The old saying of never confuse geographic proximity with cultural proximity was probably never more true than when trying to compare Mexico with its larger neighbour, the United States.

More than a border separates the two countries and although the economic importance of the USA to Mexico cannot be overstated (80% of Mexican exports are bound for the USA), Mexico is a country unique unto itself with a very distinct approach and business outlook.

Just as it is never a good idea to confuse Canadians with people from the USA, it is just as bad to assume Mexicans will be similar to North Americans. (Mexicans are also Americans, as they will point out to you.)

Thus, although the USA has a large influence, both economically and politically, on the development of Mexico it is a very good idea to do some research into the ingredients that make the country so radically different the other two North American countries before trying to do business there.

The biggest influence US business culture has on Mexico is probably in the large number of US multi-nationals who operate in the country and the business processes which follow in their wake. When working in Mexico, it is essential to find out which type of company you will be working with. Are you liaising with the subsidiary of a foreign-owned multi-national or with a locally owned and controlled firm? This will obviously impact on such areas as business structures and decision making — but less so on issues such as team working and communication styles.

It is also probably true to say that the biggest single significant difference in approach to business between Mexico and the USA would be the much greater emphasis placed on the value of personal relationships within the business cycle. Mexico is definitely a country where relationships need to be firmly in place before significant business will follow.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Mexico

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Overview

This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Mexico. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Mexico and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips