It is crucial to understand local business expectations when expanding to a new market. Due to its immense growth and economic potential, many foreign companies are choosing to expand into Mexico. We spoke with our local experts in the Mexico City office to get tips for following business etiquette in Mexico as a foreign business owner.
Over recent decades, Mexico has become a key trading and business partner from the United States of America (US) and Canada. Doing business in Mexico means having preferential access to 2 significant consumer markets in North America.
The connection between these 3 economic powers has meant that Mexican business practice has somewhat assimilated to those of its North American partners. We outline 6 behavioral characteristics of business etiquette in Mexico that you should keep in mind when starting your own business.
Business etiquette in Mexico: local and international influence
Due to this heavy influence from and engagement with its North American counterparts, Mexico has quickly adapted and aligned its business etiquette and practices with the US and Canada.
However, there are still some locally-influenced attitudes that you will need to keep in mind.
1. Starting and finishing work later in the day
In Mexico, it is not uncommon for businesses to start their daily operations around 9-9:30 am, which could be regarded as late for some in the Western world.
However, businesses in Mexico usually will remain open until 7 pm or later, with long lunch breaks factored into the daily operations.
Due to these later morning starts, it’s important to avoid calling your Mexican client earlier than 8: 30am. If it’s urgent, general business etiquette in Mexico dictates that email communication is best in the early hours.
It is important to avoid scheduling a business appointment on Mondays or Fridays, if you are looking to conduct business with that company. These days are strictly off-limits to arrange business meetings in Mexico.
Be sensitive to different time schedules. Organizing meetings when your local business partners and clients most expect them shows a willingness to acknowledge business etiquette in Mexico, and work within familiar parameters. You’ll likely receive a greater response from your prospective partners and clients as a result.
2. Formal business lunches
In Mexico, formal business lunches play an instrumental role in conducting business. Lunches often take place mid-afternoon, at 2:30 pm, in a fine dining restaurant and can last for a few hours. Firstly, it is important that you establish with the client that you will be discussing business at this meeting. Choose a formal, trendy restaurant, as your choice may be scrutinized, and will be seen by your client as a sign that you are serious about doing business.
Business lunches often take place on the second or third interaction with the client. Your first meeting should be held in your office.
Be prepared to cover the bill and avoid ordering alcoholic beverages, unless the client orders one.
Meeting decision-makers is vital to proper business etiquette in Mexico. Make sure to meet with the senior executives of the company, as they will ultimately be the ones making the call on whether or not partner with you. A high local regard for acknowledging rank in business also means that your senior executives must attend the meeting.
Keep business dinner meetings to a minimum, or avoid them altogether, until you have established a stronger relationship with clients and partners. It’s important to give a professional first impression with clients and partners, and therefore recommend to avoid having meals that typically involve having alcohol.
3. Place high value on introductions
Like every other country, Mexico regards face-to-face introductions as a very important aspect of the negotiation process and can be a deal-breaker if not done correctly.
While business cards are becoming less common in the Western world, they are still an important part of proper business etiquette in Mexico. When first meeting your client, be sure to have a business card on hand with you and ready to present whilst introducing yourself, along with a firm handshake. This shows to the client that you are well prepared and illustrates your eagerness to conduct business.
Being prepared in these initial phases is important. Avoid writing your contact details down by hand. Many clients will take a lack of formal contact information as a sign of disrespect and/or disorganization.
4. Communication is key
In Mexico, it is important to be specific with time when organizing meetings with your client. This can be loosely interpreted, and the client may show up late to the meeting.
Therefore, it is important to give an exact time to meet and be sure to arrive at least five minutes prior to the start of the meeting. Always call or email on the first few interactions with your new client. Once you’ve achieved a level of comfort in communicating with your client, then WhatsApp becomes a commonly accepted communication tool for both texting or calling.
Like the Western world, a face-to-face interaction should never be undervalued and is still a very important element of business etiquette in Mexico.
All in all, Mexicans are generally very polite and hospitable people, and it goes without saying that reciprocating this politeness back is key.
5. Business is transactional
Business etiquette in Mexico is largely transactional, and doing favors for one another – at least during the early stages of business – is not common.
Many clients and commercial actors in Mexico will not expect to give or receive favors, as this can be seen as dishonest or insincere. Be transparent and clear about the services or compensation you’re providing, and stick to it.
6. Dress to impress
In recent years, there has been a small shift in the Western world with regards to dress attire, with most companies now allowing ‘smart business’ attire as an acceptable dress code for employees.
Mexico still holds a conservative approach however, especially in the financial cities such as Mexico City, Guadalajara, Puebla and Monterrey. For men, be sure to wear a suit with tie and blazer and for women, business suits and skirts are accepted.
Companies and clients in tropical climates such as Puerto Vallarta, Veracruz and Cancun will allow for smart casual attire, such as colored shirt, jeans and dress shoes are fine. Mexicans place a high value on appearance, as looking presentable contributes to a greater perception of professionalism. Disregarding your physical presentation could lead to an unsuccessful negotiation.
Although business etiquette in Mexico shows many similar aspects to that of the Western world – particularly in North America- there are some key local business traditions that you will need to keep in mind.
We’re your commercial guide for navigating business etiquette in Mexico
Having a comprehensive understanding of how business etiquette functions in Mexico can help you to form and grow a successful company. In some cases, it can be the difference between securing new clients and losing potential leads when doing business in Mexico.
It’s not always easy to navigate new markets, especially in the social realms of business and personal etiquette. When entering a new market, make sure you partner with a local expert who can bridge the commercial and cultural gaps in Mexico to give your business the best possible start.
At Biz Latin Hub, our local and expatriate experts in the Mexico team can guide your business through company formation and other market entry process, and support your expansions with in-depth knowledge at local business etiquette.
Contact us to find out more about how we can support you.
Learn more about our team and expert authors. Check out our short presentation below for more tips on doing business in Mexico.