How To Start A Business In Latin America

Latin America is filled with opportunities for those looking to expand their business interests, but what should you first consider?.

Predrag Milicevic

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No business is easy to get off the ground, if it was, everyone would be doing it. There are so many factors to take into account. You need to plan, possibly even employ the services of a financial advisor. You need to make sure you’ve got a website that generates traffic along with all your social media profiles. While the internet has enabled a lot of businesses to thrive online, thus eliminating or culling the urgency of a location, there still exists a strong need to hone in on certain locations or countries for a myriad of reasons.  It could have to do with the strength of the country in question’s currency, which very often can be a determining factor especially if you’re from North America, where the market for USD and CAD exchange rate can have a crucial impact on your investment in Latin America.  Other determining factors would include natural resources and infrastructure. For a long time Latin America has presented itself as an appealing location for businesses and continues to do so. So, if you are looking to take your business into Latin America, or intend on going there to start a business, here are four tips to consider when doing so. 


1. Latin America is a continent, not a country

Insensitivity is never a good idea and in today’s woke culture, it’s really not a good idea. Thus, it’s vital that you be aware of the fact that Latin America is a continent consisting of various countries each with its own set of customs, cultures and traditions.  Your business plan might appeal to those living in Argentina, but not to those in Chile. In some cases, you might be overwhelmed by the cultural differences within a single country, thus forcing you to re-examine your strategy.  Ideally, you should seek an all-encompassing cultural grasp of the Latin American country whose market you intend to penetrate.  Know your country, know your customer. 


2. Seek out personal relationships

The Mafia movies like to tell us, “it’s not nothing personal, it’s just business.” Nothing could be further from the truth though, because business is personal; it’s about forging relationships, relationships with your customers, your suppliers, your employees – it’ s all personal. In Latin America forging relationships is of the utmost importance. While this might sound somewhat general, it’s well-known that in Latin America a business contact will first want to forge a friendship before going into business with you. This could take a while, but the potential rewards it could reap can make it very much worth your time. Thus, make the effort to connect and bond; this means accepting invitations and even meeting family and friends. 

Read also: Latino Startups That Are Crushing It During the Pandemic


3. Paperwork is your friend

As is the case with all things involving financial endeavours, make sure your paperwork (administration) is on the level. If ever there were two pertinent rules governing business in Latin America, it would be a) scrutinise the legal framework, and b) make sure everything is done in physical document form.  Your business is your livelihood, so you want to make sure all your ducks are in a row. This entails enlisting the services of a good lawyer and a good accountant. Having said all this, always remember tip no.2 – personal relationships are what really allows you to prosper in Latin America. 


4. Sensitivity is key

On the whole, Latin Americans can be reluctant when approached by foreigners looking to expand their business interests, and this reluctance is based on a dislike towards superiority. Having said that,  a large faction of the business fraternity in Latin America is quite cosmopolitan. Also, many businesses in Latin America have overseas ties, lending to the notion of a cosmopolitan business environment.  Try not to be overzealous with your cultural norms, despite the natural inclination to do so. Be open-minded and try to assimilate yourself to the best of your ability. Good luck!

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