How Latino small business owners can acculturate without losing their souls.
A good place for Latino small business owners to begin is to identify the cultural difference between acculturation and assimilation.
What is acculturation?
This is the process whereby persons from another native culture move to a new environment and, over time, adapt and adopt much of the culture of the new location while retaining core elements of their native culture.
This can be a multi-generational process or it can happen relatively quickly -- there are no rules.
What is assimilation?
This is the process of integrating to the new culture so completely that one effectively becomes just like the new culture and loses the key characteristics of the native culture their family came from.
Many expected Latinos to assimilate quickly, but they have chosen acculturation instead, at least partly because they had the option open to them.
The old melting pot model called for assimilation while acculturation is the new approach that came about due to the sheer critical mass of the Latino population in the US. This is a topic worthy of ten to twenty PhD dissertations each in sociology, anthropology and psychology-- and this is not just a Latino issue and it is not just an American issue.
So I have to narrow this article down to only one sub-sub-sub-issue – how acculturation affects small Latino businesses.
If you want to run a business in the US, you have to learn a lot about various American systems and how to adapt your cultural values around them.
Here are five acculturation of importance to Latino small business owners:
1. The Banking System
The American banking system is amazing but the focus on credit is another issue.
Business owners have no choice but to learn the banking system. It’s obviously crucial. But Latinos grow up in a culture that is credit-averse, and this is something one must overcome in order to find the capital to lubricate growth.
Companies have credit scores much as individuals do, and learning how to utilize credit wisely is a skill that any ambitious business owner will have to master.
The Latino small business world often runs mostly on repeat customers and word-of-mouth, but there are limits to this – it’s kind of like waiting for divine intervention.
The American approach is to be highly aggressive with wild claims and enough churn to develop momentum that keeps you going. So clearly there must be a happy medium with word-of-mouth supplemented with appropriate and effective marketing by using flyers, online listings and local ads.
3. Hubris vs. Self-Confidence
Latinos from different countries of origin vary widely on the issue of self-promotion.
Cubans and Argentinians are famous for it. People from many other countries of origin have the usual distribution of human types including avid self-promoters. But for the bulk of Latinos who are from the Meso-American countries (Mexico and Central America) and are not upper class or very well educated, self-promotion, like bravado or cockiness, is seen as hubris -- one of the seven deadly sins.
It’s beyond tacky, all the way to a serious character flaw.
But living in the US can change people’s perspective on things. Over time people can see that one can be self-confident and self-assured without being a jerk, particularly if you know you are good at what you do (and you are).
Still, some have to work at getting over their lovely and endearing humility while still keeping their cultural essence.
This is a tricky task to be sure, but essential to maintaining your Latino identity and helping your business grow. Your clients want to trust you, but they also want to like you, so YES to self-confidence but NO to cockiness.
Next page- Acculturation areas of importance #4, #5 and takeaway
About the author
Carlos E. Garcia, born to Mexican immigrant parents, grew up in East Los Angeles and attended Pomona College, UC Berkeley and National University (BA, MA and MBA respectively). He has over thirty years of experience in the field of US Hispanic consumer research, twenty one years at the helm of his own company, Garcia Research. Most recently SVP at GfK: Knowledge Networks, where he headed up their Hispanic research efforts. He's gone full circle and now back at the helm of Garcia Research, a Hispanic market and Multicultural-focused research firm.Website