Looking for New? It’s in another country

21 06 2007

Comments from yesterday’s post New is a requirement got me thinking about how living and working in another country moves your “comfort zone” and exposes you to lots of New.

There is a tendency to forget that this New soon becomes part of our routine and becomes integrated in our system of evaluation and processing of experiences.

Working internationally has been my biggest source of New for the past 30+ years in my personal and professional life.

It invigorates and challenges me.

It’s not always fun, or easy.

Living and working internationally has taught me:

  • Patience. It always takes more time than you think.
  • To listen before acting, reacting or responding.
  • To be humble. I don’t know it all, there is always something else to learn in order to understand.
  • To deal with frustration. When it’s not happening just the way you want it to, it means there is a different way to do it, find the alternative or live with the current situation, stop the whining and complaining.
  • New ways to solve problems. Not everyone culture approaches or attacks a problem the same way.
  • To analyze several solutions before making a final decision. What’s right at home may be 100% wrong in your current situation.
  • Most people are honest, fair and open, however being a strange face in a strange land brings out a certain criminal element that may find you irresistible (especially in the transportation sector).
  • People express themselves and their true feelings very differently, especially when it comes to solving conflicts.
  • Food ingredients and table manners are wildly different and can create physical and/or psychological reactions that were previously unknown to me.
  • There is no “right” way to live, solve problems or compete.
  • Politics and religion can be discussed, but should never be debated. Never.
  • Travel is not glamorous, restful, or easy. Takes a great deal of preparation, adaptation and improvisation to make it work.
  • Hospitality, manners and paying attention to detail are incredible important in making and maintaining relationships (host and guest).
  • Guides are important. These may be other business people, local residents, books or information about the people, place and culture. Learn, learn, learn and ask lots of questions, it pays off.
  • To be fair. Make deals and agreements as if you are going to be working with that company or individual for the next 20 years.
  • To see the “Big Picture”. Relationships, government policies, customs and cultural differences all interact and I begin to see larger issues being affected by my smaller decisions and preoccupations.

What about you?

What New did you confront, discover, embrace, enjoy or hate while living or working in another country?

Related Links

New is a requirement

International business tips

Cultural Misunderstanding- it can happen to you

Create great international business relationships

Great International Business Trip Results

16 Essential questions – the international business traveller’s quiz


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Difference between a global, transnational, international and multinational company

18 06 2007

We tend to read the following terms and think they refer to any company doing business in another country.

  • Multinational
  • International
  • Transnational
  • Global

Andrew Hines over at BNET has brief and clear definitions of each of these terms, Get your international business terms right.

Each term is distinct and has a specific meaning which define the scope and degree of interaction with their operations outside of their “home” country.

  • International companies are importers and exporters, they have no investment outside of their home country.
  • Multinational companies have investment in other countries, but do not have coordinated product offerings in each country. More focused on adapting their products and service to each individual local market.
  • Global companies have invested and are present in many countries. They market their products through the use of the same coordinated image/brand in all markets. Generally one corporate office that is responsible for global strategy. Emphasis on volume, cost management and efficiency.
  • Transnational companies are much more complex organizations. They have invested in foreign operations, have a central corporate facility but give decision-making, R&D and marketing powers to each individual foreign market.

Andrews’s advice is if in doubt about the right term to use, try the generic term “international business”.

Related Links

Get your international business terms right

BNET





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





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





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





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

7 11 2006

There are perceptions and realities associated with bribery and corruption when doing business in Mexico.

Corruption, bribery, “mordidas” (translated as “bites”, but are actually bribes) and tips are part of Mexico and the foreigner’s perception of Mexico.

It’s a difficult subject to address because it involves ethical and moral decisions for the foreign visitor or business person. What is culturally OK in Mexico, may be seen as immoral and corrupt by an individual from another country.

Historically, corruption in Mexico is blamed upon the Spanish conquistadors. While corruption no doubt existed prior to the Spanish conquest, they certainly did institutionalize it in government and throughout the Mexican (and Latin American) culture.

Today corruption, bribery and tipping occur at all levels of Mexican society and at many different degrees. For one reason or another it has become part of daily life. Most of it involves small sums of money, and is thought of as tipping and not as a bribe.

In fact, to eliminate corruption in Mexico overnight is unrealistic and would probably result in chaos. As some Mexican observers have noted, “La mordida” is the grease that makes the system work.

All of the following might occur in Mexico. Which of the following are acts of corruption or bribery? Which are totally unethical, somewhat unethical, and no big deal? Which of these events occurs in your country ?

  • The garbage collectors come by every 2 weeks, rings the doorbell and ask for money for a soft drink, US $1 or $2.
  • While waiting in a long line, someone comes up to you and asks if you would like to avoid the line and be attended right away. It will cost US $ 5 to US $ 10, and save you 2 hours.
  • Your application for a permit/license has been in the government office for several weeks, and no one seems to be able to tell you what is wrong. The secretary asks if you would like to buy a raffle ticket for some organization. After buying the ticket the application suddenly appears.
  • You visit a local political leader and take him to dinner and a theater event to discuss your project.
  • At holiday time, you send gifts to politicians, suppliers and business associates.
  • Your daughter copies exam answers from another student at school.
  • The police stop you for a traffic violation (which may or may not have occurred). They suggest that for US $ 20 or $ 50 you can make it disappear, and you’ll be on your way in 5 minutes.
  • You need government agency approvals for your business project. In order to make sure everything is done correctly, you hire an official in the department as a consultant.
  • You require a zoning change on a piece of land, you invite a government official to participate as an investor in the project, or perhaps give him some shares.
  • Your son or daughter wants to get into a nightclub, the doorman says no. They give him US $ 5 and walk right in.
  • A city inspector finds code violations in your restaurant. A call to a family member, who knows someone, who knows someone, results in the violations being revoked.
  • A drug enforcement agent receives a phone call that tells him to choose between accepting USD $ 20,000 payment this year to let a drug shipment go by unharmed or to have his children shot.
  • Your immigration papers are not quite right. There is a document missing. You are able to convince the official (though words and tears) to “overlook” the situation, no money is exchanged.

Can you live and work in Mexico and not pay bribes? Yes. (I’m lived and worked in Mexico over the past 14 years and have never paid a “mordida” in my private or business life.)

Are bribes necessary for doing business in Mexico? I think it depends on the circumstances. Most business can be done without them. It depends on you, and your evaluation of the situation. There must be certain areas where influence peddling, and “mordidas” are an integral part of the business, and other areas where it’s not required in the least. This is not unique to Mexico.

All Mexican local, state and federal governments and government agencies are not corrupt. In fact, in the past 10 years there have been great advances in transparency in government, including guarantees for the time involved in processing applications and permissions.

Mexican federal public policy and local and state governments have been actively reducing and eliminating institutionalized corruption and penalizing government workers involved in illegal acts. There is still a long way to go before it’s completely eliminated, but there has been a noticeable change in many areas.

Mexico’s poverty, unequal distribution of wealth, history and culture make it difficult to eradicate corruption overnight. Mexico is a country with many laws, but they are not well enforced. It’s similar to the temptation one might feel on the lonely country road at 3:00 AM and confronting a red light…..do you stop…or run through it?

You should develop and hold firm to your own ethical and moral principals in order to live and do business in Mexico. If you don’t do it at home, why would you do it in Mexico?

Your company should have a clear policy about corruption and bribery, and hold to it when doing business in Mexico, or internationally.

If you have any personal experiences or observations about corruption, bribery, mordidas and doing business in Mexico, please write me or comment here.
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





World Corruption Perception Index 2006 – Transparency International

7 11 2006

Interesting look at perceived corruption worldwide.

Transparency International has released their 2006 index of corruption perception on November 6, 2006.

Mexico lands at number 70 on the list, which puts it close to the middle of the pack out of a total of 163 countries.

Since 1995, Transparency International has published an annual Index of perception of corruption ordering the countries of the world according to “the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians“. The organization defines corruption as “the abuse of public office for private gain. ” – excerpt from Wikipedia Corruption Perception Index.

As this index is based on polls, the results are subjective and are less reliable for countries with fewer sources. Also, what is legally defined, or perceived, to be corruption differs between jurisdictions: a political donation legal in some jurisdiction may be illegal in another; a matter viewed as acceptable tipping in one country may be viewed as bribery in another. Thus the poll results must be understood quite specifically as measuring public perception rather than being an objective measure of corruption.

Statistics like this are necessarily imprecise; statistics from different years are not necessarily comparable.” – Wikipedia Corruption Perception Index.

Related Links

Internet Center for Corruption Research

Corruption Perception Index – 2006 (EXCEL)

Transparency International

Wikipedia