By Sheelagh Mahoney, Head of Intercultural Training at Farnham Castle Intercultural Training
Operating free trade agreements with over 40 countries and transforming itself from a commodity and agricultural-based economy to one dominated by manufacturing and services, Mexico presents a wealth of opportunities in international trade.
Around 80% of Mexican businesses are family-run concerns, with the younger generations becoming more receptive to international business practices and eager to cement transnational deals.
Here I will outline the steps to success when doing business with Latin America’s second largest economy.
1. Understand the family hierarchy
To build a successful relationship you need to be aware of who is at the head of a hierarchy and ensure you are talking to the decision maker which is often the father figure of the group, the oldest male. It is important to recognise that the future lies with the younger generations of Mexicans who are returning from studying abroad and taking over positions within the family businesses.
2. Learn a modicum of Spanish
Although the afore-mentioned young and well-educated speak English, it is essential to attempt to learn some Spanish. The Mexican language is very emotive and if a Mexican cannot understand your words, they will find it difficult to make the emotional connection required to develop trust. The older generation will likewise be impressed that you have invested the time to try and establish that connection.
3. Be introduced to the right networks
This is crucial to initiate proceedings as historically hard work does not guarantee success in Mexico whereas a strong family connection does – and Mexico has approximately 300 ruling families who have forged close links with business and the government. The decisions made by this elite can seriously effect regional and commercial development so always study the background of the companies you are seeking to target to understand the relationships with other businesses which paves a route through the network hierarchy.
4. Conduct business meetings at an equal level of seniority
As you work your way up through the business hierarchy, be aware that conducting peer to peer meetings is a key sign of respect. For example, a company president would always prefer to do business with another company president and it is best to present the most senior employee available to cement the deal.
5. Take a personal interest in those you conduct business with
Leisure is an essential aspect of Mexican life. Business is a serious matter but not as serious as having fun. Often a Mexican is more interested in you than your company – for example when invited out to dinner or to a Mexican’s home no business will be discussed. Time outside of business is a time for living and you should take the opportunity to join in and develop the friendship.
6. Be aware that Mexicans do not follow many regulations and procedures
Life in Mexico is ruled by the heart and soul which can pose challenges for an exporter to conduct business in the typically British straightforward manner. A Mexican ‘yes’ is more likely to mean that it can be done as opposed to a guarantee that it will be done. Conversely the British can appear arrogant, insincere and stubborn to Mexicans - with no time for anything other than work.
7. Don’t take relationships for granted
Don’t assume that clinching one deal paves the way for a life-long business commitments. Take the time to understand this relaxed and friendly attitude, hold onto your new found friends and keep in regular contact. Do not lose your place in their hearts when you have devoted so much time, patience and energy to get there.