High Five

Written by ProfitGuide Staff

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Success story

Designcorp Ltd.

Shopping-centre design
Sales to Brazil: More than 50% of revenue

When the 1991 recession hit home and hit hard, Jeremy McMullin knew survival would be a matter of finding customers far and away. “Brazil seemed like an exciting place to work,” says McMullin, co-owner and vice-president of Toronto-based Designcorp Ltd., which designs shopping centres and mixed-use buildings. Thirteen years later, McMullin can say he’s been through exporting’s school of hard knocks — and it’s been worth every blow.Designcorp got its foot in Brazil by tracking down a Brazilian developer at a shopping-centre conference. “It was a perfect time because [Brazil was] coming out of its own financial crisis and the shopping-centre business started to develop,” says McMullin. The firm’s first project, a small renovation of a food court, put the Canadians to the test. “It’s difficult for outsiders to be welcomed into Brazil to do business,” says McMullin. “Building relationships is key, but you also have to prove that you’re making your client money.” Mission accomplished: thanks to Designcorp’s work, the food court’s sales climbed 36%.

Today, 50% to 60% of Designcorp’s annual sales come from Brazil. McMullin credits much of that success to adapting to the steadfast tastes of Brazilians. For instance, Designcorp builds indigenous cultural and architectural elements into its designs. “We absorb and become very sensitive to what’s around us, then translate that into a successful format,” says McMullin. “We adapt to the local culture and don’t assume that what works in one place is going to work in another.” He advises others to identify general linguistic and cultural nuances that can make or break business relationships.

But it all boils down to education. “We take our projects as learning experiences,” says McMullin. “It’s a matter of flowing to a new rhythm and energy.”

What Brazil wants

1   Information and communications technology:
Expect to see 27 million Internet users in Brazil by 2005 (up from five million in 2000), leading to opportunities in Voice-over-Internet-Protocol, multimedia, e-commerce and e-learning. According to International Data Corp., this year Brazil’s software market will grow by 5.3% to US$1.8 billion.

2   Security:
Great disparities between rich and poor engender a need for personal, property and information protection. The Brazilian security market — comprising everything from armored cars to encryption software — is growing by 15% to 20% per year.

3   Infrastructure:

© 2004 Susanne Baillie

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