes into consideration outside factors and influences that might interfere with their plans.

This is not to say that Mexicans are never in a hurry, or are willing to accept poor quality, or like to move slowly.

What it means is that they are not overly disturbed and motivated to emotional outbursts and threats if something gets in their way, or does not go as planned. They patiently seek a solution, and if no solution is present, they accept the reality of the situation.

Chaos

Chaos is part of Mexican culture and society. Lack of long term planning is quite common (at government, business, personal levels), and everything gets done at the last minute. The curious part is that everything DOES get done.

This chaos and disorganization draws strong criticism from individuals used to order, control, planning and expected outcomes in their own countries. Remember that it is a characteristic of Mexico, not good, not bad, just different.

Living in a chaotic environment allows the Mexicans to rapidly adapt to any situation, take advantages of opportunities quickly, and survive quite well in a every changing world.

There is spontaneity in Mexico. Social engagements are arranged at a moments notice, or simply just happen, unplanned and casually. Things just happen. Expect last minute changes in plans, events, and agendas. “Expect the unexpected” is great advice.

Not surprisingly, Mexico is a country where social relationships and social networks are extremely important. These personal bonds and relationships, which are reinforced constantly, help to creat order and get things done.

As is the case of all stereotypes, these observations are broad based and may, or may not, have any validity.

Related Links

Cultural Misunderstanding- it can happen to you

How to do business in Mexico

Criticism – how to do business in Mexico

Meeting people in Mexico





Mexico manufacturing, US inventories and safety stock

21 10 2006

Manufacturers are returning to Mexico after “experimenting” in the Asia Pacific region. Some of the big reasons for this return are ; to reduce time to market, eliminate the financial costs of inventories in transit, lower the logistics costs, and to strengthen the supply chain by moving closer to just-in-time deliveries.

But moving to Mexico isn’t going to solve all the problems.

A September 2006 article in CFO magazine points out how US businesses are increasing safety stocks “just in case”. Delayed in the USA The article points out how supply chain disruptions are being provoked by an increasingly saturated US highway system and bottlenecks in deepwater ports and railyards.

The good news is that Mexico is close to the USA, a truckload of goods can leave any point in Mexico and arrive at the US destination in as little as 4-5 days. The railyards and new multimodal Interior Port in Guanajuato, Mexico allow manufacturers to establish production facilities in the interior of the country. Exporters can now clear customs and load the sealed container onto the rail-car at the new (2006) high capacity Customs port located in the geographic center of Mexico.

The bad news is that unless the US begins to upgrade their highway, port and rail facilities, supply chain managers in the US will be buying and storing higher levels of inventory to assure continuity of operations, “just in case”.

Related Links

Delayed in the USA – Supply Chain

Industrial and Business Parks in Mexico

AMPIP Mexican Association of Industrial and Business Parks





How to motivate yourself on Monday

2 10 2006

Here we go again, Monday morning, back to work. Need some ideas on how to get pumped up for the week ahead?

1. The survivor approach. Challenge yourself to attack the most difficult work problems first thing today. Admit that it has to be done and might be the most uncomfortable or unpleasant activity you will encounter during the week. Once this is out of the way you’ll be surprised how much easier the rest of the week will be.

2. Send out positive energy. Be cheerful, upbeat and responsive to customers and coworkers. Say hello to everyone, acknowledge their presence. If you encounter grumpy, sad or depressed individuals smile at them and move on. Leave everyone you meet with the impression that you’re happy, full of enthusiasm and motivated today. Sound completely out of character for you? Good.

3. Monday is list execution day. List makers should prepare their weekly to-do lists on Friday afternoon or Sunday evening. When you walk into the office on Monday the plan is waiting for you to dig in and execute it.

4. You are working for you. Remember that you are working in order to achieve your personal goals. The work is part of that process. You are not working for XYZ corporation, you truly are working for yourself. It’s your decision to stay or to leave the company, your future is in your hands. Try that attitude on and see what happens.

5. Make someone proud of you. Everyone has a person or persons in their lives that they love and respect. Who are these people in your life? What could you do today at work to make them proud of you? Do it.

6. Act like an invincible leader. Feeling miserable and trying to spread that misery, gloom, doom and depression to others is a pretty pathetic way to live. Do you like to be around people with this attitude? Why would others want to be around you if you are a walking “cloud of misery and darkness”? You are a victim if you agree to be one.

7. Give yourself prizes. Set some work goals and create rewards for their completion that can be enjoyed on the weekend.

8. Motivation through memories. On the way to work think about the times in your life when you were the most enthusiastic, excited, motivated and happy. Remember the way you felt, identify why you felt so good, relive those experiences.

9. Go to work with a specific mission and deadlines. Make specific commitments for goal completion to others.

10. Decide to take a vacation. Burned out, stressed out, unable to focus, unable to get excited? Take time off, disconnect from work (that means no email, no telephone calls). Recharge your batteries. Figure out when you are going, for how long, with who and where.

11. Let cosmic forces and your subconscious decide. Sit down in a quiet spot, turn off the cellular phone, lock the door and try to clear your mind. In a matter of minutes you will begin to be bombarded with ideas or things you should be doing, and their priorities. Open your eyes, and get started.

12.  Music.  You know the tunes that start your feet tapping or set your soul soaring.  Record them, put them in your I-pod, burn a disk for the car.

13.  Change.  Setting a routine is quite normal, and comforting, but not motivating.  Change something.  Maybe it’s breakfast, the way to work, your clothes…who knows.  Fiddle around with your patterns and routines.

14.  Altruism.  Do something for someone else, without seeking anything in return.  Random acts of kindness.

R elated Links

Showtime – how do you want to live your life

Motivation, what gets you out of bed

10 things you should do on a Friday afternoon





20 ideas – how to avoid major problems with your export business

29 09 2006

Exporting is an extremely difficult process as compared to selling in the local or national market. Exporting is not easy, and it’s not inexpensive. It takes planning and requires people that are open, flexible, problem-solvers, and quick at adapting to new situations.

A smart organization that desires to export their products will invest time and money building the proper administrative and sales structure before they begin operations.

20 ideas – how to avoid major problems with your export business

1. Say no to customers. When you can’t do it, say no upfront, before you make an agreement.

2. Create an export strategy before you begin to export. Don’t get sucked into exporting by “accident”.

3. Samples should be equal in quality to the actual production that will be shipped.

4. Make everything perfectly clear with customers. Don’t assume anything, don’t work with suppositions.

5. Learn and understand the business culture of your export market and customers before you begin.

6. Provide detailed price lists and price quotations to the customer. Understand your Incoterms (if you don’t know what these are, stop know and click here)

7. Contemplate what problems might possibly arise (internal and external) that could affect shipment or delivery. Prepare alternatives or take preventive action.

8. Understand that there is a learning curve that affects the organizations ability and performance when exporting to new markets. Calculate the time this will require, and it’s cost.

9. Write down and sign all agreements with the customer (dates, specifications, changes, time, everything). Verify everything with an email or fax if unable to physically sign the agreements and changes.

10. Use caution about exclusivity agreements. Everyone wants exclusivity, will that exclusivity support your entire export production? Will it limit your ability to grow?

11. Develop a quality control system throughout the company.

12. Never send poor quality products, especially in order to meet a shipping deadline.

13. Research the transportation, temperature and climatic conditions that the product will be subject to prior to arrival at the export destination.

14. Create an export price strategy. Know where you are going, and how you want to get there, your costs and required profit margins before you begin to quote prices.

15. Clearly define the costs of production and separate them from the costs of the sales required for exports. Give the sales department a base price to build upon, and make sure they clearly identify the costs related to sales and promotion in the export markets.

16. Always have at least 2 customers in the export market. This will provide protection and stability for your production and for the customers in the export market.

17. Customers who provide the research, development and design for the product may bring samples to you. Assist in the development and manufacture of the samples. Your production know-how (turning ideas into product) is fundamental and important for all involved.

18. Research and investigate fashion, trends and tendencies. In order to survive, you have to create, not pirate and copy.

19. Quality complaints and suggestions must be addressed and implemented immediately. This has to be part of the understanding of every worker, from production to sales to executive suite.

20. Discipline, planning and order. Production planning, raw material purchasing decisions, financing, infrastructure investment, human resources, sales and marketing all must be planned and coordinated, at all times.

Added Oct. 1, 2006 – Bonus legal reminder:  Know the law of the country to which you are exporting concerning:  retention of documents for litigation, product quality and manufacturing and product safety before you begin sales and shipping.  Understand your responsibility and liability for recalls, retrofitting, refunds or destruction of the product.  Learn about your legal responsibility and relationship with brokers, agents and distributors and your products.

Related Links

7 tips for doing business internationally

Maquila and Maquiladoras in Mexico

Why you should pay attention to free trade treaties

Mexico and international free trade treaties





Maquiladoras in Mexico

28 09 2006

An Internet search for the definition of the terms maquila and maquiladora will turn up quite a variety of ideas and interpretations.

The maquiladoras have created quite an emotional and political reaction on both sides of the US and Mexico border. They have been accused of stealing jobs from the US, promoting sub-standard working conditions, lowering wages, exploiting workers, and not contributing to the Mexican economy.

Despite the controversy, the maquiladoras are growing and thriving in Mexico. They offer attractive benefits to organizations that are seeking competitive production and assembly costs, skilled labor and Mexico’s proximity to the US market. Recently many transnational organizations that moved manufacturing operations to China in the 1990’s have moved back to Mexico due to cost and logistic advantages.

Maquila and Maquiladoras – definitions and activities

  • The term maquila comes from the Spanish term that refers to the portion paid (in grain, flour or oil) to a miller for milling a farmer’s grain.
  • Maquiladoras are legal entities under Mexican law, with special tax privileges, they provide service, assembly or manufacturing operations.
  • Maquiladoras are able to import raw materials or semi-processed materials from foreign countries, in order to service, process or assemble them in Mexico, and then export the finished product back to that country. These activities take place without the collection or payment of import, export or V.A.T. (value added tax) taxes.
  • The maquiladora program was created by Mexico in order for foreign organizations to take advantage of low labor costs in Mexico (primarily the USA), and to provide employment to Mexican workers in Mexico. Initially the maquila operations were located close to the US border. Currently maquila operations can be found throughout Mexico.
  • Maquiladoras can be 100% foreign owned, 100% Mexican owned, or a joint venture between Mexican nationals and foreign investors.
  • Maquiladoras are also known as twin plants, in-bond industries, export assembly plants and offshoring.
  • The maquiladoras in Mexico suffered from a crisis of plant closings in the 1990’s and early 2000’s as many companies moved operations to China. Since 2004, Mexico has seen a resurgence of the maquiladoras.

  • Check with your attorneys and accountants in Mexico about the specific benefits of the maquila program. As of September 2006, there were important legal changes (simplification and consolidation of government compliance and monitoring programs) that will affect current and future maquiladoras.

Related Links

Why you should pay attention to free trade treaties

Industrial and business parks in Mexico


Official government websites of the 32 Mexican states

Maquila and Maquiladoras in Mexico





Business South of the Border

28 09 2006

I’ve found two seperate and distinct themes running through this blog.  Business leadership and management ideas and advice on how to do business in Mexico and internationally.

I will continue to post all my writing on these topics here.

For those interested only in my information related to Mexico, how to do business in Mexico plus related links and references about Mexico.  I invite you to visit the new repository of all things about Mexico:  Business South of the Border (Link).

Related Links 

Business South of the Border

Lee Iwan





Travel information – Guanajuato, Mexico

28 09 2006

Life is not all about work.  When on business trips to Mexico, do some research about your destination and nearby cities.  Ask your hosts to assist with transportation or a guide, and visit the area.  It will help you understand the country, and greatly increase your enthusiasm for doing business in Mexico.

If you are in Leon or Irapuato for business, make sure you get out to see Guanajuato City.

The New York Times has a piece on the city of Guanajuato in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico in their T-Style Magazine: Travel Section.   The City that Silver Built

Quite a different experience from the border towns and beach resorts that Mexico is famous for.  Guanajuato city is located in the geographical center of Mexico, 30 minutes away from Leon, the largest city in the state of Guanajuato.

The city of Guanajuato (located in the state of Guanajuato) is home to the International Cervantino Arts Festival (Festival Internacional Cervantino, FIC).  This year the dates of the Festival are October 4 – October 22, 2006.

Related Links

The City that Silver Built: New York Times

Guanajuato Capital 

Travel by Mexico:  Guanajuato

Festival Internacional Cervantino 2006 





Why you should pay attention to free trade treaties

27 09 2006

Globalization, transnational companies, global sourcing and outsourcing, free trade, do any of these terms sound familiar?

Obtaining products and raw materials for the lowest price possible is a fundamental concept in business. Today organizations are looking for manufacturers and locations worldwide where they can find lower costs of production in order to remain competitive.

Combine the factors of: quality control, low cost production, logistics costs, and the time involved to get the product to market from the factory, and you understand the challenge of doing business and sourcing products in today’s global economy.

To truly determine the final cost of the product, all these factors must be calculated. This will determine which country offers the best competitive advantage. Make sure you are analyzing any existing free trade agreements when you are seeking suppliers globally.

Free trade treaties between countries have a significant impact upon the final cost of goods. These free trade agreements eliminate the tariffs and taxes on imported and exported goods between the countries involved, depending upon their concentration or percentage of “local” or national raw materials (including labor), as specified in the free trade agreement.

Free trade agreements between countries are of great importance and value only if are exclusive and not accepted by all trading countries. The more free trade is embraced by the international community (through treaties or elimination of import and export tariffs) the less impact the current free trade agreements have in determining competitive advantages for a single country.

Here is a simple example of how the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) free trade treaty between Mexico and the USA, would favor the US supplier over a Chinese supplier.

Example of free trade agreeement competitive advantage:

US supplier to Mexico. If I want to purchase paint made by a US paint manufacturer and have it shipped to my warehouse in Mexico, my total cost to bring the goods to my warehouse in Mexico would be the cost of the paint, plus freight and customs clearing costs. There is no import tariff on this product due to the NAFTA free trade treaty. It would take 4 – 6 days to arrive in my warehouse in Mexico once the product has been shipped from the USA.

US paint $ 20.00 + Freight $ 4.00 + Customs $ 1.00 = $ 25.00 total cost of the US product in my warehouse in Mexico

Chinese supplier to Mexico. If I purchase the same product, from the same transnational company, but it is manufactured in China. Transportation time is 40 days from date product is shipped from China.

Chinese paint $14.00 + Freight $ 8.00 + Customs $ 1.00 + Import tariff (13% of CIF value) $ 2.86 = USD $ 25.86, total cost of the Chinese product in my warehouse in Mexico.

In this example the final cost of the product is $ .86 lower from the US supplier as compared to the Chinese supplier, despite a lower initial product cost. Factor in the financial cost and time required to move the product from the factory to my warehouse, and the lowest final cost in this case would clearly come from purchasing product from the US supplier.

Mexico’s aggressive free trade strategy

Since the 1990’s Mexico has bet heavily on international free trade agreements as a method to improve their competitive advantage and increase their manufacturing base and attract foreign investment.

Mexico has signed 11 existing free trade treaties and 2 complementary economic agreements with 42 countries. It is the only country in the world to have standing free trade agreements with North American and the European community.
The free trade agreements have greatly increased international competition (imports) in Mexico (good for the consumer).

Free trade agreements have allowed Mexican exports to increase and reach destinations and markets that were closed before due to tariffs and costs. There has been increased foreign investment from countries that desired to use Mexico’s free trade competitive advantage for international manufacturing and export projects.

The Mexican manufacturers and suppliers of the national Mexican market were given a “sink or swim” option. Virtually overnight (many of the treaties were phased in over a period of 3 – 10 years), their previous protected market was filled with imported goods (more competition, lower cost, higher quality).

Those that have survived the “invasion”, have had to improve their efficiency, quality and costs. Making them much more competitive in todays global economy.

Britannica’s Definition of free trade:

“Policy in which a government does not discriminate against imports or interfere with exports. A free-trade policy does not necessarily imply that the government abandons all control and taxation of imports and exports, but rather that it refrains from actions specifically designed to hinder international trade, such as tariff barriers, currency restrictions, and import quotas. The theoretical case for free trade is based on Adam Smith’s argument that the division of labour among countries leads to specialization, greater efficiency, and higher aggregate production. The way to foster such a division of labour, Smith believed, is to allow nations to make and sell whatever products can compete successfully in an international market.”

Related Links

Mexico and international free trade agreements





World Bank report – Doing Business in Mexico

23 09 2006

The World Bank has an on-line report available entitled “Doing Business in Mexico“. The study was published in December of 2005.

“Cosponsored by COFEMER, USAID, and the World Bank Group, Doing Business in Mexico is the first state-level report of the Doing Business series in Latin America. This report investigates the scope and manner of regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it.

The report covers the following thirteen Mexican cities and four areas of regulation: Starting a business, Registering property, obtaining credit and enforcing a contract.”

“When compared, Mexico City and the 12 other cities differ dramatically on the four indicators the report measures. “

The cities and regulations analyzed include: Aguascalientes, Celaya, Ciudad Juarez, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Veracruz, Merida, San Luis Potosi, Torreon, Mexico City, Tlalnepantla, Puebla, and Queretaro.

Of special note is the following comment. “The report concludes that reform is sorely needed. Much of the opportunity for improvement is in local administrative procedures, which can be changed by a governor or a mayor.”

This is very important. A governor or local mayor can make an important difference on the ease of setting up and doing business in Mexico. Seek out those states and cities with pro-active leadership. Find those areas that are investing heavily in infrastructure or have a dynamic policy focused on foreign investment and economic development.

Related Links

Doing Business in Mexico – World Bank

Doing Business in Mexico (PDF)

Press Release (PDF)