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An executive’s guide to Brazil’s business hub.

BY JOACHIM BAMRUD
Latin Trade Magazine

Insights and advice from Jose Antonio Rios, chairman of Global Crossing, Latin America, and David Berger, managing director, Latin America & Caribbean, NAI Global.

What do you like most about traveling to São Paulo?

Rios: Over the last 39 years, my wife has documented that I have gone to São Paulo over 300 times. … São Paulo is a major business center, so meetings are, more times than not, of critical importance and with intelligent and well-prepared people. Great people, great conversations, open and global concepts, plus great food and good hotels, make a positive difference. More and more regional business is done every day in São Paulo.

Berger: What I like most in São Paulo is the people. Brazilians, from my experience, tend to have a joie de vivre and friendliness that I have only encountered in Italy. Second, and in a tight race, is the quality and the variety of the food. And the coffee.  I have never had consistently great coffee anywhere else, even in meetings!

What do you like least?

Rios: Least I like the traffic and the length of time it takes to go from one place to another, so it takes great strategic planning for each visit and move, plus the prioritization and sequence of the events in order to make the days useful and productive. … In addition, São Paulo has become one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Berger: Wow, that is difficult for me. I am a glass-half-full type of person. Oh, yes, the traffic during the day. There are few places on earth that suffer that inconvenience more than São Paulo.

What are your preferred hotels?

Rios: Renaissance and Hyatt are tops for me, for their integral quality plus wonderful locations. In addition, Unique may be the best in São Paulo, even if it is not considered a top executive hotel. Their rooftop bar, with the infinity pool and the view of the city, makes it an outstanding Brazilian place.

Berger: My preference for hotels revolves around the proximity to our São Paulo office that is located along Avenida das Nações Unidas in Berrini. The priority hotel in that area is the Hilton São Paulo Morumbi, primarily for one reason — it has a fully equipped gym and swimming pool. Of course, it is also a very comfortable hotel, with a staff that tends to understand the traveling business person’s needs.

What restaurants do you recommend?

Rios: Rubayat Figueira is one of my favorite restaurants worldwide. Gero in São Paulo (and Rio) are outstanding, with some of the best Italian food anywhere. Their polenta-based dishes are out of this world.

Berger: I generally like to explore and find local ones to experiment. But one I particularly like is the Terraço Itália in the city center. It does serve good cuisine; however, its location is unparalleled. It sits on the penthouse floor of a high-rise office building and offers a spectacular view of the city.  From there, one can appreciate the urban expanse and the “forest” of condo towers.  When eating at a churrasqueria, the Fogo de Chão is generally consistently good. For Italian food, Due Cuochi Cucina.

What practical advice would you give to someone who is visiting São Paulo for the first time on business?

Rios: I would say that good preparation is key and getting the right advice from local Paulistas, ranging from where to stay and eat all the way to the most important logistical sequence matched to the traffic and distances. That is obviously in addition to understanding well who you are meeting with, what are your and their expectations and having clear goals with a reasonable timeline and process — not the U.S. or European style, but modern Brazilian and Paulista style. If you can, extend your trip to a weekend where you can tour, visit, learn from Brazil and São Paulo. Learn or try to learn as many Portuguese words and expressions as you can, as well as learning about their foods and traditions. It will not be time wasted, but perhaps the time that will give you added ammunition to be successful long term in your business venture.

Berger: Given the heavy daily traffic, plan the meetings with enough time between them.

Do not stress about arriving a bit late to meetings; no one better than the Paulistanos understand that time trap. Bring all the mobile devices in the car when driving between meetings to use the downtime well. And, if riding with local colleagues, have meetings in the car. Always have a driver or someone else drive. If possible, try to bunch the meetings geographically as much as possible, and ask locals to advise regarding the traffic patterns to facilitate travel between meetings. Suit and tie are generally standard business attire, but the code is becoming more relaxed, especially during the warmer humid months. Calling prior to a meeting to ask [about] the dress code is acceptable. Be prepared to be presented with a lot of food, and a large variety of it. A churrasqueria is a never-ending smorgasbord of culinary options. If you indulge, pace yourself. Caipirinihas — a local bar drink — if you drink alcohol it is not to be missed, but drink cautiously.  If you want to work out, “gym” translates as “Academia.” 

This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Latin Trade magazine.

 

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