Patience is key to business in Portugal

MAKE CONTACTS, know your market, lobby behind the scenes and have patience, if you want to make successful business deals in Portugal. This is the advice of the British Embassy’s Paul Welsh, who worked tirelessly to promote trade and investment between Portugal and the UK.

Welsh, who took up his post as Commercial Secretary in March 2000, has had wide experience in the press, political and trade spheres abroad, serving in the Central Asian republics of Georgia (Tibilisi) and Uzbekistan in the former Soviet Union.

The Russian, Turkish and now Portuguese speaker is returning to central London to take up a consular post. Welsh said he had enjoyed his tenure in Portugal, particularly learning the language and being actively involved in the Euro 2004 Championship.

“Euro 2004 was, for me, a high point. I was very much involved in liaising between the British police and ministers and the Portuguese police and ministers to ensure that the English fans enjoyed themselves in a calm and convivial fashion.”

He continued: “We knew many English fans would be descending on Portugal, so we started organising things very early and I believe our work at the embassy was a contributing factor to so little violence and disorder, with only 50 arrests made during the event.” Welsh also believes that the hospitable, non-confrontational and relaxed manner in which the Portuguese people and authorities behaved towards the fans also proved very successful.

‘Deadlines are different

in the Latin world’

The diplomat said he chose the job in Portugal because he “wanted the challenge of a 100 per cent trade job”. He said that equally satisfying was helping UK companies set up and carry out business here. “I know that the British Embassy has played a major role in getting key contracts that the companies would recognise themselves and, in my own way, I’ve also contributed to that success, together with the then ambassador Dame Glynne Evans,” he added.

Welsh said that, when you can follow the process through from the initial contacts with a UK company, doing whatever discreet lobbying behind the scenes on their behalf locally, and then see the business deal come to fruition, is “very satisfying because it doesn’t always happen”.

He believes that it takes time and the fostering of good personal contacts to do business here. “Portugal is not a market that you can trade with cold, you have to get to know your contacts, agents and distributors as well as taking time to do market research to make sure you obtain as much information as possible about the different agents that are available,” he stressed.

When conducting business negotiations with the Portuguese, Welsh learnt that one needs more time and patience than perhaps in Northern European countries, because “deadlines are different in the Latin world and you can’t expect quick results”.

“You must expect to have to visit the market several times before you get to the stage of deciding who your Portuguese business partner is going to be,” he concluded. C.G.