Mexican PortThis week, I am pleased to introduce Timothy Park, Vice President at Merkle International. Merkle develops suspended refractory systems and furnace equipment for commercial glass manufacturing. After living in Mexico for three years and doing business extensively all over the world, here is Tim’s advice for business professionals traveling in this part of the world:

Mexico has had a large gap between rich and poor for many years. Corruption was tolerated, because everyone knows that the police are underpaid. The drug trade was tolerated because Mexico was just the highway from Colombia to the USA. Eventually, the drug gangs got into other types of organized crime and stopped heeding government requests to leave Mexicans alone. With the large number of super-rich Mexicans, kidnappings started in the mid-1990’s. By 2000, taxi-cab robbery schemes were popular in Mexico City. Crime spread out to other areas of the country. President Calderon (2006-2012) tried to clamp down on organized crime. In 2007, the Gulf drug cartel and their enforcer arm “Los Zetas” broke apart in an inter-gang civil war, creating a three-way war between the Mexican government, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas. In 2010, the Sinaloa Cartel joined the fray to take over more territory. In certain areas of Mexico, the war has stabilized with one of the four groups firmly in charge. Other areas are subject to sporadic firefights. Most areas are better than they were a few years ago.

There are millions of Mexicans that still live and work in Mexico. They try to lead normal lives, but they take care not to put themselves into dangerous situations. They do not drive fancy cars. They do not drive late at night. They stay to safer areas of town. Weddings that used to end at 3am end at either 7 am or 11pm.

A business traveler to Mexico should take care as he or she would in other parts of the world. Make sure you know your hotel information prior to your arrival. Send your contact a PDF page so that the driver can hold up a known sign, with known typeface and logo. Asking your contact for a direction to turn coming out of the arrivals hall or a general meeting point will keep private cab drivers away from you. For example, your contact can recommend, “When you leave arrivals, turn right and look for the sign on the left side. If you get to the Starbuck’s, you’ve gone too far. Wait at the Starbuck’s and the driver will find you.” Dinner meetings should be drawn out, with plenty of time for “sobremesa” or conversation after the meal, but it should not run too late, for security sake. Review the news and ask your contact about local conditions in the city you will be visiting.

About Timothy S. Park:

Tim is Vice President at Merkle International in Galena, Illinois, USA. Originally educated as a chemical engineer at the University of Wisconsin, Tim is a professional engineer with extensive international sales experience in highly technical industries. Tim has lived and worked in Mexico and is fluent in Spanish. He has also worked in Dresden, Germany. Tim is currently working toward an MBA through Indiana University.