Business in Brazil – 5 Things to Keep in Mind Before You Start
by Arina Smith Business Planning & Opportunities 27 February 2019
Brazil is South America’s largest economy and the second most populous country in the Western Hemisphere after the United States. For the size of its market alone, it’s a tempting place to do business.
Of course, gaining a toehold in the Brazilian market isn’t as simple as, say, opening a branch office north of the border. Outsiders seeking prosperity in this gigantic country must navigate a host of hurdles and idiosyncrasies, some of which are downright vexing. Before you set up shop here, you need to know what you’re dealing with — and what you can do to prepare.
Let’s take a look at five things you’ll need to keep in mind if you’re serious about doing business in Brazil.
1. Punctuality Is Important, But Scheduling Isn’t Everything:
In Brazil, foreigners are held to higher standards of punctuality than locals. Fair or not, you’re a guest in your prospective partners’ or clients’ country, and you need to play by the rules. Arrive early or on time for any scheduled meeting and wait patiently for your contacts to join you; it’s not uncommon for meetings to start 10 or 15 minutes later than scheduled. Meetings often run past their scheduled end times, too, but this is often a blessing in disguise — disinterested contacts are more likely to cut things short.
2. Business Attire Is Just as Formal — If Not More So — as in North America:
Brazil’s climate is, on balance, steamier than North America’s. Don’t let that inform your business attire choices, though. According to Florida real estate investor Ralph Serrano, who’s done extensive business in Brazil, fashionable formal wear is de rigeur in Brazilian business districts. Expect to be judged for your clothing choices — and don’t be shy about owning them.
3. Expect Bureaucracy:
Speaking of expectations: Brazil is a bureaucratic place, with a slew of overlapping regulations that make business dicey for inexperienced outsiders. If you’re serious about breaking into this market, you’ll need to master those parts of the bureaucracy that directly affect your business.
4. The Government Is Trying to Stamp Out Corruption, But Success Has Been Mixed:
Another hurdle for outsiders: pervasive corruption at all levels of government. According to TMF Group, Brazil’s current and most recent former presidential administration has taken serious steps to stamp out petty corruption around the country, but you still need to be on the lookout — and know whom you can trust among your local contacts.
5. English Isn’t Enough:
English is the de facto language of business in most of the world, and Brazil is no exception. But that’s no excuse for failing to bone up on your Portuguese before you arrive here. Conversational fluency in Brazil’s official language will open doors you never even knew were closed.
Always Be Prepared:
You know the motto: “always be prepared.” These simple words of wisdom apply doubly to international business, no matter where you plan to hang out a shingle.
Breaking into the Brazilian economy isn’t as simple as renting some office space in Sao Paulo and waiting for walk-ins; it’s an exhaustive, multi-year process with no guarantee of success. The more work you do upfront to prepare for your entry, the likelier you are to find success in the world’s fifth-largest country.