Brazil, the Fortaleza comeback

This year could be so far described as lazy. Kind of. I was pursuing my goal of becoming a better fighter in boxing/muay thai.

In the meantime I was going to evening receptions, openings, vernissages, art exhibitions, etc.

Meeting tons of completely uninteresting people, and a handful of interesting individuals.

One of the receptions was taking place in my friends company. I arrived there fashionably late, and made it just in time to grab a snack and listen to a passionate speech. It was mostly about italian furniture.  The speech was really well done, plus it had more than a few references todo business in Brazil. I was completely focused and sank into the speech.

When the orator was done, I approached him and congratulated on the speech, as well as the hints about Brazil, and its places that not many gringos know. The guy was italian but spoke very good polish.

We had quite long talk, mostly about Brazil, and out of a sudden he asked me about my plans about that country. I said, very frankly, that I would be ready to move there even tomorrow, if such opportunity arised. He asked again. With smile, I reconfirmed. Since that , we started speaking portuguese (well, I was, he was speaking italguese), but I could understand most of it.

We had some more wine (it was one of the longest receptions I’ve been to) and he started telling me about his business whereabout in Brazil. I also gave him my lifestory of having studied in South America, and being a salesman in few sectors, including working in China. He was stunned.

We exchanged business cards, and promised to keep in touch, in case an opportunity arises.

We met couple days later on an italian restaurant opening. We shared some good laughs, hit on few girls, and ate lots of pizza and pasta. I learnt more about his businesses. Hell, I even started sample selling his furniture right then and there – while at the same time hitting on the girls.

A week or so later (it was late March) L. asked me if I wanted to work in Brazil. In Fortaleza to be precise. I was all like hell yeah.

His idea was to cooperate with developers and construction companies-selling them windows and doors produced in Europe.

We met in one of his temporary offices in Warsaw.

The deal was that I’m going to be tested during 1 month in Brazil (to see if I’m any good with this job).

The pay (or rather the allowance) was offered, which wasn’t much below my expectations.

The thing was simple. I was going to be a rep there, grinding with meetings in order to get some orders. Sounds right enough for me. I was doing that 3 years ago while looking for a job in Fortaleza, and exactly one year ago in China. And those were the glorious moments in life when I was getting my wings. Like in that VW commercial. Yet more real.

In the next meeting it – the early April it was on the good way to be set up. He stated that with me he is taking a serious risk – sort of investment in me, but as a business person he knows that without such risk, the development is not going to happen.

Since L. was leaving Warsaw soon, and coming back on 21st, my training was going to take part on 21st, and the departure was going to be on or around 28th. We were aiming at the dates where the mundial doesn’t take place, since it is merely impossible to do any business during that time.

In the meantime was also meeting with potential employers in Warsaw, and received one promising, both in terms of remuneration and what the job was about offer. But I decided that I want to try the hard thing. I stick with L. vague offer.

My ticket was going to be bought soon (the day we set things up was 4th of April).

In the meantime the whole tons of work had to be done. The developers contact list, the website and catalogs translation, big vocabulary preparation (it was a bit of pain, since most technicalities I didn’t even know in polish). But again, with some proper grinding, the job was getting done. I received a few magazins in portuguese about real estate, construction, and interior design. Took my time to read throughout them carefully. In the process my google translate and word were burning. So was my brain.

Days passing by, but the ticket was not there. It must be italian thing to promise something in terms of doing serious business, and then procrastinate.

Long story short, there were several more tests to pass. He invited me to Torun, his HQ in Poland, where I was going to meet one of his fellow coworkers, who spoke very good portuguese. I came there, we met and had a quite pleasant evening, chatting mostly in portuguese with D. Turned out that she has lived in Portugal for 10 years, and now is working with clients from there regarding insurance.

She gave my portuguese skills a green light. It was mid-April.

Later L. came back to Warsaw, more work to be done, but still no specifics – about the ticket of course.

On 22nd of April received the call from my previously mentioned potential employer (FMCG brokerage). I told him that I have an interesting offer regarding export in Brazil, but by all means lets be in touch in June if anything changes after the probation month there.

Days were passing by, but in the course of life I learned to keep my cool. After all, it was L. who had this business to do, and I was to help him.

Now, having the proper mindset is crucial. I knew my cards. 3 foreign languages spoken fluently, vast world experience including having been to the specific city he was going to operate in, and willingness to relocate. Now good luck finding a salesman with that set of skills, willing to work for peanuts for a month.

But each was playing his card tough way. At some point (around 25th, when we had all set), L. asked me if I was willing to sign him promissory note. It was going to be in case I decided to take a vacation and not work. I said that my willingness to sign something like this depended on what was going to be put there.

It was already late April, and the ticket was not there. And for few weeks I already had a reservation made for the room, so leaving the guy without a response on certain dates was irresponsible in my view. But it was my problem, not L’s .

Finally, after some hard pressing (almost 1 month after he promised the ticket will be bought “tomorrow”) I got a confirmation that it was bought. Only orally, though. It was an extended weekend, so nothing would be officially confirmed until 5th. Mind you, initial agreement was to go there on 28th of April.

But based solely on oral assurance of L’s wife who bought the ticket, I confirmed my apartment rental to certain dates. It was sink or swim. If he decided to further postpone, the deal is going to be canceled. In spite of dozens of hours I already invested for free doing stuff for him.

I kept my cool.

On 6th, I received the ticket confirmation. I was leaving in less than one week, with one night in Lisbon.

Since I was still lacking 2 most important things – the suitcase with product trials, and cash, we decided to meet on Thursday, just before his flight to Milan.

The day before he rementioned the promissory note thing. I got prepared together with my lawyer. With nicely done draft. L was supposed to come at 11-12 pm, so we had time to get things done properly, since he had his flight at 6 am.

At 11.30 I received the message that he was leaving Torun – roughly 3 hours drive.

Watched the classic movie – Citizen Kane, and fell asleep. He woke me up just before 3 am.

Brought the suitcase. My first question, with laser eye contact, if there are any “extras” inside. He looked at me, laughed and said that its the whole idea to bring the windows and doors to South America, and fill the containers with drugs on the way back. Seemed sincere.

The promissory note topic was brought. Mind you, how smart of him. Come in the middle of the night, put something to be signed by me, and pronto.

It was covering the whole sum – ie, my allowance and the overpriced ticket that he bought less than a week prior to the journey. It listed some pretty obvious points, which I had put in my draft too. The problem was, some points, wisely smuggled in between, were stating that I have to collect at least 5 RFQs’ (requests for quote). I laughed at that and said that neither he nor me knows that market well enough to make such estimation. And the legal statement was that if I fail to met any of the above mentioned points (also about the reports and at least 4 meetings a day), I have to bring him back the whole sum.

Since I had a more sincere version of a draft, I said that we’d rather work on this one. He opposed saying that he prepared this one with the other who knows the law nuances, and also that he doesn’t speak that good polish (doing business here for 7 years, right). I insisted on working on my draft. He stood up and said that he is not doing that.

Now again, my mindset was that signing anything stupid, that would make me work for a month and later pay for such privilege was absolutely out of question. I was ready to let him go then and there.

His argument was also that he has a flight in 3 hours, and needs to get some sleep. I said that it was exclusively his fault that he was in my place at 3 am instead of 11-12 pm.

Now this is some serious risk taking on his part. Have a man work for him hours for free, and then write a promissory note that if a slightest thing goes wrong, I’m due to pay him whatever money he put in. And my work is for free. Serious risk, for real.

After some more powertalk, he sat and we worked on my draft. It took nearly an hour to get it done. Went to the nearby printing shop, and grabbed 2 copies.

Signed, and at that point I was given cash. It was 4,45 am.

I was going to Brazil in 4 days.

Now, my sincere motivation is to push those things towards the sale. It is mostly due to the curiosity – because I heard so many stories how impossible it is to export anything there. I want to try – for someones business. And… I like grinding. Especially there.

Ate logo!


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