Doing Business in Brazil

Travelling to Brazil on business? Get ahead of the competition with some top-notch tips on etiquette and protocol.

The land that has brought us the Bossa Nova, Pele and coffee has recently started to realise its potential on the world stage. Emerging from over half a century of military intervention into domestic politics Brazil has now recovered from the economic doldrums of the late 1990′s to become the world’s ninth largest economy. As a result doing business in Brazil is big.

Following the election of president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2003, the administration has established a stable economy aided by greater privatisation and deregulation. Spanning almost half of South American continent it has huge natural resources with successful industries in agriculture, mining and manufacturing. For those looking for opportunities in foreign markets, doing business in Brazil is certainly attractive.

The fact that 2/3 of Brazilians live next to or near the coast may have something to with their relatively relaxed approach to life and business. However, as with any country there are still ways and means that you need to be aware of.
Business in Brazil is personal

A key point to consider when doing business in Brazil is that business is seen as any other sort of social interaction; and as a result people feature much more prominently in decisions than profit-margins. Deals are won and lost upon the strength of relationships and the ability to nurture a sense of chemistry. Consequently when first starting out in the Brazilian market it is important to work through a local contact, a “despachante”. This contact has the ability to introduce you to the right people, set up meetings and deal with paperwork.

A potential Brazilian partner is essentially looking for two things; someone they like and trust as well as someone who is competent in business. The most important of these is to build a strong relationship first which will then naturally lead to trust. Time must be invested in getting to know people on a personal level in order to allow for open and honest discussions in business.

One point Brazilians usually comment on is the tendency of European and American business people to ‘get straight down to business’. This can be seen as offensive and even aggressive. It is good practice to indulge in small talk whether it is asking about their children or chatting about the latest news or football (soccer) results. Don’t be surprised if you are asked seemingly personal questions as this is part of the getting to know you process. Reciprocate such questions and show an interest in their lives and background.