Since I have just begun doing business in Brazil, I've quickly learned that there is a lot to learn as a foreigner in the Brazilian business environment. So I've decided to share the lessons I've learned so far with the rest of you gringos, because it will definitely come in handy.
10. Put it all in writing. This would seem obvious for business deals, but also applies to other transactions, like renting an apartment or making an agreement that you might otherwise do verbally.
9. Get to the point. Sometimes Brazilians have a tendency to go in circles or dance around the point. Be very specific and tell the person exactly what you want or need in the clearest manner possible, and also be sure to include a deadline.
8. Improve your Portuguese. Though Brazilians working for multinationals and big companies usually speak English, some don't speak it that well. (Trust me, I used to teach English). Being able to speak Portuguese will not only enormously aid your work but will also earn you respect from Brazilian associates.
7. Use your nationality as needed. Depending on the situation, it can sometimes help to plug your gringo status. You'll find that in some situations, people will be much more responsive and much quicker to get back to you if you mention you're American or British. They may also even be nicer to you and more accommodating.
6. Face to face beats email. I've noticed that Brazilians aren't as big fans of email as Americans, since personal relationships are a much more important part of their culture. As such, it's better to make plans, negotiate, and explain details by phone or in person. Don't be afraid to accept invitations for lunch or drinks, since negotiations don't necessarily take place in the office.
5. Don't expect to be a revolutionary. Just because things don't work the same way they do in the US, and just because things may seem slow, inefficient, or illogical doesn't mean you are going to change the way things are. If you're a foreigner working in a Brazilian company, you may have more luck trying to make small changes and improving efficiency, but when doing business with Brazilians, don't expect to impose your methods.
4. Follow up frequently. This is absolutely essential, because I've noticed how some people may never respond unless they are constantly reminded. Don't be afraid to be annoying.
3. Pick your battles. If your company has a Brazilian affiliate or subsidiary, you're going to have to adapt to the Brazilian way of doing business. However, if you do business internationally, it's wise to chose between several Brazilian companies and find which is easiest to work with (besides having the best deal), and if you really find it impossible to do business here, try elsewhere! It's not worth it to pull your hair out if you can't deal with the way things are done.
2. Plan ahead. Generally speaking, Brazilian business is slower than American business (especially New York business), and it's always a good idea to leave extra time if you're running on a deadline or working on a short timeline. Planning ahead will save you a lot of teeth gnashing and nail biting.
1. Work on your patience level. Brazilian business just works differently than American business. At times it may seem slow and inefficient, but most of the time, things get done eventually. Using these tips and a healthy dose of patience, doing business in Brazil will be a lot easier!