Tag Archives: sme

Brazil: I’ll do it tomorrow if that’s OK?

Business Daily on the BBC World Service today was focused on the possible decision by FIFA to cancel the World Cup games in Curitiba because the stadium is not ready. The BBC is being cautious and waiting for the actual announcement from FIFA, but ESPN has already started reporting that FIFA has taken this decision and Curitiba is officially out of the World Cup.

Of course this would be a disaster for Curitiba. It’s a fantastic city that is clean, safe, and has buses that people actually use. A complete contrast from the edginess of São Paulo or the favelas dotted all over Rio. It’s the last place that you might expect to fail when Brazil has also been building new stadiums in places like Manaus and Cuiabá.

But what I found irksome when listening to the BBC coverage was the vox pops they used when characterising Brazil. There was a university professor who talked about the culture in Brazil that everything can be done tomorrow. There was the miserable commuter who spends hours travelling to and from work each day – on a good day. There was the small business owner who said how terribly difficult it is to do business in Brazil.

The coverage wasn’t balanced or fair. I have complained a fair few times about the challenges of living in Brazil, notably things like the bureaucracy associated with buying an insurance policy or registering a car. Simple transactions that should really be easier, but on balance I actually like it here. It sounds irritating to hear the BBC doing a cultural hatchet job on how all Brazilians are lazy, feckless, and would rather not do anything today because there is always tomorrow.

I run a business in Brazil. If a contractor delivers anything late then I don’t pay them. If they let me down more than once I will never work with them again. If they don’t deliver a quality service then I negotiate a new price. I haven’t had very many problems at all with this idea that nothing ever gets delivered on time – I had far more trouble when I ran a business back in the UK.

Small businesses in Brazil benefit from a simple tax structure. You just pay tax on the revenue coming into your company. No need for complex offsets or depreciation, just pay a fixed percentage on your revenue. Imagine if Starbucks was doing that in the UK, rather than transferring profit to Switzerland therefore reducing the local profit to nothing and therefore paying little or no corporation tax.

And small business owners get paid on time in Brazil. When I send an invoice to a client I tell my bank that I have sent it and who it has gone to AND when they are going to pay. If the company doesn’t pay then my bank will chase the company – like my own debt collection service. Imagine if small companies in the UK could rely on their bank to help them this way? Why don’t they do it?

There is a very vibrant start-up culture in Brazil and loads of technological innovation taking place in the big corporates and the tiny micro-businesses. State governments are handing out cash to entrepreneurs all over the country without demanding equity in return because they are actively trying to stimulate the start-up culture and the benefits that one big success can bring to a region.

My own wife is a part of this scene. She is travelling all over Brazil meeting traditional artisans and joining them together into a collective called Gift Brazil, so they can harness the power of social media tools like Facebook to promote their traditional art and culture. Can you imagine the market a traditional artist in the middle of the Amazon might usually have for their work? Just the odd tourist wandering past perhaps… now they can be seen by the entire world.

I know that balance doesn’t make for a great story. It’s easier to get clicks on a story if you tell a miserable story, rather than try spreading the good news, but in the year of the FIFA World Cup Brazil is getting showered in bad news. Everything is late, the people don’t want it, it will all be a disaster…

Well there are some great interesting projects taking place in Brazil that are redefining how people work, people are demanding and starting to get more political transparency, and some of us are looking forward to the World Cup – even though I don’t have a single ticket for any of the matches!

Toucan eye

 

Photo by Doug Wheller licensed under Creative Commons

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Are you LinkedIn?

In my view, LinkedIn is becoming one of the most important business tools available for any size of organisation. Large companies can use it to promote themselves, trigger debate, conduct open forums online, and smaller business owners can use it to reach out to prospects in a very focused way.

It really works, and the most important thing is, that almost everyone is now on there. If you are not using it then you can’t be all that serious about networking or gaining new business, because so many people now use this tool for their business.

But gaining value from time in social networks can still be a minefield. So many managers still see time in social networks as an added extra or something they just don’t have time for. How do you cut through the fat and get to the value?

Spending a day with a marketing expert who also understands LinkedIn would probably help, so I’m pleased to say that one of my neighbours in Ealing, Rod Sloane, is running a morning workshop on Feb 10th, 2011 focused entirely on how you use LinkedIn to get more business – and that’s the bottom line. It shouldn’t just be about having fun, it’s about getting more business.

Take a look here for the event listing on LinkedIn…

Rod Sloane in Walpole Park

Peerpex needs a friend

Two years ago, Peerpex.com was born. The idea was to tap into the increasing trend for smaller companies to use outsourcing, especially to search for overseas partners. That trend has increased and there is an increasing need for a tool such as Peerpex to connect smaller firms together, but the founders are struggling to make it happen.

Why? Because we are all really busy working on the things we need to do to keep the lights on at home.

Stephen Page runs Sapphire Group, and a number of other companies, including the ideas incubator Ortegra along with Jay Shah. Mark Kobayashi-Hillary is a well-known blogger and media commentator with several new books in production.

Since Peerpex was born we have built a strong technology platform and search engine. You can see the draft site at www.peerpex.com, which does work, but is not representative of the final product as there isn’t much data there.

Peerpex is not designed to replace Linked In – it’s unlikely anyone will do that for some time. It’s designed to be an international community for smaller companies interested in working together, to promote and facilitate a community of small and medium-sized outsourcing.

We originally planned a business model focused on the sale of qualified leads, but that idea cooled when we felt it presents Peerpex in the same light as the many sites that allow individual contractors and freelancers to pitch for work. Some of those sites work really well, but we want Peerpex to sit in a niche where it supports smaller companies, not just individual freelancers.

So, we think the idea is still good. P2P is a proven model. Outsourcing is expanding to be used by smaller firms. And there is no simple network helping smaller companies to find each other. Plus there is some strong technology that has been developed for Peerpex, along with a lot of ideas about how to make it work.

But Mark and Stephen don’t have the time each day to make this a success – we need an executive manager to take charge and redefine the business model, strip out the technology that’s not going to work, and to give the project some focus. It’s a success waiting to happen.

In return, you will get a significant share of the company. If you don’t have the time to do it personally, but you are interested in investing so we can hire a manager, that’s another option we could explore together.

Get in touch.

stephenp@sapphiregroup.com

mail@markhillary.com