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






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





Use of business titles in Mexico – Doing Business in Mexico

3 11 2006

The use of business titles in Mexican business life is important.

Most people with professional degrees are addressed using their professional title. This is especially true in written communication. Failure to do so can be seen as lack of education and offensive.

Until you get to know a person, always use the professional title or full name, never address them by their first name until it is clear that they are comfortable with this.

You can ask how they wish to be addressed if unsure. It’s better to make a mistake on the side of formality.

Some titles are general, and when in doubt regarding the professional title, you should use these:

  • Joven – refers to any young man from birth to adolescent.
  • Señor (Sr.) – refers to any male older than an adolescent.
  • Don – a term of great respect used to recognize older males.
  • Señorita (Srta.) – refers to any unmarried female. Once a woman is above a certain age, she is referred to as Señora, even if unmarried.
  • Señora (Sra.) – refers to any married or widowed woman.
  • Doña – a term of great respect used to recognize older females.

Professional titles

  • Doctor (Dr.) masculine, or Doctora (Dra.) feminine – Refers to anyone with a PhD. or Medical Doctors degree.
  • Licenciado (Lic.) masculine, or Licenciada (Lic.) feminine – refers to anyone with a law degree (most common usage) or Bachelor’s Degree.
  • Contador Publico (C.P.) – refers to anyone with a public accounting degree.
  • Ingeniero (Ing.) – refers to someone with an engineering degree.
  • Arquitecto (Arq.) – Refers to anyone with an arquitectural degree.
  • Diputado (Dip.) masculine, or Diputada (Dip.) feminine – refers to a publicly elected official equivalent to Federal, State or Local representative in the USA.

Related Links

Doing Business in Mexico – Cultural Tips

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





Illegal immigration – USA and Mexico

18 10 2006

Immigration control is a global challenge, and yet not one developed country has developed a good workable and acceptable legal immigration plan that eliminates illegal immigration.

There are political solutions, and then there are real solutions.

Immigration between nations occurs when there are marked differences in economic wealth or living conditions between two regions. In order to eliminate massive immigration, wealth (and it’s distribution) of the economically disadvantaged country must improve or the wealthier country must lose it’s wealth.

The long-term solution to immigration will be found in changing economic conditions, policies and the creation of opportunities in the disadvantaged country.

A short-term solution will be found by building walls and increasing border enforcement (This is effective where the border areas are limited and can be totally controlled).

The current immigration situation between Mexico and the US has become a political football, and it appears political solutions are all that matter.

It’s time for both countries to work and invest in real, long-term economic solutions to solve fundamental problems in order to help and protect both countries. The US is facing a problem, and Mexico should assist their neighbor in finding solutions.

The Mexican perspective:

  • There are many opportunities and jobs available that pay much better than in Mexico.
  • There are no jobs available in Mexico for the majority of immigrants.
  • Going to the US is a “rite of passage” for many Mexicans in certain areas. Most return to Mexico after 3 – 5 years.
  • Many cross the border illegally to meet family members already in the US, and have jobs waiting for them once they arrive. Most immigrants have jobs in the US.
  • Most of the immigrants come from rural areas in Mexico, with low levels of education.
  • Mexican immigrants in the US send enormous sums of money to support family members in Mexico. Petroleum sales bring Mexico the most foreign currency income, followed by money sent by Mexicans in the USA (not all illegal immigrants) to family in Mexico.
  • For many Mexican state governments, this injection of foreign capital is very important for maintaining local economies.
  • Crossing the border illegally is dangerous and life threatening, and in many cases expensive.
  • US employers are open and supportive to employing illegal immigrants, and in many cases provide false identification and protection to the workers.
  • The majority of the millions of illegal immigrants currently in the US are working, and spending money in the local US economies.
  • The legal immigration mechanisms available (visas) reject those who are economically disadvantaged (the ones with the highest need to immigrate).
  • Mexicans believe that the US has the sovereign right to restrict and control immigration.
  • They would like to see a realistic legal migration program created.
  • The immigrants in the US pay sales taxes, and they consume goods and services in the US.

The US perspective

  • Illegal immigration takes jobs away from US citizens.
  • Illegal immigrants use social, health and welfare services paid for by US taxpayers.
  • Illegal immigrants bring crime, drugs and violence to communities.
  • Illegal immigrants don’t speak English and don’t learn English, and are forcing communities to spend money on bilingual teachers and government programs.
  • Illegal immigration can be stopped by building a wall or by enforcing the border.
  • Illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes.
  • US agricultural businesses cannot survive with competitive prices if illegal workers are eliminated. Legal immigration will increase labor costs.
  • Elimination of illegal immigrants will cause substantial increases in the costs of food, restaurants, hotels, construction and certain consumer and industrial goods and services. Immigrant labor is needed to maintain the US economy.
  • The US Border Control has stated many times that the solution is in enforcing and penalizing US employers that hire illegal workers, not by penalizing and deporting the illegal immigrant.
  • The US government and state governments understand the economic situation and provide political solutions for voters, but understand that the total elimination of immigration would severely hurt the US economy. A legal immigration solution must be implemented.
  • There is a fundamental dilema. America is the land made of immigrants, and yet now must begin to control this immigration. Huge uncontrolled borders, wealth and opportunity, and willingness of employers to hire undocumented workers combine to make the US an attractive immigration destination.

Opportunities and possible solutions

If we agree that the illegal immigration problem is a consequence of economic situations and differences in the distribution of wealth, then the following ideas are possible solutions. None of them are easy, all of them have costs, but they are the only real long-term solutions to the immigration situation.

  • US government and businesses coordinate with the Mexican government and business sector to invest in economic development projects in the areas in Mexico with the highest degree of poverty and immigration.
  • The Mexican government must aggressively work and invest in order to improve opportunities and wealth in their country, especially for the economically disadvantaged.
  • US businesses push for immigration reform that allows for temporary workers and legal immigration. The program would increase costs to the US employers, and the workers would be paying taxes.
  • US government makes laws and enforces them against US employers that hire illegal immigrants.
  • US government finds a method to legalize current immigrants that have been and are working in the US.

Related Links

Observations on illegal immigration in the US, possible solutions

How to do business in Mexico, Parts 1 – 28

Official government websites of the Mexican States

The definitive dialing guide for calling Mexico

Top States in Mexico for for doing business – World Bank Report 2007





Lessons in international business – negotiations

17 10 2006

Observations on how to create trust, effective meetings and excellent negotiations with overseas customers, suppliers and partners.

  • Whenever you are involved in international negotiations or global meetings keep in mind that you might be working with the same person for the next 10 – 20 years.
  • Negotiations should be open and straightforward.  Hidden agendas will eventually be discovered and make the next meeting very difficult.
  • Negotiations should involve creating value for both parties.
  • Meetings are important moments where trust is being built and confirmed.  Be honest and clear about your desires.
  • Never agree to something you cannot deliver or perform.
  • Listen, understand and evaluate what your partner is requesting.   What are they saying, and what does it mean.
  • Be certain of what you are negotiating and agreeing to.  If not 100% sure, stop and request clarification.
  • Prepare for the meeting several weeks before it happens.  Refresh and add information weekly.  When you reach the meeting, you will be in control of the information and feel comfortable during the talks.
  • At the end of the meeting, write down the most important points or agreements, with names and dates, and have it signed by those present.  This little tip will save lots of time and trouble for everyone involved.
  • Any agreement must have 100% follow-through.  If for any reason problems arise in the follow-through, immediately contact and communicate the situation to your partner.

Related Links

How to negotiate with Mexican business people

Great international business trip results





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

Cultural misunderstanding it can happen to you

Stereotypes and global business

Create great international business relationships

16 Essential questions – the international business traveller’s quiz

Lessons in international business





Lessons in international business

10 10 2006

The most difficult part of doing business overseas will occur when you have to explain your country’s politics and culture, and provide answers on why you do things the way you do.

Related Links

Cultural misunderstanding it can happen to you

Stereotypes and global business

International business traveller, ambassador, explorer, map-maker





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





Mexico and international free trade treaties

19 09 2006

Mexico has signed 11 international free trade treaties and 2 complimentary economic agreements since 1993.

Mexico is the only country in the world with active free-trade treaties that cover North American and the entire European Community.

These free trade agreements have made Mexico highly competitive in terms of manufacturing for export to world markets, for the importation of raw materials for manufacturing and for the import of consumer goods for sale in Mexico.

The free trade agreements currently in place include:

  • TLCAN – Includes Mexico, USA and Canada – Initiated January 1, 1994 (NAFTA in English)
  • TLC-G3 – Includes Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela – Initiated January 1, 1995
  • TLC Mexico-Costa Rica – Includes Mexico and Costa Rica – Initiated January 1, 1995
  • TLC Mexico – Bolivia – Includes Mexico and Bolivia – Initiated January 1, 1995
  • TLC Mexico – Nicaragua – Includes Mexico and Nicaragua – Initiated July 1, 1998
  • TLC Mexico – Chile – Includes Mexico and Chile – Initiated August 1, 1999
  • TLCUEM – Includes Mexico and the European Union (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Cypress, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia) – Initiated July 1, 2000.
  • TLC Mexico – Israel – Includes Mexico and Israel – Initiated July 1, 2000
  • TLC Mexico – TN – Includes Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – Initiated on March 15, 2001 with El Salvador and Guatemala and June 1, 2001 with Honduras
  • TLC Mexico – AELC – Includes Mexico, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland – Initiated July 1, 2001
  • TLC Mexico – Uruguay – Includes Mexico and Uruguay – Initiated in July 15, 2004
  • AAE Mexico – Japan – Includes Mexico and Japan – Initiated April 1, 2005

In addition there are Complementary Economic Agreements (ACE’s) in place with Brazil and Argentina.

Related Links 

Why you should pay attention to free trade treaties 





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

Create great international relationships

Advice on what to expect when doing business with Mexico





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

Create great international business relationships

Stereotypes and global business





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

International Business Tips

Stereotypes and global business

International business traveller – ambassador, explorer, map-maker





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

7 tips for doing business internationally





Advice on what to expect when doing business with Mexico

4 09 2006

Advice on what to expect when doing business with Mexico and Mexicans.

1. It is difficult to reach the top executives and business owners. The first contacts are difficult or impossible to make through “cold calling”. A much better strategy is to get personal introductions from consultants or other local business people.

2. Mexico is all about personal networks. They prefer to do business “face to face”. Impersonal methods of communication will be used, but plan on meeting your clients or suppliers as often as possible in order to maintain good relations and communications.

2. Use metric measurements, forget all other systems. Inches, pounds, feet, yards are not part of the Mexican culture. This is especially true for your promotional material and catalogues.

3. Don’t expect business people will return your phone calls. If the business item is important you should call several times.

4. Business negotiations will always be preceded with small talk and light conversation. This may continue for some time before business is finally discussed. Dinners and lunches are important for negotiations and often the items of real importance surface over coffee and dessert.

5. Proper etiquette and manners are very important. You will find the Mexicans are very cordial and polite, and they expect the same treatment from others. This is true for business and social occasions.

6. Secretaries and personal assistants are very important. They control who has access to executives and decision-makers. Many times they are responsible for answering the executive’s email and correspondence. Never underestimate the power of the secretary, and always maintain a friendly cordial relationship with them.

7. Meetings don’t start, or end on time. Don’t come late, but don’t get angry or upset when it doesn’t happen at the appointed hour.

8. The entire country shuts down from December 15 until about January 3 for vacations. Do not expect to find decision-makers in their offices, and expect slowdowns in logistics, paperwork and other communications during this time.

9. Everyone has a cellular phone. Get the cellular phone numbers of your contacts to avoid the filters in place at the office.

10. Mexicans tend to be reserved with foreign business people in the first business encounters. Business in Mexico is based upon trust between people. Take the time to create a relationship and build trust with your clients and suppliers. Don’t be in a hurry to close the deal. Don’t be in a rush to get the business over with. Don’t be afraid to visit several times without a specific work agenda. Get to know the people and culture.

11. Mexicans don’t like to disappoint others, and may prolong and delay bad news until the last possible moment. This can be prevented by establishing many short term objectives and chronologies. Constant open communication will also provide opportunities to discuss and find solutions for any set backs before it becomes a major problem.

12. Always try and deal with the boss or top executives. Business is done, approved and maintained by the top levels in the organization. Make sure the Mexican company understands that you are your company’s top executive with important decision-making powers.

Related Links

How to negotiate with Mexican business people

Meeting people in Mexico -kiss, shake hands or hug

Before you go on your business trip to Mexico

Tip: How to call Mexico from the US

How to do business in Mexico, parts 1 – 28





The right breakfast can boost your brainpower

1 09 2006

Got an all day meeting with the boss, attending a seminar or conference, have important negotiations with clients or suppliers, cranking out a mountain of work today? If you haven’t had the right food for breakfast, you results may be up to 20% below your capabilities.

A study by Duke University on children revealed evidence that what you eat in the morning has a definite effect on your ability to learn and concentrate. Link

This is especially relevant for the business traveller. Too often breakfast is a cup of coffee and a donut. Add up the factors of jet lag, a poor night’s sleep, change in personal routine, late night wining and dining clients, stress, and a lousy breakfast and you can quickly see how your professional results might not be at 100%.

Eat that brain boosting breakfast, protein and whole grains; including oatmeal, whole grain bread, toast or cereal, dried fruits or an egg white omelet. Turn your back on sugary and refined starches. Do yourself a favor, eat the right breakfast and let your brain work at 100% for the rest of the day.

Related Links

A better breakfast can boost a child’s brainpower

11 steps to a better brain