Posted on 8/10/2015

Beyond the Taco: An Intro to Business Opportunities and Culture in Mexico

Automation Alley will lead a trade mission to Mexico this September to help local companies explore opportunities to do business there. The trip will include a stop in Guanajuato, pictured here.

Today, we’re talking about Mexico. No, not Cancun. Not spring break. Not tacos, or sombreros, or any of the other Chi-Chi’s-inspired imagery that comes to mind when most people think of our neighbor to the south. We’re talking about meaningful opportunities for you business to expand.

In September, Automation Alley will lead a trade mission to Mexico to help small and medium-sized companies from Southeast Michigan explore business opportunities south of the border. To gain some insight into the opportunities available for Michigan companies in Mexico, we talked to Silvia Alonso, project manager at the Michigan Mexico Center in Guadalajara, Mexico. 

Q: Can you briefly explain what you do at the Michigan Mexico Center?

A: Our main goal as the Michigan Mexico Center is to provide trade consultancy services and all the needed assistance to Michigan companies interested in expanding to the Mexican market. We like to think of ourselves as an extension in the market of our clients, since we will help them through all the way until they are able to close a sale, a distribution agreement, or a contract with a sales representative. 

Companies can access a wide range of services: market research; export counseling; prequalification of distributors, partners and end users; pricing and competitive analysis; business agendas; trade missions and trade shows, among others. 

Q: In your opinion, why should U.S. businesses consider doing business in Mexico? What are some of the benefits?

A: It’s a natural market for U.S. companies due to proximity, the fact that Mexican counterparts are familiar with American products and their high quality, and the NAFTA agreement. And mainly, the growth that the country has had in key industries represents great opportunities.  It is the moment to think about Mexico as a next market.

Q: Which Mexican industries have the highest demand for American products, services or expertise? A: Automotive, aerospace, food and beverage, IT, security and medical.

Q: What are the key differences between the business cultures of the U.S. and Mexico? 

A: We like to get to know who we are doing business with, and also we like taking our time to evaluate the information. The response (time) is not as quick as in the American business culture, but this does not mean the Mexican counterpart is not interested in pursuing a business relationship.

Q: What are some common mistakes made by first-time exporters to Mexico, and how can they be avoided?

A: The most common mistake we have seen is trying to do the follow-up with a lead just by sending an email … It takes more time with Mexican counterparts. You will have to be very patient and persistent, since we are not as responsive as the American way of doing business, and that does not mean we are not interested in a business possibility.

If you have already sent an email, my recommendation is call them, introduce yourself again, and do not (stop pursing them) after the first attempt. If you can reach your counterpart, give us a call! The Michigan Mexico Center will be always glad to provide you assistance!

These are some recommendations on DONT´S while conducting business in Mexico:

  • Don’t generalize, and don’t talk politics.
  • Don’t disclose all information at the beginning. There is a warm-up period where both parties are getting to know each other.
  • Don’t throw or place your business card on the table! Put your card in the person’s hand. The same goes for marketing material or brochures.
  • Don’t rush to conclusions. What you see is not what you get. Sometimes small and medium-sized companies actually belong to a cluster of businesses, and together they might represent a great business opportunity.
  • Don’t expect that a meeting with a junior associate will get very far. Find out who the chief is and meet with him or her.
  • Do not get upset if they do not show to the meeting or if they are late. Punctuality in Mexico is not rigid.
  • Don’t return to the U.S. without having enjoyed our rich culture and food and having developed relationships.

Q: Could you recommend some resources for Michigan companies interested in doing business in Mexico?

A: The Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Automation Alley are great resources to start thinking about other markets, as well as our office that is willing to help you grow your business in Mexico!

For more information on Automation Alley’s trade mission to Mexico, click here, or contact Lisa Lasser at The deadline to register for the trade mission is August 14, 2015.


About the Author

Silvia Alonso | Michigan Mexico Center


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