The future of work is a hot topic these days. Technology is developing quickly, disrupting how, where, and when people work. Many worry about the loss of jobs as a result of AI and robotics, while others celebrate the potential for increased flexibility and collaboration across time zones and cultures.
These changes in the workplace are taking several forms. One is the shift towards the gig economy, where workers act as free agents in contracted positions, often working multiple jobs simultaneously. Freelancers now make up 36% of the working US population, and were the fastest-growing group in the EU labor market between 2000 and 2014. In Latin America, technology is the key to increasing Latin America’s employment and productivity rates, and startups are at the heart of this change in the region’s workplace.
Below are a few areas of disruptive change in the Latin American workplace, and the entrepreneurs at the forefront of that change.
Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed nearly 100 entrepreneurs on my podcast Crossing Borders about their experiences doing business in and across Latin America.
I always ask them to offer their advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, and one topic that comes up often is how they create a team that drives their companies to succeed. It takes time and effort to find the right people who fit your company culture and can meet a startup’s needs.
So I decided to round up the best advice on finding, building, and maintaining a successful startup team from these entrepreneurs. Check out their advice below.
1. Hire people who fit your company culture
Komal Dadlani, the founder of Chilean science education startup Lab4U, says that when they were starting out they made the mistake of hiring “senior executives” that were not ready to sell a scrappy startup product. As a result, she found herself handling most of the sales, and paying a high price for experienced workers who weren’t meeting the company’s needs and weren’t a great fit for the company culture.
Instead, she advises not to be dazzled by years of experience. In an early-stage startup with a small team, every person needs to pull their weight. It’s important to look for people who are a good cultural fit, and who are willing to do any task – big or small – to get the job done.
When I first got to Chile in 2010, it took me five years to understand all the nuances of how business was conducted. There are several important cultural differences between LatAm and the US that foreign entrepreneurs should pay attention to if they want to be successful. There are also very important differences across Latin American countries that should also be accounted for. Here is a distilled list of what I’ve learned about doing business across borders. This podcast is based on a talk I gave to Start-Up Chile and the subsequent blog post that I wrote called Advice to Foreigners Running Startups in Latin America.
Note: A version of this post appeared as a column in Spanish in Chile’s El Mercurio with the title Emprendedores chilenos: Pierdan el miedo a EE.UU. Although this post focuses on Chilean entrepreneurs, it can also apply to other Latin American entrepreneurs. From what I’ve seen, Mexican entrepreneurs are the least scared of the US market, followed by Argentinians, Colombians, then Chileans, who generally think they don’t have much of a shot at competing in the US. This mindset is slowly changing and this article’s goal is to push it along faster.
A few weeks ago, COPEC, a Chilean convenience store and gasoline service station chain, acquired Delek, a US convenience store and gas station chain with 348 US locations for $535MM. COPEC has operations in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Panama, but this is their first foray into the US market. It’s an important step for Chile because it shows that both big companies and startups alike shouldn’t be scared of the US market. In fact, they should view the US market as a big opportunity to expand outside of their home markets.
For way too long, when Chilean companies large and small have wanted to expand out of Chile, they’d look at Peru, Colombia and maybe Mexico. But we’re recently seeing a big change, both by startups and by big companies like COPEC.