The potential gains of doing business in Mexico are vast, but so too are the potential disasters if you are not aware of Mexican Business Culture. Opening a shop or exporting abroad successfully requires knowledge not only of that country’s laws and regulations but also of its corporate business culture and etiquette. Doing business in Mexico is no exception. The right sales pitch is not enough to persuade Mexican businesses to buy what you are selling.
Like Americans, Mexican businessmen do business with whom they like on a personal level, which is why so developing relationships is paramount. To build these professional friendships, one must know how to speak and behave properly when interacting with Mexican businesspeople. Do you know what they consider on-time and late? Should you use titles, first names, or last names when addressing them? What approach is better: casual and personal or strictly professional? Understanding Mexican Business culture will give you confidence and improve your chances of closing the deal you covet.
At business Jettsetter we strive to utilize our professional network and own experience to ensure that our fellow travelers make the best impression south of the border.
The following guidelines will help you and your company make the best impression south of the border.
Business Dress code
Mexican business people in major cities give a great deal of importance to appearances and in many settings generally dress more formally than in most U.S.
We advise wearing professional attire when meeting with prospective business partners/investors in mexico.
Avoid overly casual clothes and athletic shoes when going out to business meals. This goes double to everyone from San Fran.
Dress conservatively in the city. Dark suits never fail.
Men should wear ties. Women should wear formal business attire.
Jeans are not appropriate. Avoid low-cut shirts and very short or tight skirts.
When in doubt, it is better to be overdressed.
Being sensitive to typical business hours and mealtimes is extremely important. It is not uncommon for offices to open at 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. and for people to work until 8 p.m. or later. This means that during the week, many Mexicans follow a pattern of five meals, with Desayuno consisting of coffee, fruit or a pastry between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. in the morning before going to work, a morning snack called Merienda around 10:30 or 11:30 a.m., a heavy lunch called Almuerzo generally between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., another Merienda, and/or a light dinner or Cena after 8 p.m. Don’t try to schedule a meeting between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. unless you intend for it to be a lunch meeting.
The business lunch is a key tool in Mexico. Use it to build relationships and discuss matters in greater leisure. Before beginning a business discussion, it is common to discuss family, recent events, or other social themes. Many Mexicans are accustomed to smoking and drinking freely at business meals. Business lunches can span two hours or more and, again, usually, do not begin until 2 or 3 p.m. Many restaurants do not open for lunch before 1:30 p.m. and most restaurants will not even begin offering dinner before 7:30 p.m.
Typical business lunch in Mexico starts at 2 pm, lasts two to three hours, and includes lots of casual talks, with little time devoted to business.
Breakfasts tend to be more productive when conducting business.
Supper, which usually starts at 8–9 pm, is a light, minor affair and not good a time for business.
Drinking in excess during a business meeting is considered inappropriate.
Your offer to pick up the tab will be appreciated, but since you are the guest, most Mexican business people will insist on paying.
Patience is key when doing business in Mexico. Business meetings in Mexico will often take longer than they would in the United States. Mexican social etiquette often includes more small talk before business. Etiquette makes it difficult to say no. Therefore, “yes” does not always mean yes. In conversation, Mexicans emphasize tactful and indirect phrasing and maybe more effusive than Americans with praise and emotional expressions. Do not be overly aggressive while negotiating. It is considered rude.
The concept of time is flexible in Mexico. Guests to social events (except in the case of cities in the North) can arrive up to an hour late. However, punctuality is the norm for most business and government appointments. Business cards are used extensively.
Make sure you are punctual and on time for any meeting but do not be surprised or take offense with your Mexican counterpart is 30 minutes late.
It is not uncommon for Mexican business people to cancel meetings, and many consider meetings with Americans as tentative until they receive confirmation that the person is in Mexico. Therefore, it is a good idea to confirm meetings scheduled weeks or months ahead several times as the date approaches, including the night before.
Mexicans often say “mañana” (“tomorrow” in English), when referencing the “next couple of days” or “sometime in the near future”. If in doubt, be sure to clarify when talking about schedules or delivery times.
Language and Communications:
Good manners and politeness go a long way in Mexico.
While most Mexican business people speak English, you should learn basic phrases in Spanish such as “por favor” (please), “gracias” (thank you), “adios” (goodbye) and “disculpe” (excuse me).
If you do not have a fully bilingual member in your team, you should consider hiring an interpreter, preferably a native speaker.
The formal form of you—“usted”—is often used when addressing elders, employers, superiors, co-workers and strangers. The informal “tú” is used among friends, siblings and people who are on the same level.
Avoid using first names unless invited to do so.
Address people using “Señor” (Mr.), “Señora” (Mrs.) or “Señorita” (Miss) and their last name.
When leaving a voicemail, keep in mind that most Mexican people will expect you to call again and therefore, are unlikely to return your call.
Strangers shake hands when meeting and leaving each other. Mexicans usually hold the gesture longer than we do.
Friends may hug or kiss each other on the cheek. Men often touch shoulders or pat each other on the back.
Mexicans do business with amigos. If they feel uneasy around you, chances are you won’t be closing any deals.
To develop relationships, be warm and friendly. Ask your Mexican counterparts about their family, friends, customs, hobbies, etc.
Use intermediaries when necessary to make personal connections.
Business in Mexico is done in person, not over the phone or email.
Meetings usually start with small talk about family, the weather, etc.
Do not refuse drinks (usually coffee) offered to you during the meeting.
Being direct and to the point may be perceived as rude or aggressive. Be gracious and polite.
Because relationships come first, negotiations tend to move slowly.
Meetings typically are slow-paced, often going off-topic.
Hierarchy is important. Big decisions are made by top executives, and they expect to do business with same-level executives, not with low-level representatives.