Business and Relationships in Brazil

Think you can fly into Brazil and fly back out with a contract? Wishful thinking! Doing business in Brazil needs time, rapport, trust and a solid relationship. Read on…

This article is part II – for part I please go to Doing Business in Brazil

It is crucial point to note is that Brazilians do business with people, not companies or organisations. As a result if a team or individual who has built a good working relationship with Brazil are replaced, the company goes back to square one as the relationship has to start from scratch.

The Brazilians’ communication style reflects their warm and vivacious characters. When greeting they expect a firm handshake combined with strong eye contact. When doing business in Brazil don’t be taken aback if they stand very close to you when speaking. Moving away may be interpreted as rejection. On the whole they are a very touchy-feely people and close physical contact is not considered an invasion of personal space. When speaking they can become quite animated and passionate. Interruptions are normal and rather than having a negative connotation reflect interest in what is being discussed.

Meeting and Greeting Etiquette

When first meeting your Brazilian counterpart ensure you stick to the initial formalities. Unlike many countries, surnames are not the norm. The use of titles however is tricky, even for Brazilians on occasions, as they depend on hierarchy, age and other factors. The safest option is to respond to your counterpart in the manner they address you, i.e. if you are called Mr, then call them Mr back.

Dress is taken quite seriously in Brazil. This is possibly a manifestation of the subtle class system that exists in country. People tend to judge others and dress is one of the many factors taken into consideration. When doing business in Brazil try and dress conservatively, i.e. a suit and tie for men and a dress and jacket for women. Jeans are a no-no as they are considered way too casual.

Business meetings can be lengthy affairs. This allows for a decent amount of small talk before getting down to the nitty-gritty of business. Punctuality can sometimes be an issue in Brazil although this should not be interpreted a rude or lazy. As Europeans we may be accustomed to rigid schedules and appointments and always keeping one eye on the clock. In Brazil however there is a very different approach to the concept of time. Individuals often deal with several people and different problems at the same time. Combine that with a complicated bureaucracy, frequent traffic jams and the tendency to get into a decent chat with anyone and the result is very often lateness. In this instance the ‘when in Rome’ rule should not be applied – always turn up on time.

Remember that Brazilians will want two things out of a potential associate. A good relationship based on trust plus a sound business partner. When presenting information ensure you use sound facts and statistics and try and present them visually. Ultimately a decision comes down to chemistry so ensure you remain cool and professional; avoid any sort of confrontation and definitely do not resort to hard sell tactics.

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