In spite of the macho, "el hefe" (the boss) attitude, foreign woment can expect to be treated with respect and to be as influential and effective as your male colleagues. In many senses, the Mexican style of business is conducted in a warm, congenial manner: Things move more slowly; people respond to an non-aggressive, gentlemanly manner; and they often talk eloquently, with patience, and caring for the other person and his or her family. But as the "gentlemanly manner" suggests, corporate business has traditionally been conducted by men.
Things are slowly changing, and these tips will help you make the right impression:
- Don’t burden the other person with your problems: Answer “How are you?” with “Everything is just great.”
- Family is important: Ask about his or her spouse and children.
- Giving negative news is done reluctantly – be careful you don’t make assumptions.
- Criticism may be just a subtle suggestion, often buried to keep a harmonious relationship.
- Listen well before presenting your view and make sure you do it in a way that doesn’t clash.
- Never push. Draw the other person to your side.
- A touch of business-related flattery or expressions of how much you need their expertise (help, support, knowledge of how things are done in Mexico) never hurts.
- Mexicans are very proud; make every effort to save face for them.
- Show interest in their culture and let them tell you about things, even if you know. You should be well-informed, have taken time to visit local museums (they value being “cultured”), but let them be the experts.
Since there are fewer women in senior positions in Mexico, it is important that your authority be emphasized in your introduction. If the CEO of your company is not going to be present when you meet your Mexican counterparts, ask her or him to send a message before you arrive in Mexico, mentioning your name, title, history in the company, credentials, and role in the business being conducted.
You should also work very hard to establish Confianza at every opportunity. This sense of mutual trust and favoritism is essential to building the all-important relationship. And this is the kind of relationship that opens business doors in Mexico.
You should wear well-tailored suits, preferably a jacket and skirt of conservative length. Be careful not to arouse the jealousy of Mexican counterparts or their spouses and avoid the appearance of scandal: in business, a man and a woman should not be left alone in a room or dine out together. Once started, rumors are hard to stop and can undermine your chances for success.
In addition, always be courteous to secretaries: they wield great power and your success there can hinge on whether or not the secretary likes you. Bring her some perfume or a scarf and establish a rapport. Whether the secretary is male or female, they usually like to talk with a friendly person, and will reciprocate a polite positive attitude.
Don’t forget: Slow down, be courteous, build friends based on reciprocity, trust, and mutual respect, and you may just find Mexico one of the most delightful places to do business.