Doing business in Mexico: Take the time to learn the culture
A knowledge of the culture plays a very important role for individuals and organizations that are seeking to embark upon a business endeavor in Mexico. When initiating commercial relationships, it is important to be familiarized with a series of important protocols.
Acknowledging hierarchies is important when doing business in Mexico
Most Mexican families are extremely traditional and have a father that is the visible head. He represents the figure of authority and is the one that makes the family decisions. When doing business in Mexico, it is especially important to note that many of the country’s most prominent businesses are family-owned.
As it is with the family unit, the Mexican business place also has its hierarchical structures. In order to get things done, it is of paramount importance to establish a relationship with the person in the position of ultimate authority within a company. Decision-making in Mexico tends to be highly centralized.
Recognizing professional titles is also very important when doing business in Mexico. Upon meeting Mexican businessmen or women for the first time it is appropriate to use the term “licenciado” for men or “licenciada” for women. This indicates that you have duly acknowledged the education level and professional standing of the men and/or the women with whom you are interacting.
The establishment of trust is key to successfully doing business in Mexico
To establish a relationship with a Mexican requires time. This is because the culture generally tends to be distrustful of strangers. To gain confidence, you must maintain a constant line of communication with your potential Mexican business partner and be consistently courteous.
In a meeting, before starting any negotiation, there is usually a time for a brief and informal conversation among the participants. This is the time to talk about families and to exchange pleasantries. To make a good initial personal connection with your potential Mexican business partner during a first encounter can often be as important as any considerations having to do with the substantive topic of the meeting itself.
As in most cultures, the greeting among businessmen is done with a handshake. When the individuals that are meeting already know one another, a handshake is most often accompanied with an “abrazo,” or hug. With a woman, the initial greeting with a handshake is also appropriate. When the woman is someone that the prospective business partner has met before, however, a kiss on the cheek is common. On some occasions, it is appropriate to present potential Mexican business partners with a modest gift.
When engaged in discussion with potential Mexican business associates it is important to note that, while people from the United States characteristically use concise and pragmatic language, Mexicans express themselves in longer sentences. This is because Mexican culture values elegance and expressiveness to a higher degree.
Extremely important to be aware of is the fact that Mexicans are indirect communicators. They rarely give direct refusals or deliver information in a blunt way. Both are considered to be impolite. Mexicans often deliver negative messages using a roundabout approach in order to tactfully avoid conflict or direct confrontation. Remember that Mexicans are extremely hesitant to give direct refusals. This means that a “yes” may, in fact, be a “maybe” and a “maybe” may really be a “no.”
Once a relationship built on mutual trust has been established, it is customary to conclude meetings with a meal or with dinner. At this point, it is important to leave the topic of doing business in Mexico aside in order to develop further confidence and understanding on a personal level.
Non-verbal communication is an additional factor when doing business in Mexico
When people in Mexico are engaged in conversation, they will talk at a close distance. If you step back from someone when doing business in Mexico, this will most likely be taken as an unfriendly act. Also, if you move away when someone touches you on the arm, or on the shoulder, this could be considered to be insulting. Mexicans are highly tactile in their social interactions, and their sense of personal space is much smaller than that of an American. Physical contact is not frowned upon.
Remember, doing business in Mexico is not the same as doing business in the United States or in other countries. Taking the time to understand and to adapt to and to navigate Mexican culture will result in greater commercial success.