Brazil is the largest country in South America, both in size and economy. The country’s GDP ranks 9th in the world according to purchasing power parity, and Brazilian culture has become a popular export alongside its material goods. Commercially, Brazil’s relationship with the United States continues to grow; in 2011, about 15% of Brazilian imports came from the US, and Brazil is one of the top ten US trading partners worldwide. This paper will explore Brazil’s unique business culture and etiquette - and give you helpful tips for doing business in Brazil.
Thanks to internationally focused news segments, Brazilians are quite knowledgeable about events in the US and are also well informed about world affairs and geography. When working in Brazil, it may benefit you to be able to match this knowledge with your own Brazilian knowhow. The country has 26 states and one federal district, and the government is a federal republic. Brazil's capital is Brasilia, but one of the country's most influential economic and cultural centers is the city of Sao Paolo, which is also a major hub for international business. Brazil’s major industries include agriculture, manufacturing, services and entertainment.
Build a Business in Brazil
To establish a solid economic foothold in Brazil, it is necessary to understand that business and relationships are inextricably linked. Family and friendships are an essential part of Brazilian culture; indeed, it is nearly impossible to gain and maintain a presence there without first fostering a connection with a Brazilian partner. When seeking a partner, it is imperative to prove that your prospective business plans will benefit not only you, but your Brazilian counterparts and their economy as well. Determination in your ventures is also of utmost importance. Even if you fail once or twice, your persistence will demonstrate to potential Brazilian partners and customers that you are committed to their country.
Foster Relationships, Make Good Impressions
When meeting a potential business partner for the first time, it is customary to use formal titles and names to show respect. Business cards are regularly exchanged and a handshake can be used in greetings and goodbyes. In business situations, you should always maintain a level of conservatism in your style of dress. Brazilian professionals can be quite fashion-conscious, especially in larger cities like Sao Paolo. Finally, it’s important to be aware of communication styles. Brazilians tend to converse at a much closer distance than Americans, who like to maintain a certain amount of personal space. Talk is often indirect, with animated gesturing and even slight physical contact between speaker and listener.
Adjust Your Concept of Time
There is an underlying aspect of Brazilian culture that is not readily apparent, but exceedingly important - the concept of time. The process of relationship building is more involved than in the United States, where partnerships can be formed based on business interactions alone. In Brazil, you need to get to know your business partners on a level deeper than what is required for economic exchange.
For example, it is normal to begin meetings in Brazil with small talk, where such topics as family, sports, or international affairs are discussed at length. “Getting down to business” right from the start is considered bad etiquette. Don’t be surprised if your meetings or dinners begin late and continue longer than you may expect, and decision-making also requires time as proposals make their way through a company’s bureaucracy. In Brazilian business, an expectation of speed will only leave you frustrated. Instead, adopt a flexible outlook on scheduling and planning. Your business interactions will proceed much more smoothly.
Hierarchies and Management Styles
Compared to the corporate culture in the United States, Brazil’s business structure is very hierarchical. When working with a Brazilian company, or managing Brazilian employees, it is important to accept this difference in style. Try to discern the chain of command in the organization, and always respect seniority. Workplace relationships and loyalties are also significant driving forces in corporate politics, and their effect on production should not be underestimated.
Managers are expected to cultivate relationships with their subordinates based on trust. Brazilian employees generally look to their superiors for precise directions and clearly defined roles. Knowledge of your responsibilities and those of others will keep you from overstepping your bounds. Also remember that communication styles are more subtle in Brazil and context should always be taken into account. Do your best to avoid direct confrontation or criticism, as this will hurt your relationships.
The people of Brazil are friendly and open, with a strong sense of pride in their country. Establishing relationships takes time, but the loyalties that develop are usually fruitful and long-lasting. If you are interested in learning more about doing business in Brazil, give us a call at 1-800-756-1101, or visit our website at www.echointernational.com.