Thursday, February 18, 2010

Linking Business with Latino Culture

This post is contributed by Diana Lopez, senior at the University of Washington, double-majoring in Law, Society and Justice/Spanish.

Have you ever thought of the difference between approaching a non-Latino and a Latino with a business deal? It is no mystery that Latinos take great pride in our culture and it is no surprise that our culture influences our decisions in making a business deal.

I had the pleasure of attending an event held at the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, entitled “Business and Culture with Hispanic Americans,” last week. This presentation was given by Lauri Jordana, Lourdes Sampera-Tsukada, and David Spencer and was monitored by Lee Mozena. It was held to help those in the Seattle area understand the Hispanic population and give them effective strategies to approach the Hispanic market.

Before we even got into the demographics of the Latino population, Lauri touched on a very important subject: terminology. So what do you call “us”? Latinos, Hispanics, Chicanos, Mexicans? There will never be a time when we all agree on one specific term and that’s because there is no way ALL Latinos can be put into ONE big bucket because they all come from different countries and we have our own culture. The two terms that Lauri broke down were Hispanic and Latino; Hispanic means that their family comes from a Spanish-speaking country, while Latino means they come from Latin America. The main point in understanding the terminology is that in order to approach the Hispanic market you must segment and know your target.

Lauri then explained the demographics of the Hispanic market. With a Latino population of 644,000, Washington is ranked as the 13th state with the most Hispanics. If you’ve ever made a trip east of the mountains you would think that most of these Latinos would be found in that area, however 400,000 reside in the Puget Sound. The Seattle Metro will see a 15% increase from 2007-2012 which also increases Latino buying power. An important thing we must understand is that the Hispanic population in the Seattle area is spread throughout King County and there is no such thing as a “Little Mexico,” which is probably why people have this misconception that most of the Latinos reside in Eastern Washington.

After Lauri broke down the demographics of the Hispanic market, Lourdes then described the Latino culture and what was important to us. If you plan to do business with a Latino/a you must understand that Latinos place great value on their family and their country of origin. There isn’t anything more important to us than trust, respect, and achieving that “American dream.”
  • One major difference between doing business with a non-Latino and a Latino is time management. Americans are always on the go and time is very crucial to them, on the other hand Latinos do not place much importance to time because what matters to us is that we establish trust and we feel comfortable with you no matter how long it takes. Therefore, when meeting up with a potential client you must allow extra time for social talk. Latinos love to talk about their family and their culture.
  • Plan to offer food and drink.

Make sure to use a very formal language and never relax your attire. Never assume it is okay to talk in spanish but if you are speaking spanish make sure you know the difference between “usted,” which is akin to“sir/madam” and “” which is much more informal. You never want to make the mistake of starting off with an informal approach because it could break the deal off.

There are other behavioral differences between an American and a Latino as well.

  • Latinos tend to interrupt while someone else is speaking but this is not a form of disrespect.
  • They also tend to speak with their hands and there tends to be a lack of personal space because they like the personal contact.

Now do not get me wrong; this does not mean you should invade their personal space and have a lot of personal contact because that might break the deal as well, which is what David talked about.

David has worked with Mexico for several years now. The tips he gave the audience included making sure you greet everyone in the room, and when leaving make sure to say goodbye to everyone as well. He also described how Mexicans are not as comfortable with personal contact and a hug from them means they fully trust you, so when greeting them a simple handshake goes a long way.

Once we had the discussion on Latino culture, they then talked about ways to get your business out into the Latino community.

  • Word of mouth is a very important aspect to getting exposure.
  • Become involved within the community that you plan to target and create relationships.
  • Hiring bilingual Latinos is also important because it creates credibility, opportunities and it increases your staff which in turn can increase your sales.

But most importantly make your clients feel welcomed. Latinos love to feel welcomed and tend to trust you more if you respect our customs and families.

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