|If I want to do business with a company in DR is it necessary for me to have a middleman?
No. It might be convenient initially, until you get to know the business environment, but it is not necessary.
Is it common to shake hands on first meeting, and, every time after we meet?
Yes. It is common for men and women to shake hands the first time and afterwards. And between women, or men and women, one cheek to cheek kiss-in-the-air is also common.
With whom do Dominicans do most business?
About 85% of all DR trade is conducted with the U.S., about 8% with the European Union and the rest 7% with the rest of the world. Only about 1% of DR trade is with the Caribbean, mainly importing from Trinidad and Tobago and exporting to Jamaica.
Are business dealings conducted over lunch meetings?
Yes. Dominicans tend to prefer to first develop a certain level of personal relationship, to develop trustworthiness before compromising themselves. Lunch permits small talk to occur, conversations about each other's business deals, families, sports, hobbies, etc. to develop and then slowly, towards the end of the lunch, for the business deal to be talked about. Business dealings are also conducted over playing golf or tennis or other sports at a local country club or hotel, or at home dinners, over drinks at the end of the afternoon, etc.
Are business persons in DR considered aggressive or passive?
Even though it might not appear to be so, the DR business community is one of the most aggressive in Central America and the Caribbean region. Just look at the results. Just look at their influence on politics and policies. The facts speak louder than the deceptive appearances.
Dominicans can be very clever, resourceful like anybody and skilled negotiators/hagglers. Some consider business a match of wits, and the foreign businessman should understand this or risk "getting their feelings hurt."
Some countries have a few taboo subjects, are there many in DR?
Can you tell me of two and what they mean? Itís a hard question. Nothing really comes to mind except religion and politics, specially politics where Dominicans tend to take sides and strong postures.
And of course drugs are taboo. There is no tolerance for drugs and drug addicts.
Can you identify any unusual mannerisms of Dominicans that a businessperson should be wary of?
Yes. A tendency to exaggerate things is very Dominican. A lot of Dominicans tend to make believe and sometimes believe themselves, that they have more than they really have, that they can do more than they really can do, that they are the only beholders of the truth, beauty and righteousness. Our things are always the best, the largest, the first, the most, etc. etc. and we are always right.
Are Dominicans formal?
The Spanish speaking Caribbean is far less formal than the English speaking Caribbean. I can't think of anything I would be uncomfortable discussing with Dominican associates that would be acceptable in other polite company. The English Caribbean seems to take more social cues from Europe. Dominicans can be more formal than Americans, though.
Is English widely used?
Yes, for a Spanish-speaking country English is widely used, of course with foreigners mainly, and among the higher income groups and the Dominican-Americans (primarily Dominicans that live in New York).
What is usually the business attire for people in the Dominican Republic?
The wealthier the more formal Dominicans dress, unless you are one of the wealthiest, in which case you dress however you please. Really, Dominicans dress very much like in the U.S. (suit and tie), and if you are already familiar then you dress more casually.
Are there any gift-giving customs I should know for business?
Not really, of course unless itís Christmas. However inviting to lunch or dinner is more common than in other countries. If you are invited to dinner at someoneís home, it is customary to bring a bottle of good wine for the hostess or a special gift from home.
If there any way in which people identify themselves in status or rank in business?
Not really. Dominicans are a very democratic society, without major economic class, ethnic or racial differences. You could say that you can identify the higher ranks by the car they drive, the size of their yachts or planes, the restaurants they go to and the places where they spend their weekends or vacations and of course where they go to snow-ski in January-March. Even though there are many that can't afford it but do it, and many that can afford it and don't do it.
How do I find a job in the DR?
Read the DR1 Daily News to follow companies that may be expanding operations or may need your skills. Then come and network, network and network.
How safe is travel to the Dominican Republic?
Don't Worry...Be Happy. Armed guards in many places is a natural thing and has been for many years, in the DR. Now most of the men porting arms are private security guards. And this is probably one of the reasons that the DR is one of the safest places to vacation. We are used to them and we don't even notice them, much less worry about them.
Don't worry itís just a leftover of the militarist culture of the Dictator Trujillo Era. It does not imply there is trouble in the country or anything to worry about. Usually they are a status symbol of the wealthy and powerful (or that want to be), that want others to know (or to think) that they "have it".
Concentrate on having a good time. By the way, you'd be surprised how many of these guards have no ammunition in their firearms !!!!It more a symbol of an era past.
What is the minimum wage in the DR?
RD$3,415 a month for companies with assets over RD$500,000. The government authorizes lower sectorial wages for the hotel industry -- RD$3,030 for companies over RD$500,000, free zone industry -- RD$2,490 for free zone industries. Different minimum wage levels may apply to other sectors and smaller companies.
What do banks require to open an account in US dollars or pesos in a company name?
Most banks provide checking accounts and CDs in US Dollars in addition to RD pesos. Just call the bank of your choice and they will tell you how to proceed. They will require the bylaws of the corporation and some documentation authorizing the representation and signatures, among other minor details, such as adequate ID documents, addresses, telephones.
Traveling around the island it is difficult not to notice all of the FDI the DR has been able to attract. Not only large companies like Orange, Barcelo and Cemex, but particularly small investments: Italian jewelry stores, French internet cafes, German pubs, Spanish hostels, etc. Having traveled extensively around Latin America, I think this is fairly unusual. So obviously the Dominican government is doing something right. What are those ingredients that have come together?
The main thing the government did from the 1970s - 1990s was to apply a tax exoneration law to all of the tourism Industry. So the take off was based on a tax break for a limited number of years, which disappeared in the 1990 tax reform, because it was considered that tourism had taken off and that there was a real risk that if the number of rooms started to grow faster than the number of tourist visiting, then occupancy rates would fall and so would profits.
But even though the incentives were removed, the industry has kept growing and some years at a higher rate than the tourist arrivals, so many hotel have had to undergo changes in owners, administration, foreclosures, etc.
Competition is tough but if you get your act together the profits, even after taxes, in dollar are very generous.
My personal experience as a shareholder of a hotel was 42% annual average rate of return (in US$) for the first 8 years and then the hotel grew too much and fell into the red and we've had to change management. Of course my initial investment was recovered in the first two years, but still...if we had not grown so much the story would be different. We went from 12 rooms to 475 rooms over an 8 years time span.
Another key to success was going after the bottom half of the tourist pyramid, even though this was seriously criticized (and still is) it turned out OK. Our tourists are mainly 'economy-class" or "charter" tourists, that come with a fixed "all-inclusive" package that guarantees them a lot of fun for x number of days and no additional costs, and are prices are low; compared to other destinations in the Caribbean where you can find the same categories of hotels and beaches but at 2 or 3 times the cost. However, this is changing, slowly.
Finally, this is a country that thrives on importing ideas and selling them at a profit, either locally or to the tourist. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of stories of chefs, cooks, waiters, bartenders, travel agents, tour operators, divers, sportspersons, etc., that have come as tourist and have seen the opportunities for tourism businesses that many Dominicans (that have never left the island) cannot see. Many of these foreign employees, have taken their savings of US$10,000 dollars more or less and have decided to rent out some space in an old fisherman's house by the beach, buy a couple of tables, chairs, kitchen equipment and a sign that says Chez something or Cuccina de someone or Restaurant so and so. And they're in business. No red tape. No taxes (the government doesn't go after the small tax evaders) No licenses...Just plain old Laissez-Faire at work.
Of course, some of these businesses fail and other switch owners and eventually the successful ones grow into serious businesses, become formal, legalize their situation, get their licenses, ratings, etc. and many have grown into hotels and tourism projects.
The same applies to the adventurous divers, or hikers, or river-rafters, or whatever, that discover there is some adventure ride, some beautiful view that an European would kill for, and decide to set up some local tour operation, to take the other tourist to see the whales in Samana, the caves anywhere, lakes, secluded beaches with totally unpolluted rivers and waterfalls nearby, fishing, diving, and other water activities....and make a bundle of money while having fun. And while everyone else is freezing back home.
But in conclusion, probably the major asset we have is our people. Dominicans are good-natured, always happy, laughing and of course leading very unstressed lives (except for those of us that have had contact with the more "civilized" world and have learned to work and stress ourselves about everything). Smiles, kindness, beautiful people, treating you like a king or a queen, for a week or so, at a relatively good price, showing you how to dance merengue, letting you eat all the lobster, oysters and other sea delicacies you can eat. Under the hot sun, with a warm transparent sea at your feet, breathtaking views and a fresh tropical drink (or a freezing Presidente Beer) in your hand, these are the kind of things that have helped us become the tourist destination we are, and the land of business opportunities for thousands of European and Canadian employees, who have leaped from working for others to working for themselves while having a good life and making money....so they can go back home richer and lead a more stressful life again....and then come back to live the rest of their days in the DR.
Why aren't there more Dominican entrepreneurs taking advantage of the opportunities that the tourism industry offers as so many foreigners are?
A local saying says that: "Ojos que no ven corazon que no siente" which means that "Eyes that don't see, heart that doesn't feel" which can explain this phenomena. If people cannot see the opportunities people cannot react to them. If you have never been a tourist yourself, if you have never traveled, it is difficult to see the opportunities, or at least the same opportunities that a foreigner sees. For example, a local farmer, when seeing the hotels being built near his land, will not see the opportunity of providing horseback rides to the tourist; he might see other opportunities, like the chance to sell his land to some foreigner, for 10 or 100 or 1000 times what it was worth a couple of years back, and taking that money to buy a house in the city, moving to the city and buying his kids a better education. Or he might see the chance of selling his produce to the foreigners that put up restaurants, while waiting for his land to increase its value much more.
In the same way, other locals see tourism with a different "eye" and react with a different "feeling", than a foreigner might; while the foreigner might see a gold mine where others don't even suspect there is anything.