Consulting in Argentina: The International Business Experience

Throughout the fall semester our class engaged in consulting projects with non-profit organizations in Argentina.  This opportunity gave us the chance to work first-hand with prominent Argentine charities in a wide range of projects.   We spent months corresponding via videoconferences and email, extensively researching and analyzing our organizations’ issues, and formulating recommendations and solutions for our Argentine partners.  Finally, our projects culminated with a weeklong trip to Buenos Aires where we met with and presented our suggestions to our organizations.
My group and I chose to work with Liga Argentina de Lucha Contra el Cancer (LALCEC).  LALCEC works to promote cancer awareness and prevention in Argentina much like the Susan G. Komen foundation in the U.S.  Our particular project revolved around redesigning LALCEC’s back office and operations systems.   As it turned out, this seemingly straightforward task to fix LALCEC’s internal systems was no ordinary consulting project.
Working with LALCEC presented a litany of unique consulting and logistical issues we had to overcome.  Not only did we have to overcome financial and organizational barriers that confront many non-profits, but also cultural and language barriers in dealing with an Argentine partner.  We knew we had to be delicate when implementing financial and operational systems in LALCEC—as is the case with most non-profits, where employees’ passion and dedication to their causes often overshadow traditional business knowledge—so we developed easy-to-use solutions for the charity to apply over the long term.  Reaching these solutions, however, presented it’s own challenges.
Prior to this Argentine project, I never fully took cultural differences in international business seriously.  Sure, I had considered them, and I certainly knew doing business in a country such as China or Brazil is far different from business in the U.S.  But as a Texan who worked with New Yorkers while living in San Francisco for four years before coming to Freeman, I figured I could handle any so-called “cultural differences” between the Argentines and our group.  This was not the case.
Not to say one business culture is superior to another, but Argentina and the U.S. have very different ways of conducting business.  Language barriers, correspondence styles, and different deadline expectations all existed.  On top of these difficulties, we had to coordinate remotely, with our group in New Orleans and LALCEC in Buenos Aires.  But through patience and hard work on all sides we achieved our goal.  In fact, LALCEC found our group’s recommendations the most helpful and named us winners of a friendly class consulting competition.
Overall, I cannot thank LALCEC enough for the chance to work with their amazing organization.  I personally learned a tremendous deal about working between two disparate cultures.  Furthermore, the chance to spend a full week in Argentina to supplement the projects only strengthened the experience.  The sort of knowledge learned through the project and trip can only be developed by personal exposure.   Thankfully LALCEC and the Freeman School of Business provided us with this once-in-a-lifetime educational—and incredibly entertaining and rewarding—opportunity.
Frank Darden