Within many American organizations, there is a good chance that they will conduct business with a Latin American organization in some way, shape, or form. From a manufacturing standpoint, we source raw material globally, including from Latin American countries. According to our Purchasing Manager, different approaches has to be taken, depending upon the region where the supplier is located. When dealing with American suppliers, it is acceptable to email a purchase order to the sales representative. However, the Latin American suppliers expect a phone call and can sometimes take offense to receiving an email instead. Our purchasing manager made a cultural gaffe by emailing an order to a metal supplier located in Mexico. The sales representative was offended because he felt that our purchaser simply did not want to speak with him. The bottom line was that the personal touch had been lost. I thought it was strange at first, but after realizing that the personal connection is so important to Latin Americans, it makes complete sense. Not only do we have to be mindful of sourcing from Latin American companies, but we also have to create a balance with our corporate office in Mexico.
Our company is owned by a Mexican organization, so we have a lot of dealings with the workers in Mexico. When workers from that facility contact us, they are careful to only ask for other employees in similar roles at our facility. That feeds into the idea that Latin America has a high power distance and it would seemingly be faux pas for them to speak with our top management (Moran, Abramson & Moran, 2014). In our business environment, it would not be uncommon to speak with top management at other organizations, if they were in fact the decision-makers. Although, this is not the only practice where we differ from Latin Americans.
Americans do not normally take the time to build personal connections with potential business partners and it is customary to be punctual. Latin Americans normally do not keep a strict schedule and have a hierarchical societal structure, which would mean they have a high power distance (Moran, Abramson & Moran, 2014). It seems as though that conducting business with Latin American organizations would present similar obstacles that the Middle Eastern countries because of the differences with American business practices.
Latin America, specifically Brazil, has become a new, major supplier of natural resources, which makes it attractive to do business with (PSU WC, L.8, p.3). China has especially taken notice of this and now controls the Panama Canal and is helping to improve Latin America’s infrastructure (Moran, Abramson & Moran, 2014). This means that when we conduct business in Latin America, we could also be conducting business indirectly with China. By realizing how everyone is connected in one way or another, it makes it even more important to understand other cultures and how to be respectful of them from a business standpoint.
Moran, R. T., Abramson, N. R. & Moran, S. V. (2014). Managing cultural differences, (9th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (nd.). OLEAD 410: Lesson 8: South America: Focus on Brazil. PSUWC.