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By Juan Manuel Gonzalez.
Businesses looking to establish a presence in Chile understandably have their eyes on the prize; however some arrive in market unprepared for the cultural differences. 
While I’ve worked in Chile for the majority of my life, I spent three years in New Zealand during which I gained an understanding of the culture – and most especially the attitude to work and business. 
Chile is also very bureaucratic. In practical terms we need to use a public notary for common transactions or agreements (for example, a tenancy agreement). I know New Zealand businesses struggle with the time and cost involved in red tape, but trying to take a shortcut through formalities can cause big problems. 

Doing things differently
My first observation is that teamwork comes naturally to New Zealanders, stemming from a culture of collectivism. In Chile however, the culture is individualistic, so you need to train people to understand that to work collectively is actually beneficial for them.
The Chilean approach to problem solving involves following pre-established steps/procedures to arrive at a result, rather than using initiative to create an innovative solution. New Zealand managers need to understand that Chileans expect specific instructions on how to carry out a task or meet an objective. Simply expecting someone to resolve a problem without you setting expectations on the outcome – and explaining how to do it – won’t deliver success. 
On the subject of the approach to problem solving, in Chile we like to have a meeting to analyse the problem, define who is responsible and to find a solution. Many New Zealand businesses would consider the time spent on discussing a problem, and the number of people required, excessive.
It’s quite common in a New Zealand workplace for staff to undertake different kinds of tasks and activities, which aren’t necessarily related to their background. In contrast, Chilean people feel uncomfortable taking on tasks that are outside of their expertise or area of responsibility.
The one time it’s OK to micro-manage
Typically, Chileans expect to receive reward or punishment, depending on the outcome of their work performance. In practice this means that in order to retain talent in Chile, there must be an incentive – people who perform well expect economic rewards above their salary. 
Chilean employees also expect more control in a step-by-step way, unlike New Zealanders, who usually just need to be clear on what´s needed to get the job done. In order for a job to be successfully performed a high level of supervision is required and even expected. 
Get your game face on
The Chilean business environment is highly competitive and New Zealand companies need to learn to be more “aggressive”, particularly in the earliest stages of entering the market.
Another key factor in success is speed to market. Focus and dedicated effort should be oriented to strategy, rather than spent on understanding bureaucracy, and this will help accelerate penetration. 
New Zealand managerial efforts and resources must be dedicated to facing strategic issues such as commercial opportunities and strategic alliances, leaving local specialists to deal with Chilean particularities. Equally, investment in marketing must be a priority. 
Juan Manuel Gonzalez is a Beachheads advisor in Chile. With 22 years' experience leading top executive positions in large Chilean companies he has a perspective on how New Zealand companies should go about doing business there. 
For more information on Chile’s economy and opportunities for business click here: 
Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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