In my previous post I wrote about the problem of insecurity in Mexico and how it is actually affecting business in that country. I received some messages from the readers, asking for advice on subjects regarding security, such as the safest places to stay, the safest neighbourhoods and the safest ways to move around.
This post elaborates on the latter topic, because I think that transportation is one of the most important issues that Mexico has to solve in terms of security. While hotels are usually very safe places, especially the business class ones, and while the commercial and industrial districts have constant surveillance, due to their important role in national economy, public transportation has suffered under negligence and lack of attention during several decades.
Some of the most violent assaults and even murders occur on public buses. All the subway lines are commonly crowded, giving the perfect environment for burglars who take advantage of distraction. The “Metrobus” in Mexico City remained safe for a few years, until criminals found out their way into it. Taxis are also a common place to be robbed, especially if you are or look like a tourist.
If you are on a business trip you will probably not have to worry about transportation. Many business partners provide a driver to pick you up from the airport and take you to and from your hotel and the place where the meetings will take place. You can also rely on the taxi services at the airport, though some of the have been reported to be associated with burglars.
But you may want to look around on your own or maybe your host won’t be able to provide that sort of attentions. And, in any case, you don’t want to feel trapped at your hotel or at the business centre. That’s why some tips on how to move around on a foreign country, and especially in one like Mexico, can be helpful.
Hire only authorized and certified services
Avoid taking a taxi in the street, under any circumstance. Before your trip, do some research about the transportation services available at the airport, check the users’ opinions and hire the one that’s recommended for its quality and safety. In Mexico City you can also rely on services like Uber or Cabify.
Rent a car
If you have a valid driver licence, you can also think about car rental. You will find many options at the airport but it is also advisable for you to do some research in advance. Look for terms like “arrendamiento en México” or “renta de autos en México” and find out what the users say about each company.
Get a general knowledge about the public transportations system
Public transportation has its bright sides. It is the cheapest way to move around and in big cities is commonly the easiest one. It will be very useful for you to learn the main services and routes near the places you will visit, in case you need to take the bus or the subway. If you have to do it, take only the necessary amount of money with you, keep your wallet and credit cards in a safe place (never in the rear pocket of your pants), don’t take many valuable things with you, such as jewellery or electronic devices; if you need them, be very discrete and keep them inside your bag.
Take the local emergency numbers with you
You can find this information in any touristic guide of the city. Check the web pages, since there are frequently updated. Have also the contact information of your hotel, your host in the city and of a friend or relative in your country.
As many of my friends, colleagues and even readers know, I have some business in Mexico and I often travel to that country, in order to coordinate with my partners and supervise our common enterprises.
One question that I frequently hear and that by now has turned into a kind of ritual (if I don’t hear it before or during the trip, I began to worry) is “But, isn’t Mexico too dangerous?”.
I almost laugh at the face of people that make such comments, since you can feel the huge amount of prejudice that is behind them. Nevertheless, I can understand them and share their worries, and as I have been told by my Mexican partners, people living in Mexico understand such thoughts as well.
I would dare to calculate that from every ten reports about Mexico, appearing in international media, eight or even nine have to do with crime, violence and drugs. Broadcasts may exaggerate some circumstances, but what is not an exaggeration is the amount of criminal activity that takes place every day, in almost every major city and in several states.
Nevertheless, I think that many of the concerns that my fellow Americans express are related with prejudice, because they not react upon the news, but on the widespread idea that every Mexican –or even every foreigner– is a potential robber and that every situation that one may go through in that country is surrounded by risk and danger.
Furthermore, when I start a conversation with those people asking “Isn’t Mexico too dangerous?”, I find out that their fears are not related with robbery, kidnaping or drug dealing. For those circumstances they can think of a solution; just search for “agencias de seguridad privada” (private security agencies) in your favourite browser and hire the best guards to keep you safe. Why they really fear is the possibility of being cheated by their own business partners or the chance of suffering under the corruption that permeates all the political and judiciary systems in Mexico.
Those are real situations too, but the mistake and prejudice is to think that every citizen in Mexico will be thinking about fraud when trying to start a business with a foreign company. As I have discovered after several years of doing business in that country, there are many professionals, entrepreneurs and workers whose only goal is to do a successful job, in order to sustain their families and give them a better place to live and grow.
In every industry or institution you look, you can find honest and professional people. All you need to do is to become a good researcher and to improve your social skills, to “read” people better and faster. When you find a potential partner, being it a company or an individual, you have to check all its backgrounds. Try to learn about its history, previous business relationships and the perceptions of its clients. If you have the chance to talk with some partners or clients, don’t miss it, do it!
Based on my experiences so far, I can tell that there are two actual risks of doing business in Mexico: first, the high levels of insecurity; they can be partially sorted out by private security, but they must be analysed and solved by government instances; and second, the widespread prejudices, that can lead to intolerance and hate.
This is something that environmentalists and organizations trying to develop sustainable projects may find hard to admit, but the reality is that innovative technologies are never easy to acquire and when it comes to implement environmentally friendly devices, like solar panels, for example, it is required a huge investment of money and work.
I bring this into attention, because when we praise the countries that develop sustainable projects, and criticize the ones that doesn’t seem to be interested on them, we rarely notice that the former trend to be First World Countries, while the latter are poor ones, or at least belong to what has been categorized as “emerging markets”.
The truth is that for many countries in South Africa, India or Central and South America, the adoption of sustainable energies and production methods may imply great sacrifices. How can we demand from the head of a family, who barely affords to pay for a modest room and a daily meal for his or her offspring, to avoid using coal for heating and cooking or to install solar panels at home? Or how can a small farmer stop using pesticides for the fields or feeding the animals with hormones to accelerate their growth, if that’s what is required to increase production and remain competitive?
We may say that those people are not considering things in the long term, because if they write down some numbers, will soon find out that their investments will be profitable in the future. But the problem is that when someone faces extreme poverty or at least a great uncertainty regarding the financial situation, it is hard to plan the future. One just tries to provide for daily survival, without making further plans.
Nevertheless it is reassuring to know that some countries, considered as emerging markets, are doing their best to give huge steps towards a sustainable future. Some weeks ago, there were exciting news about Costa Rica, where a new law, prohibiting the distribution and use of plastic bags is about to be approved. This comes some years after Haiti, one of the most troubled countries in South America, prohibited the use of polyethylene, due to environmental reasons.
Mexico is another country that is doing great advances in the ground of sustainable development projects (or “proyectos de desarrollo sustentable”, as they would say in Spanish). The approach of several ONG’s and enterprises is to work directly with the people of poor communities and shown them how to take what they need from nature, but without causing devastation or the extinction of species.
The first step is to make people conscious about one important fact; if they don’t take care about environment now, soon there will be no land to seed and no water to fight thirst and keep the fields fertile. Those terrible consequences shall not come in an unforeseeable future, but probably will be experienced by their children or grandchildren.
People that are used to live on what the land produces have a strong connection with her and it is not too hard to make them understand that if our environment perishes, we will no longer survive. Organizations like Huella Azul are working with communities to teach them how to make a better use of natural resources. They also partner with enterprises and industries, whose production strategies leave an important environmental footprint, showing them how important is that they contribute to repair part of the damage.
It is not like all this work has been easy for those countries, but that’s why they should become examples for every nation in the world.
It is well know that that crisis brings opportunity to those who see it from afar and that an investment on a flooding swamp pays a hundred times over if it goes right.
There is a big health crisis with the HIV epidemic all over the world; however, there is a country in Eastern Europe whose growth rates of the infection is the highest in the world, that country is the Ukraine.
Ukraine is an ex soviet socialist republic whose entire fate depended on the Kremlin and when the red government fell, Ukraine was hit the hardest.
During the Soviet Union, most Ukrainians depended entirely on the communist government who took decisions for them at all times.
People were not used, and did not know, how to make business and a profit of their own, they only knew how to serve the party.
When the U.S.S.R fell after the end of the cold war, the Ukraine was left alone with no government to lead them or feed them.
Housing was no longer free and food became very expensive for people who were not used to make money, in other words, a perfect recipe for disaster.
For nearly a decade Ukrainians starved and a lot were left homeless. Crime naturally skyrocketed and it became an apocalyptic state of anarchy.
Drugs however flowed inn from Afghanistan and Turkey in large quantities and low prices, heroin being the most popular.
As the pattern dictates a lot of homeless people began abusing heroin and shared the needles in order to safe cash a fact that made the HIV spread like fire in a corn field.
Prostitution was the order of the day, and a lot of women became pregnant because of the lack of money to buy condoms.
As a result of these unwanted pregnancies a lot of children were born with HIV who lived long enough to spread the decease someway or another.
At this moment Ukraine has the fastest growing rate of HIV, greatly because of the lack of sexual education.
As a result of this a lot of hospitals and recovery centers are being built in Kiev, bringing great opportunity for industrial real estate investors.
If this situation does not improve, then a second Chernobyl could strike that beautiful country called Ukraine.
Today is a special day; it is the 6th anniversary of a school that together with some friends we were able to successfully open. It was however no walk in the park and many times we seriously thought about leaving the project.
What do you need to open a school?
When it comes to opening your own school there are several things that you should consider:
The first things you need before opening your own school is a good and well located place where to do it. This means that you have to make sure that your school blends well with its surroundings and that your clients will feel safe when attending to your establishment. Also you have to see to it that your school is not far from everything and that it is easy for you clients to arrive.
It is very important that your establishment has the proper school furniture, such as desks, tables and chairs.
Teachers are the backbone of every school, no teachers means no school and the right kind of teacher means certain success.
A good teacher will make ten students out of one. However out of ten, only one is a good and worthy teacher.
A teacher should be passionate of what he/she does and posses a sensitivity of the highest degree in order to connect with every pupil in more elevated fashion.
In order for your business to be successful you will need clients and a great deal of them, thus you must be ready to endeavor much of your energies to this end.
To attract clients you will have to make sure that your community knows about your new enterprise and that it is ready and kicking. To do this you can begin by sending personified e-mails to your friends and relatives and subsequently to whom you consider to be a future potential client.
If possible, do try to appear in your local newspaper and, if your means allow, try to appear in the local radio station. If you are a respected person and your enterprise seems worthy, they will take your message.
For us it has been a very gratifying experience and would be glad to do it ten more times. Thus if you are interested in putting your own school, remember the basics: place, teachers, clients (P.T.C).
Organic growth, vegan meals, clothes and accessories manufactured with recycled materials; such are the kind of activities that one normally thinks about when talking about sustainable businesses.
It would be hard to imagine that industries like aeronautics, construction or fabrication of cleaning products could be operated with sustainable practices.
Those ideas imply a misunderstanding of what sustainability is. This concept involves all the productive activities that try to cause the lower environmental impact. The goal can be achieved by avoiding the use of artificial substances and bringing back handcrafts.
But the industries that need chemicals, fuels and other artificial components can also be sustainable, if they give back to the environment something of what they take. A well-known example is the practice of planting a hundred trees for every individual that is cut.
Economical activities such as tourism, which have a direct impact on the environments and communities, can also be sustainable. There are several hotels and resorts around the world that have eco-friendly facilities, where they make a rational employment of natural resources and encourage recycling. They also collaborate with the communities and help them to apply green technologies.
Therefore, if you want to start a sustainable business, you don’t have to restrain to the common eco-friendly activities. What you need to get clear is how would your business affect the environment and what can you do to reduce the negative implications of that impact.