Booming Brazil Opens Its Doors to Foreign Executives

What is the Big Idea?


Felipe Leonard moved to Brazil from Argentina two years ago. He didn't speak the language and knew very little about the Brazilian market, but he managed to find a job as a general manager for a firm called Group Gamma. 

“This country really intrigued me,” he told América Economía. “But other than the fact that it’s a monster of a country that’s galloping along, I didn’t know anything about Brazil.”

Leonard's story is typical. "Qualified executives capable of helping Brazil maintain its rapid growth are in high demand in the Latin American juggernaut, where direct foreign investment has increased by 38 percent since 2009, even as it dropped off worldwide by 24 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. Goldman Sachs predicts that over the coming years, economic growth in the entire BRICS block will continue to outpace the world average. Besides Brazil, the BRICS group includes Russia, India, China and South Africa."

Read the full story here.

What is the Significance?

It should come as no surprise that the U.S. is taking the world's best doctors. But now booming economies like Brazil are poaching the world's best business executives to help its country grow. 

These companies have to “fill the worker shortage somehow, whether it means stealing people from competitors, looking for retired people or searching for people in Europe or elsewhere in Latin America,” explains Roberto Machado, a managing director with the recruitment firm Michael Page. “Each company has its own strategy depending on the sector. In the oil industry, for example, it’s easiest to find people in Houston, Angola or Venezuela.”

"Given the labor scarcity, Brazilian firms are paying quite well these days – at least by Latin American standards," according to América Economía. "Recruiters say the rapidly growing country is also a great learning ground for international executives."

But there are also some downsides to working in Brazil. Violence is one of them. According to the U.N.’s most recent Global Homicide Study, approximately 43,000 were murdered in Brazil in 2009 – roughly 22.7 per 100,000 inhabitants.

There are also cultural barriers. 

"Brazilians have a style all their own that takes some getting used to," says Leonard. “You can be in a work meeting, and it may seem like everything went phenomenally, but no,” he says. “[Brazilians] are different, so you have to get used to the different social codes.”

Brazilian business people tend to put the onus of understanding on the listener, rather than focusing on being good communicators, according to São Paulo Business School (BSP) professor Vivian Manasse Leite. She says foreigners often struggle to decipher the implied messages. “Brazilians have a habit of not finishing their sentences, leaving the listener to intuit the conclusion,” says Manasse.

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