At Enterprise Nation, we believe the world is your marketplace and we've very keen to help small enterprises dip their toes into international waters in a purposeful way. Have you ever thought about selling your goods and services to the fast-developing economies in Latin America?
1. Slow down!
The first tip I would give anyone thinking about doing business with Latin America, particularly British companies used to working at a certain pace and in a certain way is: slow down. Business in Latin America is personal and takes time. It is important that you adjust your expectations, your strategy and your resources accordingly.
Business is personal. People will want to speak to you and serious partners will want to meet you, at least once, and sometimes often. Do not underestimate the importance of building relationships, which is probably something you are pretty good at being a small enterprise anyway.
3. Make sure you know what you are talking about
Latin America is a vast and varied continent. Trying to speak to a Brazilian in Spanish will offend them. Translating your literature into the Spanish of mainland Spain will offend most across the continent. Just like doing business in Spain is not the same as business in Norway, doing business in Colombia is not the same as business in Uruguay. It doesn't matter how small you are, it is important that you understand the variations and focus on your market. Brazil is the size of Europe - and although one country, it can be considered as a plurality of markets.
4. Be innovative, niche and flexible
And this is what small businesses excel at. Be niche, be different, innovative, flexible and personal. It is very likely that you will be dealing with a small business over there - and they will understand what you are going through, what makes you tick and what keeps you awake at night. Maybe you are actually not that different from each other... make the most of it!
5. Know what you are good at - and sell it!
Generally speaking, Latin Americans love Great Britain. You will find English pubs in Montevideo, Beatles fans all over the continent, Twinings tea and Walkers Shortbread all over the region. Britain means quality. Make the most of it. We admire the honesty and reliability that Britain inspires. In other words, as I always say, British sells.
Latin America is not as far away or as exotic as you think (sorry!). And there is plenty of help for SMEs out there. Some resources include StartupBritain (which has a great focus on small businesses going global), UKTI, but also other businesses that have made it, some of them micro-businesses of just one or two people. Isn't that inspirational?
7. Enjoy it!
Latin Americans are warm and welcoming. If they do business with you, it is because they respect you, and they will treat you accordingly. If you visit them, they will be unbelievably hospitable and make you feel at home. Enjoy!
About the contributor
Gabriela Castro-Fontoura is director at Sunny Sky Solutions, which support businesses of all sizes at different stages of expansion into Latin America. Gabriela is passionate about making it easier for the UK's small enterprises to enter Latin American markets.
Go international with Enterprise Nation
Check out the Go Global section of our website, where you'll find a very wide range of tips, advice, insight, tools and inspirational small business stories to help you take your first steps into international markets: Photo credit: Jimmy Baikovicius