During my many years working in the Latin American market, I have collaborated with a wide array of multicultural communications professionals, not just in my country but in many others from our region. It has been a privilege to learn about their working cultures, their lifestyles and the ways they interact with each other. After all, here we have a multicultural blend of 20 different countries with more than 630 million people, two official languages, and more than two dozen regional dialects.
Tropicalizar means adaptation
For years, I have also witnessed how successful foreign companies fail when trying to transact with big Latin American corporations and companies. By using their already established policies, business ethoses, and methodologies, as we say in Mexican Spanish, they toparon con pared. Nevertheless, it was at one of those telecoms giants in Mexico where I first heard the term tropicalizar and, since then, it has always stuck with me.
”By using their already established policies, business ethoses, and methodologies, as we say in Mexican Spanish, they toparon con pared.
Tropicalización means adapting to this market and understanding the customers within it. But, mainly, it means to understand Latin America and its less structured, less predictable and less direct ways, by comparison to those of markets from different latitudes. Latinos don’t show their hands easily and, for sales purists, that alone creates difficulty.
To tropicalizar, then, describes the methodology followed by those foreign companies that ventured into Latin America and succeeded. Those same companies know well that it’s not just about a word-for-word translation of their practices, but it’s also about learning when to use cultural differences strategically. After all, any business or project should find the perfect mix of vision, style and cultural affinity, using adaptability as the invisible thread uniting these three elements.
An adaptable portfolio
During the near three years I’ve worked at ECT, our company’s diversity has been fundamental to getting a foot in the LATAM market’s door. At ECT, there are not only Mexican team members, but we also come from Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Italy, Pakistan, Turkey, Greece and many other countries. Our company stands out for having not only a wide array of top professionals in their fields, but also for being a cultural melting pot.
”During the near three years I’ve worked at ECT, our company’s diversity has been fundamental to getting a foot in the LATAM market’s door.
Because of the innate diversity of our working environment, we are more able to understand the specific traits of different markets. We have also worked hard to listen more attentively to every single detail that brings us closer to our customers and their needs. It’s no coincidence that ECT’s portfolio of products and solutions looks like a reflection of who we are as a company: diverse, resilient, mature and, especially, adaptable.
Those are the reasons that explain why the tropicalización of ECT, a company historically and geographically linked to the European market, has been successful (although that doesn’t mean it has been an easy task). And most of that success comes from the richness its workforce –a team of professionals focused on succeeding, just like me, far away from their own land– brings to the table.
Translator of ideas
Personally, it has been an interesting and enlightening challenge to shape the Latin American office by transforming and reinventing every step of the corporate strategy to fit with the region. If managing such a dispersed, diversified and multicultural territory with all that that implies is not enough, there’s also the need to act as an impromptu translator between customers and the European philosophy. Little by little, we have transformed the continent from being a simple promise to a fruitful reality.
Those who know me personally can attest that all these achievements could only be attained by having a solid team to work with, and spending countless sleepless hours in airports and waiting rooms, and even –probably the hardest part– sacrificing some family time. Passion and drive are a must to keep the office growing and ECT’s European success stories duplicating all over the Americas.
Nevertheless, the biggest personal and professional lesson ECT has taught me during all this time is this: Adapting to a new environment, achieving goals one day at a time, and understanding that our contributions and ideas are all relevant, will not only make ourselves grow, but will help our customers and co-workers to grow as well. So let’s keep that tropicalización going!