A former high school classmate and cherished old friend when reconnecting with Roger through Facebook quoted the old saying: "When God closes a door, he opens a window." The years have seen a number of life changes for us that make that adage ring true. After being blessed with good fortune, a wonderful son and great experiences, we decided to look out that window and prepare for more of what this wonderful life has to offer. We hope through our blog to share our journey from this point forward with family, with friends and with many others. Hopefully we'll make some new friends along the way. We hope you find our tales of some interest, even amusement and perhaps an inspiration for you to treat each and every day as an opportunity and an adventure to share with those who are an important part of your life.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Sun will come out Tomorrow!

"Manana":  "morning" or "tomorrow".   Those are the two definitions given for this Spanish word in the Merriam-Webster Dictionario: Espanol-Ingles.
We Expadorians have learned to add another definition of our own: 
"not today!". 

For us and our Ecuadorian counterparts, it's really looking at the same thing but interpreting it differently.  When discussing timetables, we will ask our Ecuadorian suppliers "when" and they may respond "manana".   From our point of view, we just got a firm committment for the very next day.  Without more specifics in the exchange above, this may not be the case.  The mananas that exist beyond today are numerous.  If you want a committment  from an Ecuadorian as to which "manana" you had better be asking some additional specific questions.  

In the above example, Let's assume the conversation took place on Monday: 
"Manana!" .... 
Our next statement becomes: 
"At what hour on Tuesday will you be at my house?"....
With that statement you just specifically defined what YOUR OWN expectation of "manana" is.  Don't be surprised if the vagueness continues. They may even agree to a specific time on Tuesday but might slip in a conditional clause that gives them a optional to choose a different "manana":
 "Senor, If we have all the materials on hand, we will at your house between the hours of ten and twelve on Tuesday!".  
 (This means that if something isn't on hand, they are well within their perogative to delay until say, Wedneday or Thursday, and to them, they have already duly informed you that this might happen!) 
In such a case you may be wise to respond:
 "Do you know for a fact that you DO have all materials on hand?". 
If they respond in the affirmative, you go on to reconfirm the day and time:  
" Good, then I will definitely be expecting you to be at my house between the hours of ten and twelve on Tuesday!".  
If any other answer occurs, you need to further qualify the what-ifs:
" Who can we call right now to determine if all your materials are on hand and if not, how do we determine when they will be on hand  so we may decide at what hour and what day you will definitely be at my house?

You get the picture, eliminate all contingencies you can and address all the potential problems and try to get a firm comittment.  Failure to do so invites the potential for a reasonable ( from the Ecuadorian perspective, though not necessarily yours) unannounced delay.  Even with all the qualification, you probably have only about an 80% chance of having the appointed time and day met as anticipated.  Be prepared for some sort of delay.

Displaying frustration or anger probably won't expedite the process either.  In fact, those you are attempting to influence may be perplexed, insulted or just plain resentful at your display of emotion over what to them is just a normal turn of events in the natural course of business. 

The key here is understanding perceptions on both sides.  You have to understand that they perceive the situation differently than you do and respect that difference.  Note that I suggested understanding and respect of their perceptions.  I DID NOT, however, suggest that you have to accept it as the proper way to conduct business.  What I DO suggest is that you clearly, politely and respectfully clarify your expectations in the transaction.   You must then both qualify and quantify your vendors consent to those expectations.  The verbal exchange listed above is an example of the process you may have to go through.  While it might seem tedious and redundant, it will be necessary if you want to get through the majority of your transactions in a sucessful and timely manner.

Through trial and error and the school of hard knocks, we've learned to ask many questions and to explain what we expect based on what we hear our vendors saying.  We have gone so far as to say that we understand many Ecuadorians, in an effort, to please their customers, will say what they believe the customer wants to hear and will avoid discussing potential problems and issues.   We go on to explain, however, that we come from a  different business culture.  For us, it is customary for the customer to be frankly informed of ALL the potential issues in order to conduct a proper business transaction.  We want our transaction to work well and fairly for both of us.  We hope they understand this is the reason for our many, many questions and our insistence upon being very clear and very committed to what we jointly agree to.   This process, when done with polite courtesy seems to have helped us.

 In those rare cases where our statement was treated with some hesitation and resentment, we thanked them for their time and patience and went on down the road.

 Meeting each other halfway is the key to happy outcomes in your business transactions here in Ecuador.

Rememember....if you don't think you are going to make be able to make it work, you can always tell them "Gracias" and

 "See you manana!"

1 comment:

  1. Suzanne and Roger,

    Excellent post that explains the cultural differences, and the precise and focused way in which to deal with these negotiations.

    I knew what you shared from day one from all that I had learned from previous blog experiences of frustration over "manana" and delays before I ever arrived in Cuenca.

    I have never failed to call upon my bi-linqual Ecuadorian friends who are quick when dealing with Ecuadorians who speak little or no English to handle these transactions for me, and who will not hesitate in a heart-beat to get on the phone and make sure appointments are kept. It has been rare for me to ever deal with delays and misunderstandings.

    I hope those who are considering a move to Ecuador in the future, take your words to heart and remember and act upon them when they arrive.