Work Abroad but earn in USD

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Trust in Argentina

Business and Trust in the Argentinean Community

One of the things I have learned about running a business in Argentina is the necessity of community involvement and building trust. For myself, an expat entrepreneur who exports wine from Argentina, I must involve myself with local media and businesses, tourism, and the expat community on a regular basis to build relationships. Unfortunately, Argentina is an extremely distrustful society and because of this, more attention must has to be paid to forming relationships.

My company, Anuva Vinos, makes continuous contact with wine shops, wineries, customs brokers and publicity agencies in order to outreach directly to the local business community. We obviously buy wine from the wineries, help the wine shops send wine to foreigners, use customs brokers to get those wines out of the country, and do interviews, attend events and generally promote the wine club and tastings that we do here in Buenos Aires with publicity and the media. It struck me about a month ago, that ramping up the frequency of these activities can only help. But one must know how to speak about one’s product to these different entities. For wineries I am a customer. For wine shops, I am a partner. For the media, I am a source of information and news, and they are a source of publicity for me.

It almost always comes down to hand-shakes and smiles. These two things build trust. Trust, in Argentina is hard to come by. I was first exposed to “gente de confianza” (trustworthy people) when I started my first business here in student exchange. Argentineans were and are obsessed with this phrase, mostly because no one here trusts one another. Ice cream shops make you pay first, hold your receipt, turn in your receipt to the ice cream server and get it stamped to prove the sale was made and the ice cream served. Bars routinely have one line where people pay for drinks and receive a ticket which they then turn in for their beverage. This is because no one trusts one another with money. Thus meeting people in person is very important here.

I practice this belief with the tourism industry. I routinely visit, in person, 15-20 hotels per week where I speak with the concierges and managers about the wine tastings that Anuva Vinos offers. They would never have thought to call me if I had just sent and email or made a phone call. On the contrary, in the U.S., our dealings have been virtually 100% phone and email based. I only met my logistics and website people for the first time 9 months after we set up. There was an unspoken trust between us that does not exist in Argentina. This type of trust is quite evident among the expat community here in Argentina.

Going to events sponsored by Expat-Connection and other expat groups is really good for networking. Many Europeans, Americans, Canadians and Australians come to these gatherings to socialize, learn about procedures in Argentina (like buying property and bringing in money), and experience Argentine culture with other foreigners living here (like polo). Many of these people have a wide range of experiences in business, living abroad and language which makes them great resources and many of them have great connections that they willingly will share because of the trust among this group. This trust comes from an almost instantaneous bond between one another because they are all English speaking foreigners who decided to leave their home countries for a new country where they find themselves in the minority. I have found great connections by going to these types of events and doing these types of activities and I will continue to do so with more frequency as the power of an abundance of trustworthy relationships cannot be underestimated.

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