Portuguese Business Structures

Business structures in Portugal have always veered towards the strictly hierarchical — not surprising as most organisations have either been government-run or part of a larger family owned consortium. (The state has until recently owned more than 50% of the country’s assets with another large proportion being in the hands of a relatively small number of very wealthy and powerful families.)

Therefore, unless you are dealing with the subsidiary of a multi-national, it is best to expect that the organisation you are dealing with will have an extremely centralised decision-making approach with all decisions of any importance being made by a few key individuals at the top of the company. It is really important to make some time to understand the structure of the Portuguese business you are dealing with and to ensure that you are speaking to the right people. Time can be wasted trying to get decisions out of people who have little or no authority.

It is also worth bearing in mind that, even when dealing with a multi-national based in Portugal, the mindset of the company’s Portuguese employees might still veer towards a hierarchical structure even where one does not exist on paper.

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

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Overview

Portugal’s economy was severely hit by the banking crisis and resulting recession. And, as a result the country has really struggled over the past decade. However, many commentators feel that the shockwaves resulting from the crisis will – given time – provide the impetus for Portugal to carry out several long-needed structural reforms. These reforms it is argued will provide Portugal with a much more solid base to build a strong sustainable economy for the long-term.

It was felt that, for many years, Portugal struggled with a bloated and inefficient public sector which was not only a drain on public finances but also served as a barrier to private investment and entrepreneurship. One of the conditions of the economic bail-out which Portugal was forced to seek following the crisis was that these structural imbalances would be tackled. This process was always going to be a challenge but there are signs of progress and the economy is definitely showing signs of a return to healthy growth.

Given where Portugal is on its path to economic growth there is a strong argument in favour of looking at doing business in Portugal now. It is usually good to enter a market at the early stages of an upward trajectory and Portugal certainly fits that criteria.

If you are considering doing business in Portugal or already have contacts in-country, you would be well-advised to find out a little more about the very distinct business culture you will encounter there. Portugal remains a relationship-based business culture but how do you best form and maintain those relationships? What do you need to know about the key drivers of Portuguese contacts to allow you to maximise any potential commercial opportunities?
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Portuguese business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

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