Friday, 28 May 2010

A Business Day in Mexico

Our guest blogger this week is Chris West - divisional managing director at the Mexican subsidiary of a large Spanish publishing group and author of our latest title, “The Lowdown: Doing Business in Mexico.”

Wake up around 0600, it's still dark but the birds are twittering merrily in the trees around my house.

Off to the airport for a flight to Monterrey in the north of Mexico. I'm going to team up with a distinguished textbook author from Spain, who's going to begin a series of lectures at prestigious universities.

The traffic is light and I'm soon at Mexico City airport Terminal 2, which is quite new and quite smart, and seems to be modelled on Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2F. Leading local airline Aeromexico dominates the scene and at the right time on the right day you can breeze through from the entrance to being on board a plane within ten minutes. Which is what I do, catching a plane an hour earlier than the one I was booked to fly on.

Surprise! My author is on the same plane, on the last leg of a three-segment flight from Barcelona in economy...publishing marketing budgets aren't what they used to be. He tells me he's just been informed his luggage only made it to Madrid.

70 minutes later we touch down in muggy Monterrey, 32 degrees in the shade and 90% humidity. A guy from the office whisks us to the author's hotel, and he wanders off to buy some clothes and a shaving kit.

I go to the office where the atmosphere is a bit tense as we've just had to fire someone for selling sample copies...educational publishing isn't as sexy as selling fiction but it has its rules.

After an hour or so of delving into coverage plans and market share analysis, I wonder why I feel cold. Ah! The air conditioning unit is set at a glacial 16 degrees. The "Regiomontanos", as the people of Monterrey are called, love air conditioning.

Lunch-time comes round and our author has fresh clothes and is ready to give his first lecture in the mid afternoon.

We agree no alcohol and a salad would seem to be called for to combat jet lag - the time difference is 7 hours.

Bad news arrives on the way to the restaurant. There has been a shoot-out between the army and the drug traffickers very near the University where our author is scheduled to speak.

No-one got killed but the University was evacuated and the faculty and students will not be coming back today. No chance of re-scheduling.

The author decides to change strategy, and plumps for a margarita and a steak, followed by a huge desert involving a mango formed into a spiral staircase with coconut ice cream on its rungs. Goat is the favourite local dish but can be greasy.

So it's back to the office after lunch and a chance for the staff to ask the author

about his work.

Some of the people in the office appear glum. Ah! Mexico has been playing a friendly match against England, who won 3-1. We have Holland, Italy and The Gambia to go and there is some rather desultory conversation about our chances.

By the end of the day we have finished planning sixteen more talks for the visiting author in five more cities, and he still doesn't know where his luggage is.

As is frequently the case on field trips, the team decides that everything is going well and we will make our budget and our bonuses. I pull out the predictions from this time last year and point to the gap between the estimate and the final result, and we calculate the "salesman optimism factor". Over the years I have observed that people coming into the publishing industry from the pharmaceutical industry forecast better than those joining from the automotive industry. How can I monetise this knowledge?

And so back to the airport, and a chance to chew over market trends with the head of a competing publishing house in the down time before the flight leaves.

Nuts! Is all they serve today on a dinner-time flight and they appear to be unfamiliar with wine. But the flight is mercifully on time.

Get back home before midnight thanks to a mad taxi driver who storms through the deserted streets - not much doing late on a Monday night. The dogs make a fuss of me but soon take me to an empty food bowl. Now, do I prepare for tomorrow's 0900 board meeting now or early tomorrow? You guess... – Chris West

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