Brazil, the world’s fifth-largest country by size and population, is a huge market full of opportunities. It is not the easiest market to penetrate. Atlanta-based, Brazilian native Danila Palmieri presents critical issues of the country’s culture starting with what you may ask when interviewing employees, to the importance of establishing personal relationships, labor laws, leadership, and ways that Brazilian businesses adopt strategic planning. Danila also presents Brazil as a source of start-up engineers and software developers, key factors about pricing, and marketing benefits and appeals that work equally well in Spanish America.
Fundamental issues Americans need to know when working with Brazilian Companies
The rules to operate companies in Brazil.
Management style in Brazilian companies
Strategic Planning in Brazil
Trends in Spanish-Speaking Countries
Atlanta-based Danila Palmieri brings over 20 years of experience in financial services, manufacturing, mining, & metals companies in Brazil, Spanish America, and the United States. She served as Human Resources & Organizational Development Manager in Brazil. She helped lead M&A processes in Spanish America and Brazil, working to integrate the cultures of the acquired companies.
In 2013, she moved to the US and founded Connect Solutions, intending to support Brazilian companies operating in the US. Focused on Strategic Management Planning, Organizational Development, Recruitment & Selection, Employee Relations, Compliance, American Labor Law, & adaptation to the local culture.
In Atlanta, she was part of the Brazilian American Chamber of the Southeast USA team for seven years and Chairman for one year. For five years, served as a board member of the World Trade Center Atlanta.
She holds an MBA in Business Management with an emphasis on human resources from Fundação Getúlio Vargas, São Paulo & a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the Faculty of Industrial Engineering, São Paulo. She also studied Financial Management at Emory University, Startup Funding at Cambridge University, Customer Service Experience at George Washington University, and is currently studying the Chief Human Resources Officer Program at the Wharton University of Pennsylvania.
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[email return to Philip@Auerbach-Intl.com]
Hello everyone. Since today’s guest comes from Brazil, I thought it would be appropriate to do a blooper in Portuguese and I have to ask your forgiveness in advance. Portuguese is not one of my languages and I’m sure the Brazilians in the audience and other Portuguese speakers will tremendously criticize my horrible pronunciation, but I will give it a try.
And just as a reminder, nationalities have different ways of pronouncing vowel sounds and as many of you know from perhaps speaking or hearing speakers of Spanish or Portuguese, there are certain sounds that Spanish speakers and Portuguese speakers do not say very clearly in English, which we will illustrate in this blooper.
So, the Portuguese said, “Praia Limpa. Não deixe lixo na areia” which basically means, “Please do not litter.” And the sign said in English. “Please do not litter. Everyone loves a clean bitch” instead of a “clean beach,” of course. And this is exactly why you need to use a professional language agency to review slogans and company names and product names. Before you enter any new foreign market, be sure that what you’re saying is not offensive at all in those languages.
So, today’s guest is Atlanta-based, Danila Palmieri. Danila Palmieri brings over 20 years of experience in financial services, manufacturing, mining, and metals companies in Brazil, Spanish America, and the United States. She served as Human Resources and Organizational Development Manager in Brazil. And she helped lead M&A processes in Spanish America and Brazil, working to integrate the cultures of the acquired companies.
In 2013, she moved to the US and founded Connect Solutions, intending to support Brazilian companies operating in the US, focused on Strategic Management Planning, Organizational Development, Recruitment & Selection, Employee Relations, Compliance, American Labor Law, and adaptation to the local culture.
In Atlanta, she was part of the Brazilian American Chamber of the Southeast USA team for seven years and Chairman for one year. For five years, served as a board member of the World Trade Center Atlanta.
Welcome, I’m delighted that you’re with us today.
Thank you so much. Philip, I have to congratulate you because the majority of people will try only the “Obligada” or “Bom Dia” and not the whole phrase, and with some words that might be tricky and you did well. Your pronunciation, I could say, it’s understandable for us.
So, thank you so much, and great job.
My pleasure. Thank you.
Let’s start with the US as a frame of reference. When doing business with Brazilian companies, what are some of the fundamental issues that Americans need to know about?
So, the major difference I see as a Brazilian, we love to know people, right? We love to know personal Information. We ask for a lot of personal information, right? It is something I always tell my clients here in the US and say, hey, when you go to an interview, don’t ask about your candidate’s personal life. This is against the law.
So, when you say, oh my God, how could this be?
Because in Brazil, you know, the ice-breaking question. We always start. Hey Philip. Right. How are you? Or where do you live? Oh, did it take long for you to commute here? Are you married? Do you have kids? How old are your kids? Oh, where do they go to school? Oh, my God. Your soccer team is your favorite, right? What kind of wine do you like?
The talking goes on and on and on. So, this is important. So, Americans when they go to Brazil be prepared because it is kind of usual conversation. We like to create a relationship. We like to get to know people, right? Not only in their professional skills and experience but also in their personal life, their hobbies, where they like to travel to, the experience they have. So that is something important to know and not to be scared of because in Brazil, you’re probably going to be asked this kind of question.
So, I’m sure Brazilian companies would ask a person his or her age, or ask a woman if she’s married and all those kinds of questions that American law prohibits. Is that correct?
Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. So is usual in our resume. Mainly you put your home address, your phone number, and sometimes a picture. Sometimes you say I’m married and 46 years old, with one kid. In the resume right in here, it’s totally and I can tell you, Phillip, like the over 10 years working here, right in the American market, bringing Brazilians, Brazilian companies. Now I feel like, oh my God, we should ask these types of questions more and more in Brazil. Are changing these as well, right?
Some of us adapt to this, but on a daily basis it’s our culture. Get to know people you know in your personal life. If I think of another thing that is always different, it’s about time, right? Usually here in the US when inviting somebody to a party or you have a reception or even a kid’s birthday party, right? My daughter has a birthday party today from 4:30 to 6 and that’s it. 4:30 everybody’s there. 6:00pm Bye. Thank you. Right. This is not kind of that, right? We say that if we schedule lunch for noon, people will start showing up at 12:30 and we never set up a time to end something, right? So sometimes on the weekends, we’ve… Oh, let’s have a barbecue. And this BBQ starts at 12:00 PM and goes all the way through 6:00 PM in some families. Right. And I can tell you that is something that I like here in the US because you can plan accordingly, right? And on the business side, of course, we respect it more, but it’s not unusual for people to arrive 10 or 15 minutes late, right?, and sometimes you set up 30 minutes.
Actually, here in the US, we set up oh let’s have a Zoom call for 30 minutes. In Brazil now for me, it is so interesting that people put on my calendar for one hour and I said, Oh my God, one hour for what? Because we talk a lot about Amenities, you know a lot of things that are outside the topic. And then we go to the topic. So here in the US, we are more objective and straight to the point in Brazil. We, as I said, like to get to know people a little bit.
So, we kind of spend a little time, get to know them, and then go straight to the topic I believe is some differentiation that can be in acting right and winning. As an American, be prepared for when we are in Brazil and we are meeting with Brazilian executives, and Brazilian companies in a professional level, we can expect this kind of behavior. I see more now that Brazilian companies are coming here, right? We are kind of also changing a little bit, but still, it’s part of our culture, right? We don’t change that so easily.
That’s very interesting. The part about resumes is very common in Europe also. And it’s again, it’s illegal in this country because it’s considered discriminatory.
Many cultures, as I’ve said in previous podcasts… Most cultures outside the United States are really about getting to know the candidates and getting to know the potential partner with whom you’re going to do business on a personal level. And after you learn all of these wonderful personal details, that develops the trust from which the relationship can blossom. And it’s a very Latin American, European, Middle Eastern, and Asian way of doing business as well.
The companies in Brazil operate by different sets of rules than they do in the United States. Can you speak about some of those rules, for example?
Yes, I can. I can speak about labor law more in detail. So, in Brazil, we have a CLT that is our labor law and mainly is federal. That is another differentiation here, right in the United States, we have different differences between states. In Brazil, no. It’s federal law. It’s the same for all the states. We don’t have major differentiation in the states as we have it here. Right? When you go to California, some labor laws apply there. That is not the same in Florida and so on and so forth. No, Brazil is just one.
And once you are an employee under this CLT labor law, your employer has to give you 30 days’ vacation and has to pay you what we call the 30th salary. So instead, I have a 12-month payment. I have 12 months plus one month. Usually, by the end of the year, they pay what they pay of course, our vacation has some rules about vacation. We can only have a vacation after 12 months of employment, 30 days which can kind of usually be two weeks, two weeks or 20 days, 10 days, and also does not only work the days, but it’s 30 days all straight with the weekend’s holidays. We don’t count only weekdays as we do here. Right?
Another thing is maternity leave. We have six months between four and six. More and more Brazilian companies now offer six-month maternity leave that the companies pay moms. Full salary for the six months and sometimes you can bring your vacation together, right? And you can put all these and if you also have some extra hours right that you can take it, you can put it all together and stay home perhaps eight months.
Is there paternity leave also for fathers or just for…?
Mothers, just for mothers, what the companies are doing now, is going to have some parental leave for daddies. The law gives five days after the child was born.
But the mom stays home and also has some laws that you can breastfeed in the office as well that allow you to do that, your employer cannot restrict that. So, it’s this kind of differentiation between the relationship between employer and as an employee here in the US, we are very based. It’s based on the contract, right, that the employer-employee has even though you have your guidelines, your policies maybe for Danila, my, my vacation I give 15 days. But Danila comes with this 20-plus years. She already has, you know…So, we negotiate.
In Brazil it is the same no matter how many years in the market, no matter which level you are in, the organization, and the senior level or the entry level. By law, you’re going to have 30 days of vacation after one year or 12 months of working for that employer.
Also, if you are terminated, the company will pay a fee because of that. And here, we pay our taxes, right? Like SUTA, FUTA, and so on and so forth. We pay more or less the same in Brazil, and the company pays the part. And you’re part and. But if you are terminated, the company… kicks you out, they have to pay this tax that they pay for you. They have to give it back. Let’s say it this way. So, when you are unemployed, the company pays a fee for that as well.
Does Brazil have national unemployment insurance?
Yes, I also have employment insurance. Here you apply for the local government, and for a couple of months based on your salary of course they’re not going to pay you if you earn a lot of money, they’re going to pay like a percentage. They have tiers, right? Depends on your salary but has a cap for it as well.
Very interesting. Again, that sounds very similar to European law in many countries, but not all.
What is the management style in Brazilian companies? Is it more top-down where the boss makes the decision and the employees implement the boss’s desires? Or is it where upper management welcomes input from below and then adopts it accordingly? Is there a trend?
Yeah, the trend is more and more involving the team and more horizontal structures than the hierarchy, right? So, I will say it depends on the company, depends on the culture. You have a variation on that I believe like here, here in the US, like if you have a family on, they might act differently from a corporation, right?
But if you go to corporations, if you go to these big companies, they are towards a more shared leadership, shared opinions you know involve the team. I don’t see a really big difference between Brazil and here.
More and more startups, right, more and more new market companies that we’ve been seeing the past 20 years, right, they kind of manage the same. And in Brazil, we use a lot of concepts, methodologies, and authors, right? So many, many things we learn from America about leadership and emotional intelligence. You know how to create teams. How to retain it. How to reveal performances, review etcetera, etcetera. We use a lot of techniques and methodologies that were created here in the US. We’re applying in the US from big universities as well.
So, I don’t see huge differentiation. What I see differently is the way we work. What I mean to say is here in the US I always tell my clients this… well, if you hire someone to pack something, he’s going to pack going to unpack. All right, so you have to pack and unpack. Don’t ask for the packing guide to unpack or the unpacking guide to pack.
In Brazil, it’s like we are multitasking usually. I had a client one day. They called me saying hey, we are having a problem here in the US. We cannot retain people. People are not coming to work for us because we asked them to do different things, but they cannot. Like in Brazil, it’s kind of we work as a team, we work as if we have to pack a lot of stuff, we ask the unpacking guy to come and let’s do this and this guy is going to help you there. Here they don’t want to do that. Right?
So that’s for me. It’s the differentiation between how I manage my team, and how I talk to them, right? This is my job description. That’s what you expected from me. So, this flexibility in Brazil, we have more flexibility. Like that.
I think what you’re talking about is more union-based. Ask employers here how many people does it take to change a light bulb: One to hold the ladder, one to get the bulb, one to actually unscrew it, and another to screw it in because there are four different jobs among unions in the US. Of course. So yes, it depends on the company. But yes, what you’re talking about is very true.
A very extreme example, right?
I was also.
But it’s the way culturally wise I see the differentiation right, but of course. When you go to a patient and to an office it’s different, right? Not this.
What about strategic planning? Do Brazilian companies operate in a different way, or have different assumptions than American or European companies would?
In Brazil, we have a lot of instability, right? There was a minister in Brazil that used to say that in Brazil, even the past is unpredictable. Right? So that’s where we rely a lot in our strategy, right? What the government changing impacts is because if you change the government, they change everything. It’s not like it is in the West. Of course, we see some change when we have shifted governments, but we can keep something going more smoothly. In Brazil, we have these ups and downs and ups and downs.
So, when we plan this strategically, we bring this unpredictability to our strategy, right and also once we are not a country, as in the US, where our economy, internal economy, right, can hold everything, in Brazil, we don’t have that power, right, that our consumers will hold that power to our economy, so we have to export a lot. We have to become more and more global, right? The companies are looking more and more… The ones that are not already international are starting to study more and more. So that’s I believe is the main difference. Everything else right is the same as my competitors are going. Where they are in the world, like in the mining company. I have worked for ten years of my life in the mining metal industry.
So, every year we did strategic planning for five years and then kind of every year we reveal. So, we were saying, what are new projects coming in the world? So, we’re going to have more metal in the industry. Where they are in China, what is the price where they are coming from? So, this type of information that any company uses, right? But in Brazil, we focus a lot on our unpredictability, right, and the taxes are not easy like here in the US and are not easy in Brazil… Same way, very complicated.
Many companies have contingency plans, but because of the unpredictability, do many companies in Brazil have, like Plan A if this, Plan B if that, Plan C If…
Yes, yes, we do different scenarios, yes.
Very interesting. In many ways, Brazil is still a developing country. Do Brazil, Brazilian and foreign companies and foreign-invested companies find any issues with the labor force, such as levels of education or lack of supply at certain skill levels that they’re looking for?
Well, you have to be conscious and aware, right, as the US we are a big country, right? We have like I’m from São Paulo, a big city. right? 20 million people are right in the great São Paulo. It is different when you go more to the Northeast, right? We don’t have a lot of professionals in Brazil, we have the majority of the companies, have offices in Brazil, right?
So, depends on where you are and depends on. In the right tech industry mainly, we are being developed more in the Southeast. Right. Even though we have some investments, but If you like, you have more in the center of Brazil Midwest and also in the Northeast. So it really depends on what you are looking for.
In Brazil, we have a lot of great professionals who have international experience. You speak a different language, of course. You don’t have as here we have sometimes some issues about Brazilians speaking good English, right?
So, when they come in here, some of my clients say, “Oh, now I have to learn real English. I said yes to it. Right, it cannot be McDonald’s English or Starbucks English, but we’ve been aware that more and more companies here in the US are hiring tech people in Brazil. Right, Engineers, Software developers, etc.
Because we have in Brazil innovation, creativity, right? and also, the price point is cheaper. If I have my income in dollars and pay in reais, right?, so more and more we see this happening and of course, what is better, we are kind of the same time zone, different from Europe, from India, right? So more and more we’ve been seeing this happening in the tech industry, let’s say this way.
That leads to a question about foreign direct investment, to foreign investors in general. What kind of adaptations must they make when they are acquiring or starting a business in Brazil?
Well, I believe the same. I’ll tell my Brazilian clients, right? Understand the culture and understand how to do business. Understand the market, understand who your customers are, and how they buy things, right? We have to change our mindset.
I had an opportunity to work with a company that was developing some drinks in Brazil, right, they were preparing a pre-prepared drink like you, you just add vodka or something else, but you have that mixture. And they were doing this in Brazil, and they asked me to try this Moscow meal, or this Manhattan, or this old-fashioned, right? And when I try it, I say guys, it’s really good, but it’s a Brazilian taste. It’s not an American taste. If I compare a Manhattan that I drink here in the US and a Manhattan that you are giving me for the Americans, they’re going to say this is not in my hand. This is something else that tastes good, but it’s something else. It’s not Manhattan, right?
So, this is important to understand what our consumers value, our taste, our Starbucks. When they started in Brazil, they had to step back a little bit and rewound because we like Cafe Zino, right? We like espresso. So, I don’t drink American coffee. I drink after ten years in the US. I drink, I drink less and less expresso. But in Brazil, right, it’s the smaller cups. .
So, we have to adapt. It’s the same way when I tell Brazilians to come here and say, hey, understand Americans’ mindset, what they value most. If the same customer persona here is the same in Brazil, maybe your product in Brazil, it’s for men, maybe here. Is not only for men, or women can also buy it.
So, it’s the same I would say for Americans really. Look at the Brazilian market as a white page. Go there, open your ears, listen, understand, and try to see between the lines. How people behave, really. Check if the same customer persona here will be the same there in demographics all over where they are, where they are valued because probably will be different.
And that leads to a question about marketing methods. So, when you talk to Americans, in many cases, the pitch is about money. This is going to save you money or save you time perhaps or bring a discount or the pitch talks about something like value for money. What about the marketing pitches in Brazil? Are there any general rules or trends that apply?
Yeah, I would say that in Brazil, we go less on the logical side, the logical side kind of be a second, right? I am going to see oh, and maybe more on the emotional side. What about this program will change my life? I will look better. I will… This enhancement is something that I’m looking for.
And then the price will be something, right? As you know. Philip, like in Brazil, and I have just left a meeting with a client saying about that. Here in the US, you ask me, hey, Danila, how much is this pen? Oh, 100 bucks. And that’s it. In Brazil, we’re going to say it’s 100 bucks, and they’re going to come to me and say, hey, Danila, but could you sell to me for 80? Could you maybe instead not give me the whole pen? You take the cap off and this gives me a discount. So, it’s part of our culture to negotiate, right?
In the US this is 100 bucks, if you like it, right? And we respect that we don’t put a value on things and on people, right? We respect what they are valued and we kind of analyze that. Oh, makes sense to me like the cost benefits. I can afford this cost, but we don’t go there and bargain right here in America but in Brazil we bargain.
So, this is another nuance, an important nuance in business. We have to educate ourselves like I used to work in another company that I was a founder of, where we were trying to help Brazilian companies bring their product here. So we were running quotes. And more than one time you were asked if this is your best price. Because here nobody will negotiate if you put some fee, take it off because they’re not going to come back to you, they will say oh it’s too expensive. Thank you so much and that’s it. So really, send us your best price to be competitive, right? Really study well and give us the best price. So, this happened more than once.
Very interesting. I mean in this country also you could negotiate, especially if you’re doing B2B and you’re buying in bulk, buying multiple items of something, of course. Are you saying even in department stores in Brazil, people can negotiate prices?
Sometimes when we negotiate the usual question is this. Because in Brazil we can now start seeing here in the US. But it’s not something that we are used to when you go buy a cell phone, for example, they go to AT&T in Brazil. Usually they say, hey, it’s this cell phone you can buy 15 times. And what we usually say is, oh, If I pay you cash now, how much will you be? What will be the discount you give, right?
So, you’re not. We’re not going to negotiate like if I’m buying groceries at the supermarket. That’s the price. But we’re going to negotiate mainly for services. Or if I’m buying something like a house, a car, jewelry, something major, we kind of always ask, like, oh, do you have any discount on that? This is the final price. Can I pay in different installments, how many? No fees? So, this is the kind of negotiation we do on a daily basis.
Does this apply to the industrial sector as well as to the commercial sector equally?
Yes, I used to work in the aluminum company, to sell out of tons and tons in, in aluminum and all metals. The price is coming for the metal exchange as a commodity.
But when you go, they kind of negotiate the price and so we can see how many tons you are buying for me once if you are buying to me in a long-term contract what kind of services I’m adding. So, this negotiation happens in the procurement area all the time, of course, like here quoting different providers, right and sometimes coming back, hey, Danila. I liked you. But I also like that Maria is offering this. You are offering that. But Maria is charging 10% less. Can you do it for 10% less?
Yeah, it makes sense.
I know you’ve worked elsewhere in Latin America. How do these trends compare to Spanish-speaking countries?
I had experience in Colombia, in Peru, mainly a little bit in Argentina and here I feel kind of the same. I think it’s our Latin culture, right, that came from our ancestors, from Italy, from Portugal, from Spain.
A little bit different in some parts, but I believe the route is the same.
Makes perfect sense. When a company is selling to the Brazilian consumer sector you mentioned, I wonder how this product can improve your life, for example, or make you beautiful or something like that. Are there any other appeals benefits or appeals that companies should consider?
Oh, I will come back to the answer that understands our culture in the sense that we like a relationship, right? So how do I communicate or how do I impact this important part of our culture to feel personal, to feel my life and the personal level will be impacted. My personal life can be for my family? Can be, you know, for my relatives? My community, right. This is an important thing to consider.
Very interesting. Also, is there anything else you’d like to add before we close?
No, Philip, I think we tagged Brazil. It’s a beautiful country. It’s a country with a lot of opportunities. But it’s not for beginners, right? Our audience here is thinking about investing or doing business in Brazil, I would say to find somebody reliable that can help you navigate through all the different legislations for business, right? Rely on local people to help you understand all that. I always say we use a lot of the American, Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce in Brazil and also go to the American consulate or really find partners there that are reliable. And I would say if you had someone from Brazil on your team, the leader would help you even more. That’s what I would like to add.
And that’s wonderful advice. I love that Brazil is not for beginners.
Yes. No, it’s not.
That’s great. Well, thank you so much, Danila. It’s just been absolutely wonderful and very informative. And really for our audience, if I recall correctly, Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, both in terms of and size as well as population. In terms of population, it’s now India, China. It was China, India. But now it’s India, China… I think the United States, Russia, and Brazil are next.
And I think.
In terms of land size, it’s very similar again. Well, Russia obviously is the biggest.
Yeah, we used to say that we are not bigger than the US because of Alaska. That we like to, you know.
Yes. Well, you add Alaska, It’s like one third of the continental United States right there. Well, thank you very, very much again, it has been a wonderful pleasure, and delighted that you joined us today.
Yes, thank you so much for having me, Philip. It was a pleasure being here. As well.
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