Brazil – Flexibility is key
Brazil is the fifth largest country by landmass in the world, with a population of nearly 200 million.
Due to the cultural and administrative complexities of Brazil, it is highly desirable to employ a local lawyer or accountant who can act as a middleman (‘despachante’) and smooth the way to assist in building business relationships in Brazil.
Companies are run on strict hierarchical lines but be aware that the organisation chart you are shown may not truly reflect the way power flows within the organisation due to the complicating factor of the power of personal relationships. Business organisations are riddled with internal politics where one’s allegiance to an individual may be considered of greater importance than any reporting lines on an organisation chart.
An ability to speak Brazilian Portuguese is a distinct advantage although many senior executives will have studied in Europe or the USA and will speak English. A translator may be a wise investment if doing business outside the main commercial centres. Try to avoid speaking Spanish as this can be seen as culturally insensitive – Brazilians are proud of their uniqueness in South America as non-Spanish speakers.
The initial meeting will be formal where everybody is expected to shake hands. Thereafter, discussions will become more informal. Meetings may start late and finish even later; all topics on an agenda will be covered but not necessarily in the order in which they appear. In a country severely hampered by red tape and bureaucracy, a relaxed, flexible approach (‘jeito’) is highly valued.
It is unusual to find women in senior positions in Brazil-owned organisations but the foreign businesswoman will be treated fairly and with respect. Women dress more flamboyantly in Brazil than those in many other countries but it is a good idea to dress conservatively to begin with, until one has the measure of one’s business partners.
Share your Brazilian business experiences
Sources: Wikipedia, worldbusinessculture.com