Like any developing country, Mexico can offer a wealth of opportunities to investors. But watch out for the traps or you could be wasting time and money

Here, we highlight seven things you need to know:

1. Do your research

“Whatever you think you know or whatever you perceive, do your research,” advises Steve Smith, Managing Director of The Anglo-Mexican Foundation. “You have got to do some legwork first. Some of that research should be coming here and having a look. Talk to as many people as you can who are already doing business [here].”

2. Relationships are everything

In the UK it’s good to have a short chat before getting down to business. In Mexico they go further, says Mauricio Brizuela, CEO of Grant Thornton in Mexico. “I have a client who expressed surprise at how we do things here. He said, ‘I learnt that in Mexico before we start a meeting we have to spend 30 minutes talking about family, football and politics.’ After that you can go directly to the point. It is really important in our culture that you have a close relationship with the people you do business with.”

3. Patience is a virtue

Alberto Deleze, head of Schroders Mexico, emphasises that companies should bide their time before establishing themselves in Mexico. “I’ve seen businesses come in, survey the environment and leave. They needed to stick around longer to get a better understanding of the place,” he says.

4. You need local flavour

Deleze argues that Mexicans are best placed to run Mexican outfits: “You definitely need to be established in Mexico. You cannot oversee Mexico from Miami, Puerto Rico or Chile. You need to have a footprint in the country and you need to have local flavour; you need a Mexican person to run a Mexican unit. You need a lot of knowledgeable, loyal people who can develop the business and understand what the hurdles are in terms of regulations and clients.”

5. Mexico is a broad church

Brizuela adds that regional differences make specific knowledge important: “If you go to the northern region it’s completely different to the south or the centre. Their economic situation is different and the benefits, including tax benefits, that you could get from the local governments are completely different.”

Red tape is abundant but it’s easing. Setting up a business in Mexico is complicated, but it’s getting better, says Smith. “It’s much easier than it used to be. It was an odyssey and over the years I have seen so many people come to Mexico and try to set up, get frustrated and walk away.”

6. The opportunity is huge

The UK is reaching out to Mexico, yet there is scope for much more. “Trade activity between the two countries ranks 40th in the world,” says Deleze. “There are many countries with which we have a bigger trading relationship. That should change.”

7. Mexicans are a bit like the British…

According to Deleze, Mexicans – like the British – have trouble saying no: “People in Mexico don’t really know how to say no. They say: ‘Let me think about it. It’s interesting, I will get back to you. Why don’t you call me later or I will call you.’ Sometimes that just means ‘no’.”

Read more

You can find out more about doing business in Mexico in our long read on the South American country.

Image: Rodrigo Ceballos