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Business negotiations with Latin Americans Business negotiations with Latin Americans
by Joseph Gatt
2019-08-12 06:08:32
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-Latin America and the Caribbean is a vast continent with about 39 nations and territories depending on how you count. Each nation is different, each individual is different, and these are sweeping generalizations.

-Language: In Spanish and Portuguese-speaking America, Spanish and Portuguese have the priority, and you will have a big advantage if you speak Spanish and Portuguese. By order of preference, French tends to be preferred to English in most cases. You can get good deals with French, but if you want to speak English, you will have to suppress your “Anglo” ego, speak with a soft voice, and be humble. In most of the Caribbean it's usually English, but note that business people in the Caribbean tend to be very conservative Christians, a lot of them are Seventh Day Adventists, meaning that they keep the Sabbath and are vegetarians.

businsamer01-The basics: Latin America has the best and the worst when it comes to business. Its elite tends to be incredibly educated, competent, but many in the elite are bent towards shady business practices and corruption. You'll find the best members to form a team, but will also end up in situations where you will have to bribe your way out. Sometimes, there will be laws so ridiculous, something like, random example, “any business with any office shared by three members or more will have to close down.” That's of course an invitation from the government for a bribe, because almost every business has offices shared by three people or more. You get the atmosphere.

-Negotiation. In most of the Caribbean, you will tend to have “good Christians” who will smile, be very pragmatic, discuss every side of the coin, and will tend to be honest and straightforward, but never aggressive. That's not in every case, but in most cases. In Spanish and Portuguese-speaking America, negotiations tend to be completely unstructured. You'll talk about the weather, then about business, then about football, then about travel, then a little bit of business, then about food, business again, and before you get anything done, they will tell you they have to go home.

-So to get any progress with Spanish and Portuguese-speaking American business partners, you want to have several “soft” meetings before, usually, both of you will decide to focus and discuss business and try to reach a deal.

-In Latin America, you want to be soft-spoken but honest. If something doesn't work for you, say that in a soft voice. If you raise your voice, they will tell you to “go back to your country.”

-In Latin America, the elite does business with the elite. And the elite in Latin America is as much of a financial elite as it is an “intellectual elite”. So you want to use good language, you want to show that you've done some reading, you want to show that you keep up with the news.

-Unfortunately, in most of Latin America, there's a bit of a mafia everywhere. Your merchandise will be blocked at the port, in some cases stolen. The mafia will come to your office asking for their “piece of the cake.” So make sure that you have very, very powerful friends when you do business in Latin America, of have a friend who has very, very powerful friends.

-In Latin America and the Caribbean, you want to be careful who you mess with. If people mess with you, swallow your pride. Be humble at all times, don't show signs that your business is doing well. Spread rumors that business is going poorly, and that you're barely surviving. Everyone does that, even when it's far from the truth.

-Finally, oddly enough, the Latin American and Caribbean media treats businessmen like stars. You will be invited for several interviews, in the radio, on TV, or in the press. They will ask you questions about your personal life and about your business. Some people use that to their advantage, and business grows with those interviews. For others it attracts the wrong kind of attention. If you have powerful friends you can become something of a media personality, but if you're the average kind of business guy, you want to avoid giving interviews to the media.

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