UNO December 2013

The challenges of internationalization in the Latin American company



Latin America is a fertile land when it comes to finding companies and business ideas which don´t leave anybody indifferent. In many cases, the family is the cradle and the reason for being of many of them. In others it is the actual family who decides not to go ahead and sell everything or part of this activity. There are numerous and very well-known examples that illustrate all of this.

Nevertheless, if something characterizes the Latin American business man, it is his commitment with the community and the country that saw him grow up and develop. They can change their place of residence but they become genuine ambassadors of their countries of origin, while at the same time safeguarding the reputation of the company.

If a leader thought before in monetizing his business, today he thinks more in extending his operation to different markets. First to those that are geographically closer, united by the language and the scarce time difference, but distant in culture and cohabitation rules. Examples of all the above are, amongst others, the cases of Sura in Columbia, Vale in Brazil and Mabe in Mexico.

The great current referents are “multilatinas”, companies which by definition should be capable of generating more than 50% of their income in countries different from those of origin; and in which at least 60% of their staff are also represented by the employers of the operations abroad. This implies that those responsible for internationalization should know how to transmit in the countries of arrival a strong corporate culture, which doesn´t depend only on the country of origin of the make but of the strength itself of the business to facilitate the generation of new income and the linkage of the best professionals.

 If before a leader thought of monetizing his business, today he thinks more about expanding his operation to other markets

In the process of internationalization the weight of the operational variables is considerable: analysis of the market and of the competitive capacity of the company; availability of human resources and capital; potential acquisitions or strategic alliances. But a critical role is also played by the ability of the companies to reply to the confidence in one market or another and manage a close and empathetic connection with its stakeholders.

mestevez_jrivera_1There are many cases where the above becomes an arduous task, which empowers executives with the need to count on a global corporate culture which transmits a unique image without fissures to markets, clients and communities. The virtuous circle of reputation gains more importance than ever, when it comes to achieving an economic and cultural globalization. This transition from a local company to a global company is the one that many corporations undertake, the moment they land in new markets.

In this journey, the reputation model should be a fundamental axis to help assure the coherence between the goals of the organization and the comprehension and social validation of its task, promoting an intense and rich dialogue with the stakeholders of the organization. It is a question of listening and understanding how the brand is perceived, the company and its surroundings in the territory of arrival, and later takes consistent actions in time to position the desired values.

At the same time, supporting this function involves the alignment of the policies and functions of communication, corporate marketing and investment relations (IR), as well as everything related to corporate identity, social action and CSR. This should be the cornerstone on which build an international group with multi-local capacity beyond the purely operational level.

In the arrival process the challenge consists in adapting rapidly, at the same time as providing the new market with the offer, the knowledge and the talent, having landed in the new location. The tone of the territory of origin is not always that of arrival… but without doubt what is said and done here where we begin, is known now immediately here and there where we arrive.

The people responsible for internationalization should know how to transmit in the arrival countries a strong corporate culture

From the contribution of communication, comes the understanding of the surroundings with a basis, not only in classical research, but above all in observation, which will begin to orientate the background of the staging. It is that observer focus that will facilitate the real exposure value, the identification of risks and opportunities, the conjugation −towards its stakeholders− of the best of all worlds as is repeatedly propagated.

And to this end it is not enough for the matrix corporation to have a clear direction and to have been successful in its task to build, protect or defend the good name of the organization, it is not enough to adapt the language to project oneself, what is required above all is multiregional and multi-organizational coordination, that is to say transverse for all the company, once it sees itself as international.

To achieve efficiency, agility and alignment and impact in communication it is necessary to define and implant policies, processes and roles

The task from a conceptual point of view is simple, but requires discipline and leadership. To achieve efficiency, agility and alignment and impact in communication it is necessary to define and implant policies, processes and roles: basic guidelines for the communication management, the mechanisms to achieve this management and scope and autonomy of each market.

Nevertheless, the process of internationalization of Latin American companies should get away from unity and stagnation per se, it is obvious that in the same way that geographical barriers are commercially possible to overcome, today´s environment obliges companies to achieve diversity and plurality in communication to obtain probably the same objective, trust.


María Esteve
Managing Director of LLORENTE & CUENCA in Colombia
She is Managing Director of LLORENTE & CUENCA in Colombia. She has extensive experience in the fields of Crisis Communications and Public Affairs, stemming from her career at various communications firms and private companies. Maria joined LLORENTE & CUENCA in July 2013, after having held important positions such as Director of Corporate Communication of CorpBanca, where she worked for two years. She has a Degree in Social Communication from Pontifical Xavierian University.
Juan Rivera
Partner and Managing Director of LLORENTE & CUENCA in Mexico
Mr. Rivera is Partner and Managing Director of LLORENTE & CUENCA in Mexico. During his over 20-year-experience he has advised more than 120 companies in the field of corporate and financial communication strategies, whether merger or acquisition processes, initial public offerings or corporate restructuring. He started his career in IBM and held many different positions in a communication consultancy American multinational company. Before joining LLORENTE & CUENCA, he was the Director of Communication and Corporate Affairs in a financial institution. He is graduated in Communication and completed his training with a program of Corporate Communication and in Business Administration and Management in IESE. @jriverallyc

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