Building Business at the Beaches

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” - Peter Drucker It takes a special type of person to move to a foreign country and decide to do business. The road curves uphill. Culture, bureaucracy and language differences challenge one regularly. Nothing works the way you think it should and while you want to hit the road running, you are just not sure where 'the road' actually is and what the pace of the run is - too fast or too slow and you are out of the game.   At a recent Networking dinner, put on for clients of Mail Boxes Etc. and La Playa, businesses were surveyed, to get a feel for what the business community wants.   A few short years ago businesses had a driving need for more clients - in order to survive. While the need for new business is always at the core of operations, we are now seeing more stable businesses look for other things as well. Many businesses now are growing up and looking for new ideas, new alliances, new ways to expand and break into new markets.

So what does it take to get past the survival stage and stay in business at the beach? Here are some tips from businesses who have stood the ground:

Work Hard. 
Vince Lombardi said, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

Do your own research.
It is important to understand your legal rights and responsibilities before you get into business. However don’t expect an expert consultant to have all the answers. Ask questions, do your own research, and don’t be afraid to cross check information.

Make a living and enjoy your life.
We all know the businessperson working at the beach who hasn’t been to the beach in ages. Don’t let working get in the way of living. There is so much here in Panama that money cannot buy, and which costs nothing to enjoy.

Do it from the heart.
Albert Schweitzer said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

Learn Spanish
Keep advancing your language skills. Many English speakers find that they can get by with limited Spanish skills. However if you want to build relationships and conquer new markets, Spanish is a must. Keep the classes going! 

Respect the culture
Remember that things don’t always work the way they worked “back home”. Culture bashing doesn’t make you lasting friends or clients. Take a deep breath, open your mind to new ideas. It’s a great way to gain some ‘out of the box’ perspectives.

Give back to the country
As your business gains legs, it’s a good time to give others a helping hand for a long-term return on investment. Improving the situation of others in lasting ways grows prosperous communities.

Build relationships
Making friends doesn’t only improve your social life, but it improves business also. People recommend those they know and trust. So get your head out of the computer and go and mingle at a happy hour near you.

Orient towards good service
Serve the customer and the bottom line will take care of itself. Ask for and listen to client feedback and follow it.

Stick with it
Things will get frustrating. You may suffer a costly drawback or two. You may have to change directions. Know that you are not the first to go through the trials of doing business in Panama.  Remember, life is like one long university education. Take a deep breath. Start again.