Making the Most of Peer Insights in LatAm Site Selection and Sourcing

There is nothing more irksome than hearing a CIO or Global Sourcing chief determine that X city is Latin America is 'unsuitable' for their sourcing needs, basing their decision on advisories given by firms and people who have not actually visited X city.

Sounds crazy, but it happens all the time. The truth of the matter is advisory firms are paid to crunch data and come up with 'conclusive' findings that are supposed to be definitive and defensible. What's so wrong such clean and unequivocally precise 'guidance'? Actually a lot.

As we know, doing business in cities with four or five or ten million people involves lots of questions, and should never be reduced to spreadsheets that 'summarize' conclusions without a heavy dose of first-hand, tangible experience. Cities have distinct personalities, districts, 'vibes', and of course people, with unique styles, histories and cultural complexities. 

Furthermore, the 'findings' can often be flat out wrong. In the last two years I have heard some of the worst things about places like San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Bogota and Medellin, Colombia; Guadalajara, Mexico and even Buenos Aires, Argentina. I myself have visted all of these cities (short of Medellin), and have been impressed with the unique qualities (and people) that point to higher performance and a strong future for each of these locations. When you visit a place, you identify with an 'energy', you witness and 'triangulate' information in order to validate it and you also ask a more simple question - can I see myself wanting to visit this location?

I'm personally excited to see that there are increasing doubts about the value of blanket site advisories among the end-user community. These decision makers would rather hear from fellow peers, and trust the individuals who have had to work in those markets, find the talent in those places and deal with the innumerable issues that will arise - and often are not ever anticipated in the initial analysis of the location.

Recently, the team at Horses for Sources reported that in research they conducted peers are increasingly looking and listening to one another for sound guidance. It sounds deceptive simple - talk with a fellow sourcing executive and come up with a more rounded view of a location. But where do I find that right person who can tell me about a specific market with an unguarded frankness?

That's the rub and, from my perspective, exactly why the Nearshore/ Latin America sourcing community needs to continue to re-inforce and create a vital community where fellow peers know where to go looking to match up with that 'just right' peer. The community is there - but it's balkanized. The good news is  real effort is being generated to create a cohesive and formal association of vendors, academics, media and end-users, called the Nearshore Executive Alliance. The organization is currently in a 'working group' form and is continue to seek participants to help make it more formidable. (More info can be found on the group's LinkedIn page.)

In the final analysis, the facts are not enough. Even in business, the heart has to have a place to listen and absorb.