OWIT-Toronto in partnership with Language Advantage Inc. organized a webinar focused on the importance of speaking the client’s language when developing export plans in Hispanic Markets. Moderated by OWIT-Toronto Board Director, Alma Farias of Trade Partners, the webinar provided strategies on accessing the Hispanic export markets through engagement and cultural awareness, and through language the most common characteristic of Hispanic culture.
Catherine Jodar of Language Advantage Inc. emphasized that cultural competency and foreign language are critical, and has become a valuable contributor to international business success. For example, one in four US employers lost business due to lack of language skills (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) and American businesses lost more than US$2 billion a year due to cultural misunderstandings. She also underscored the three cultural competencies that could make or break a foreign business deal including time, trust and business style.
Lyse Moreau of International Sew Right reflected on her first trade mission to Monterrey in Mexico organized by OWIT-Toronto. She noted the very open and receptive nature of the people and cleared up any misunderstandings of doing business in the region, as she found it very safe, with good access to technology and connectivity. She highlighted the importance of speaking the Spanish language to create more personal connections and bolster business deals.
Providing key tips on accessing Hispanic export markets, Fabiola Sicard of the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade explained the business culture of Mexico and Latin American countries. Conducting business in Mexico and Latin America is relationship based rather than transactional, so there is need to invest time in building relationships, participating in long business meetings and social gatherings. Formal dress code is strongly encouraged and hierarchy followed so it is important to understand the organizational chart of potential partners or clientele and to figure out decision makers and influencers. There is less formality with regards to time and punctuality, and it’s important to be straightforward when there is an issue when dealing with Mexicans.
Fabiola also strongly recommended the use of Canadian resources available to exporters such as the Trade Commissioner Service which helps Canadian companies reach target markets, and the Ontario Trade and Investment Office in Mexico which provides one on one consultations, market intelligence, and assistance in finding partners/prospects.
In an interactive learning session, which included a prize, participants learned key communication differences in different Hispanic markets. A free offer for OWIT-Toronto members to learn Spanish for six weeks was also announced, as well as discounted customized courses by Language Advantage Inc. for OWIT-Toronto members. And in a lively Q&A format, the panelists shared more tips to become more culturally aware and ensure success doing business in different Hispanic markets. It was also noted that it is easier to do business in Hispanic countries with which Canada has Free Trade Agreements.
A list of useful links and resources was also provided to support accessing Hispanic export markets:
Ontario Trade Calendar
Contact Information Trade Commissioners in Mexico City
Contact Information Trade Commissioners in Monterrey
Contact Information Trade Commissioners in Guadalajara
The event recording can be accessed here.