June 16, 2009
"Mexico: Working With The Mañana Culture"
By Fernando E. Rivadeneyra, Puebla, Mexico
Editor's Note: Fernando Rivadeneyra is a talented and highly-regarded business lawyer who works literally all over the world. In fact, Fernando and his firm were "international" back in those days when international "wasn't cool" or trendy; he's been a pioneer in working in global legal and business markets.
And he is also a colleague, and a close friend. My partner Julie McGuire and I have met with Fernando and other members of his firm, Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo, countless times over the past twelve years in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. We have worked together on client projects. Like our firm, Rivadeneyra, Treviño is an active member of the International Business Law Consortium, a working alliance of law and accounting firms based in Salzburg, Austria.
A founding partner of Rivadeneyra, Treviño, Fernando works in mergers and acquisitions, corporate structuring, foreign investments, and private international law. He is a member of the International Bar Association, the Mexican-American Law Institute, and its Export Support Group, and is Vice-President of the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce--Puebla Chapter. Jodie Paula Cohen, head of Client Relations at Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo assisted in the preparation of this article.
Mexico: Working With The Mañana Culture
Be well informed and work with the right partners.
There are myriad differences between Mexican business culture and legal practice and those in the rest of the world. Nevertheless, by being well-informed and working with the right partners, it is entirely feasible for foreign companies to carry out fruitful business endeavors in this country.
The biggest cultural obstacle for many foreign investors in Mexico can be described in one word: “mañana.” Processes will likely be slower and appear more drawn-out than in your home country. It is important to accept this difference and not become impatient. There are many savvy business-people and lawyers in Mexico, and your business affairs will be dealt with (eventually) to a high standard.
If your investment in Mexico includes spending time there, be aware that certain parts of Mexico are less safe than your home country; and eating food from street-stalls is asking for trouble. Your Mexican business partners will be able to inform you of the many safe places to visit and the high-quality restaurants in which to eat.
Work With The Right Lawyers
There is no central source of information to help you choose a lawyer in Mexico. Many of our clients have found us through word-of-mouth recommendations, which can be a very reliable way to initiate contact with a new law firm. Similarly, lawyers from your home country who have carried out work in Mexico will likely have contacts here and will be able to make trustworthy recommendations.
Clients have also found us through the organizations in which we participate, such as the IBLC or IBA, or through the Martindale Hubbell directory. By approaching the members of respected international groups, clients can be assured that they are contacting reputable and highly-respected firms.
Unless your Spanish is fluent, make sure that your lawyers have a thorough working knowledge of your language (many Mexican lawyers speak English, and some also speak other languages). This will make your work eminently easier, especially when discussing the nitty-gritty of legal processes or contracts.
In Mexico, your lawyers need to maintain good relationships with government officials. A direct line to such officials will enable them to speed up legal processes on your behalf.
Carrying Out Projects In Mexico
The golden rule when doing business in Mexico is to get good, solid contracts and comprehensive legal assurances that your projects will be completed on time. Don’t leave anything to chance.
Health and safety standards have tended to be lower in Mexico than in many other countries. This situation is improving thanks to new environmental laws, and standards are now equal to those in many developed countries.
Do’s And Don’ts
* Do become familiar with the relevant laws and rules before you start. A good lawyer and a good accountant will be able to inform you about these.
* Do be patient. Time frames won’t be the same as in your home country, and deadlines may not be adhered to as closely.
* Do explain in detail what you want and expect so that you, your law firm and your local partners are reading from the same page from day one.
* Do respect the Mexican “way”. If you become frustrated, remember that a smile and a friendly gesture will always get you the best results when dealing with Mexicans.
* Do enlist the help of locals. As in many countries, locals sometimes receive preferential treatment over foreigners. For this reason, it can be worthwhile engaging local lawyers to carry out certain business tasks for you.
* Don’t get involved in corrupt practices; this will only spiral into bigger problems. If you are asked for a bribe, consult with a good law firm which will be able to advise you on how to deal with the situation.
* Don’t flaunt your wealth, either in business negotiations or in public.
* Don’t use risky legal or fiscal strategies. To safeguard your operations, it is best to stay well within the limits of the law.
Old Mexico City
Note: A version of this article originally appeared in December 2008 in The Complete Lawyer.
Posted by JD Hull at June 16, 2009 11:59 PM
Hi Fernando, great post in here. Thanks for the tips you have shared.
Posted by: lucas law center at June 18, 2009 05:21 AM