Thursday, September 4, 2008

Doing Business in Sao Paulo

At Keogh & Associates we know that sometimes the success of an international deal depends just as much on how you manage your time as on the content of the contract. The Economist has rounded up practical etiquette tips to help managers headed to Sao Paulo (and other cities) make the right impression. Here is a sampling from the Economist blog:

"Despite its many woes, São Paulo remains the business hub of Latin America. Having prospered first with coffee and then with industrialisation, it is now reinventing itself in the services sector. Its huge market (nearly 20m people in greater São Paulo) is a magnet for multinationals. The city claims to attract more visitors (mostly, but no longer exclusively, on business) than Rio; bearing in mind the intense rivalry between the two cities, this must prove deeply satisfying. If you are one of those heading to São Paulo, here are some things to be aware of (part of a series).

• Local business-people tend to be fairly laid-back. There are few unexpected taboos that you should fear transgressing.

• One exception though: avoid putting your briefcase or handbag on the ground (local superstition holds that your money may run away). Restaurants sometimes provide hooks or clips to help.

• It is always best to arrive at a business meeting in a suit, but sometimes even investment bankers wear “smart casuals” in the office.

• In this workaholic city, don’t be surprised if meetings are scheduled after 6pm. Brazilians talk about “pontualidade britânica” (British punctuality), which means turning up on the dot. But you should neither give nor take great offence if you or others arrive a little late. Bad traffic is usually the excuse.

• Business contacts tend to speak English, often fluently. But locals will appreciate even clumsy attempts to chat in Portuguese. (Remember “Bom dia”, “Boa tarde” and “Boa noite” for “Good morning”, “Good afternoon” and “Good evening”.) Do not assume that people will speak Spanish.

• Poor plumbing originally led Brazilians to dispose of toilet paper (papel) in the bin (lixo) rather than the toilet bowl. Though pipes have improved in newer buildings, the habit persists. You may be asked to follow this practice".

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