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Live Blogging from FFI: Tango, Mambo, Salsa...What's the Rhythm of Latin American Family Business?

October 13, 2011.  FFI Annual Conference.

"Tango, Mambo, Salsa...What's the Rhythm of Latin American Family Business?"

Presenters:  Guillermo Salazar (Exaudi Family Business Consulting, Valencia, Venezuela) and Marilena Beuses (Coaching Family Business, Palm Beach Gardens, FL)


This presentation was not just a lot of talk – it also included a lot of music!


Guillermo Salazar and Marilena Beuses presented the initial research results of a study regarding family businesses in Latin America, and they used the different beats of tango, mambo and salsa music to illustrate the differences between Latin American countries. 


Mambo music is high energy and has a constant and driving percussive beat.  Guillermo and Marilena categorized Costa Rica, Peru and Uruguay as “Mambo Countries” where people work constantly, with high energy, and considerable order.  The Mambo Country family businesses are more likely to have professionalized management and strong board of director performance.


Salsa music has a blend of rhythms and it apparently has no rules – anything goes!  And this description fits the workplace in the “Salsa Countries” – Venezuela and Mexico.  Family businesses in the Salsa Countries want family business constitutions – but they just don’t have the time to do it!


Tango music is for dancing “the tango of love and death”  -- the tension of blending two opposites into one.  The “Tango Countries” of Argentina and Columbia are most likely to report that “Our board of directors does not work properly” and they are most likely to be creating their own family councils.


Why is it important for family business people outside of Latin America to understand something about the differences between Latin American countries?  Here are a few reasons:  there are 515 million people in Latin America (compared with, for example, 291 million in the U.S.) – that means a lot of family businesses!  The GDP in Latin America is growing at an annual rate of 4.4% (compared with, for example, 2.9% for the U.S.).    So family businesses in Latin America are an important and growing segment of the global family business population.


This workshop ended with a case study examining the risks associated with a third generation Latin American family business.  Participants in the session analyzed the case in small groups and then reported out recommendations regarding how a family business consultant could best establish a relationship with the family business given the unique characteristics of this Latin American business (e.g., Start with the board?  The owners?  Create a family council?)


I am a “newbie” when it comes to family business in Latin America – so the “musical” categories of countries really helped me to think more critically about different family business cultures and their different sensitivities and needs.  I look forward to further reports from this research study as the data analysis continues.

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