“We believe America is the best and we are right,” Dr. Yáñez said, but this a major downfall for U.S.-American businesses who believe the rest of the world operates under the same rules—they don’t, aside from the U.S. rejection of the universally held metric standards.
In a Dec. 14, 2007 presentation at Tri Corporate College, Dr. Yáñez discussed practices and pitfalls of doing business in Brazil and Chile. The two countries provide examples of unlimited entrepreneur opportunities and represent a stark contrast in their business cultures.
Chile is ranked among the top 30th countries to do business with by U.S. companies. Brazil is the largest Latin American country.
Chile provides tremendous manufacturing investment potential with a lot of cultural differences and very slow turnaround time. But “never think about doing business there as you would here,” advises Yáñez.
He said overcoming cultural barriers are essential for a successful business and his first advice is to hire a local entrepreneur, familiar with the regional customs and people.
Yáñez shared his experience in the Sahara Region of Africa, where his hosts presented him with a platter of lettuce to feast with the camel roast. “They were offering me the best they had… something they never have in the dessert, lettuce … but I wanted the meat,” he stressed.
The lesson resonated with Evan Cooper, Product Manger with Momentive. “It’s a great story and shows you have to understand when people are trying to show you respect,” he said.
Dr. Yáñez gave another example of cultural pitfalls.
A Western firm marketing a weight-loss product in Morocco used visuals to get the message across. The ad showed three pictures of an overweight individual, to an average person, and ending on the right with a slim person. “Well, the Moroccans read from right to left,” he said. A simple cultural overlook transformed a weight loss product into a weight-gain product and consequentially slimmed the profits.
“We tend to think there is only one way to do business,” said Yáñez. He views business as nonlinear and said in the global economy there are multiple paths to the same goal. The key is understanding the culture and thinking outside the box. “What you might find interesting might not appeal to them,” he said.
Another area business consultant, Richard Romero (of IGM and the Multicultural Center, based in Lorain) agrees with Dr. Yáñez as to the importance of a multicultural approach in business dealings.
Dr. Eugenio Yáñez earned a Ph.D. in Economy and a License in Political Sciences from the University of Havana, Cuba.
Since 1962 to 1993, he worked in Cuba as an analyst, consultant, and scientific researcher, and was a Senior Professor/Consultant at University of Havana as well as visiting Professor/Consultant for universities at México, Brazil, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Spain, France, Bulgaria, Mozambique, and Angola.
“When you are teaching you are consulting people without realizing it,” he said. He has lived in Europe and traveled globally. His interest in international cultural relations propelled him as a consultant and the Cleveland Foundation sought out his expertise to expand economic horizons for the Cleveland region. The Foundation’s George Delgado is the director of its International Affairs.
Yáñez’s more than 30 years of working experience in Cuba covers activities in the military and industries of sugar, agriculture, transportation, international commerce, finance, tourism, construction, art, culture, radio and TV, focused on management training of top executives of public administration and corporations.
Yáñez is the author of more than 14 books and reports about performance and organization of the Cuban economy; also, books, papers, brochures, and reports on analysis of Cuban political and economic reality. His latest publication (2007) is a bilingual brochure about business opportunities in post-embargo Cuba. Unlike the vast majority of nations, the United States has sustained a continuous embargo on Cuba for almost fifty years.
Currently, Dr. Yáñez edits Cubanálisis-The Think-Tank, a daily up-dated web page about Cuba’s issues (www.cubanalisis.com).
Dr. Yáñez is scheduled for many interesting workshops in 2008; more information will be available through the Cleveland Foundation. Visit the Foundation at: www.clevelandfoundation.org