We had the opportunity to interview Mr. Joseph Low, the author of the book
“They Don’t Speak Spanish in Brazil,” which provides an ample description, and recommendations, about doing business in Brazil.
Joseph Low is a strategic management and marketing professional with over 20 years of experience leading cross-cultural teams focused on Latin American business development. Having lived in Brazil for more than four years, and worked and traveled in many other countries located in Latin America and Europe, Mr. Low maintains extensive knowledge of various global markets.
The following is the interview he provided for us:
1. You have many years of experience working in Brazil and in the United States. What are some of the main differences between the Brazilian and American business culture and working with co-workers from both countries?
The Brazilians with whom I work (and have worked with) are highly adaptable to changing macroeconomic conditions, as most have been raised in extremely dynamic economic times. Brazilian managers are often presumed (expected) to readily be aware of the latest fiscal and monetary trends affecting their firm’soperational success. Brazilians clearly have been somewhat forced to understand that “change is the only thing one may truly count on.”
While the environment is changing, many more hierarchical accustomed Brazilians still are not too comfortable with the “established informality” of many US start-up environments. As we note in our book, Brazilians too traditionally are accustomed to continual feedback – whether negative or positive – from their superiors. This often times is not the case in US workplace environments.
While Americans often times have to be “forced” on vacation, and managers in the US regularly forgo their vacations, Brazilians normally respect their national (and state) holidays and legally mandated vacation time.
Also astounding to many non-Brazilians is the fact that entire offices often times go to lunch at the same time and rarely – if ever – bring their lunches from home into the office. While working lunch meetings are unfortunately way too common in the US, Brazilians, admirably so, take their given lunch time to actually go somewhere and relax a bit/socialize over lunch. The “kilos” located around most commercial areas in Brazil are fantastic for price, variety, efficiency, freshness, and overall quality of the food.
In anticipation of significant later financial gain, many US university graduates regularly jump at opportunities to join start-ups. This phenomenon, however, is still not too terribly widespread in Brazil. Most graduates from top tier universities in Brazil remain focused on corporate “standard track employment” type opportunities. Again, I do think this is changing, but the change will continue, in my view, to happen slowly.
2. What would your recommend for foreign companies interested in entering the Brazilian market to do first before seeking business in Brazil?
First of all, please buy our book! Then, be certain to first do all your homework prior to boarding a plane to Brazil. I have encountered many US business travelers who actually have traveled to Brazil having no idea that Portuguese and not Spanish is the national language spoken there – i.e the title of our book. By doing some solid research prior to actually traveling, you’ll be that much more prepared for any eventual meeting with Brazilian lawyers or accountants. Knowing which questions to actually ask about what topics – and to whom they should be addressed – will allow you to get more out of your business meetings when there.
Brazil is an extremely large country with vast cultural differences. The South is nothing like the Amazonian region. Take the initiative to actually travel outside of Rio and Sao Paulo. Cities such as Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador, Curitiba, and Brasilia are all economically vibrant cities located in distinctly unique regions of the country – and, all are worthy of exploration.
3. Having traveled extensively throughout Brazil, how would you describe some of the business opportunities that exist in the different regions throughout the country?
Well, having actually traveled extensively throughout Brazil, there are of course many areas which are in need of newer, larger, and more modern infrastructure projects. For example, the images of idled trucks sitting on a highway waiting to unload their cargo at an already clogged port (Santos) do nothing for the image nor actual economic development of Brazil.
4. What are the main challenges of doing business in Brazil?
The management and successful operation of your business keeping Brazil’s security concerns (assaults, carjacking, petty theft, and cargo robberies) must remain a “top of mind” issue for you and all your company’s employees.
And, of course, the constant requirements for keeping abreast of all governmental legislation (federal, state, and municipal..) and trending regulatory initiatives (mainly tax related) which directly affect your business.
5. You and your wife, Claudia, wrote the book, “They Don’t Speak Spanish In Brazil,” which is a great read for anyone who wants to learn more about doing business in the country. I read it and very much enjoyed the easy read and very useful information provided. Why did you think it was important to write such a book?
Brazil history and political systems were the primary catalysts behind my initial interest in the country. The “glass half-full” attitude of all Brazilians very much appealed to me as well. Too many travelers to Brazil unfortunately miss out on the “non-business” attributes of the country as they’re often times stuck in cabs or never ending business meetings in Sao Paulo. There’s so much more to the country than just business meetings. By writing the book, and assisting with the business side of things, people hopefully will now have more time for some non-business related exploration of the country. I want people to “get out there” and truly discover what makes Brazil so uniquely special.
Claudia, on the other hand, had other reasons for co-authoring the book. In addition to being a patriotic OAB registered Brazilian attorney, she’s also very proud of Brazil’s constitution and its legal system. She sought to prove via the book that doing business in Brazil does not have to be difficult, provided you “know before you go.”
For more information about Mr. Joseph Low, and how to order copies of the book, review the links below:
In addition to other links, the Amazon and iTunes links for the digital version of the book may be found below:
Joseph Low and Claudia Brito Low, Authors of “THEY DON’T SPEAK SPANISH IN BRAZIL”<http://www.linkedin.com/blink?msgID=I32625861_30&redirect=leo://plh/http:*3*3lnkd.in*3ySa9jX/GJo0&trk=plh>