Rio 2016: Let’s Do Business – Working with Brazilians

Matthew MacLachlan

9 Aug 2016

Whether you are interested in the 2016 Rio Olympics or simply a follower of mainstream news, the chances are that you have heard a lot about Brazil lately. Many organisations have had Brazil on their radar now for some time – especially those businesses who are looking to expand into the so-called BRIC* countries.

Navigating Brazilian business culture and building relationships are key when working with Brazilians – are you ready?

Working with Brazilians: Understanding what matters

As Brazil has a relationship-based culture, organisations need to look at the big picture and set realistic expectations that may be different from those they are used to back home.

Outsiders must be prepared to spend a lot of time building rapport, and developing and nurturing the human side of the business relationship, not just the bottom line

1. Relationships Count

In Brazil, profitability is not the only consideration in a business opportunity; Brazilians are most likely to work with people they know, like and trust.

This means that outsiders must be prepared to spend a lot of time building rapport, and developing and nurturing the human side of the business relationship, not just the bottom line.

2. Do Business in Person

The best way to build rapport and thus a strong business relationship with your Brazilian counterparts is through frequent visits. Nothing establishes a business relationship faster than face to face meetings where people feel they can get to know you better.

This means not only getting down to business but, more importantly in the early phases, spending a lot of time socialising.

The best way to build rapport and thus a strong business relationship with your Brazilian counterparts is through frequent visits

3. Show an interest in the Country

Socialising in Brazil often involves dining out. Invitations to business lunches and dinners should be considered as no different from any other business appointment and thus should always be accepted. Expect a lot of small talk, especially about what you think about Brazil.

Asking about Brazilian food specialities in a restaurant can be a good icebreaker

Of course, good social etiquette means that you should always point out the good experiences you have had or could be looking forward to rather than complaining about any negative experiences you may have had in the country. For example, asking about Brazilian food specialities in a restaurant can be a good icebreaker.

Anyone with even a remote interest in sport, especially football, will almost certainly find an instant bond with their Brazilian counterpart.

4. Family Matters

Developing good rapport with your Brazilian counterparts may also involve conversations that mix personal topics, especially questions related to your family.

Even if you feel as though these are private matters, try to find a polite and warm way to engage in this type of small talk as it is an important way for Brazilians to get to know you better. You will find tht working with Brazilians can get quite personal – where family and work intertwine.

5. Be Aware of Social Standing

Although Brazilians often come across as warm and gregarious in a social environment, they also appreciate it when their status and position in their organisation’s hierarchy is recognised.

This means ensuring that you understand and address them by the correct job title, which may include qualifications such as ‘Doctor’.  Try to make sure when working with Brazilians that they understand where you fit within your own organisation, even if this is something you don’t usually do.

6. Be Flexible

Being relationship focused also means that being flexible will be appreciated and often expected. Although Brazil has a rich vein of business opportunities, it is also a developing country and things do not always work as smoothly as you may be used to back home.

In Brazil, decisions seem to be made almost spontaneously. Don’t let these opportunities pass by as your Brazilian business partner may regard it as an opportunity that may not come around again.

In Brazil, decisions seem to be made almost spontaneously

On the other hand, they may also go out of their way to influence how something happens so that it plays out to their best advantage. In either situation, be prepared to act as flexibly as possible if you are serious about doing business with your Brazilian counterparts.

Building rapport with Brazilians can be very rewarding if you have the time, patience, and ability to get to know your counterparts as people and not simply as another opportunity to enhance your business’ bottom line. Remember that business transactions need a human touch in Brazil.

Remember that business transactions need a human touch in Brazil when working with Brazilians

*Brazil, Russia, India and China



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