March 05, 2019

Doing Business in Chile? Keep These 6 Things in Mind

By Sona Mathews
Chile is a great place to do business, even for those with limited experience outside North America. Chile is the world’s 20th freest economy, right up there with global stalwarts like France and the United Kingdom. In the Americas, only Canada and the United States earn better ratings than Chile.

This isn’t to say that doing business in Chile is a walk in the park, of course.

Doing Business in Chile? Keep These 6 Things in Mind: eAskme
Doing Business in Chile? Keep These 6 Things in Mind: eAskme

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Indeed, entrepreneurs and employed professionals need to mind a slew of local regulations, customs, and idiosyncrasies that trip up the less attentive.

If you’re thinking about dipping your toe into the Chilean market, or you’re in the midst of a corporate relocation here, you’ll want to keep these six things in mind as you get started.

1. Chile’s Economy Is Disproportionately Resource-based

Chile’s gross domestic product topped $247 billion in 2017, per the World Bank. Its undisputed strength is natural resources: Chile is a mining and agricultural powerhouse that exports everything from copper to wine to seafood — Chilean Sea Bass, anyone?

By contrast, despite growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, the service sector remains underdeveloped in comparison with fully mature North American economies.

2. Meeting Etiquette Is a Little Different in Chile

Many Latin American countries are known for their relaxed pace of life.

Though business attire is every bit as formal, perhaps even more so than in North American, European, and Asian economies, meetings tend to be less rigid.

Florida real estate expert Ralph Serrano, who’s done business extensively in South America, advises first-time business travelers to be prepared to be more flexible for meetings' scheduled end times, often take as mere suggestions.

3. Chile Is Vulnerable to Energy Market Volatility

As noted, Chile’s natural resources sector is vibrant — with one exception.

The country’s oil and gas industry is underdeveloped, leaving it vulnerable to global energy price volatility and supply chain issues.

When the price of oil rises, Chile’s economy suffers.

4. Personal Connections Matter in Chile

To some extent, “it’s all about who you know” rings true everywhere.

But it’s particularly noticeable in Latin America, where personal and familial connections open doors.

Find the right local fixer and you’ll go far here.

5. It’s Easier to Launch a Startup in Chile Than in Most Other Latin American Countries

Chile’s deference to status and personal connections hasn’t sapped its startup scene, which is among Latin America’s most vibrant.

If you’re looking to open a South American office for your early-stage enterprise, or seeking greener pastures for your first branch, you’re on the right track here.

Are You Ready for Your Chilean Debut?

Breaking into the Chilean market is a little tougher than opening your first outlet in, say, California.

As this list makes clear, first-timers need to keep an awful lot straight if they want to have a fighting chance at success in Chile — and that’s all the more true for entrepreneurs and professionals with limited prior international business experience.

A lot is riding on your efforts here; you’ll be happy you took the time to prepare.

You have questions? Share via comments.

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