Panama comes with its own set of rules.
Yes, there are still the universal attributes that an entrepreneur should have no matter where they are. Whether you’re in Australia, where I started, or Panama, where I ended up, the timeless traits of the entrepreneur will always serve you well.
In Panama, however, I’ve found that some are more important than others.
When I first arrived in Panama in the early 2000’s, I was unknowingly at the floodgate of what turned out to be a massive influx of foreign investors, visionaries, and entrepreneurs. Panama’s economy took off, climbing at an unprecedented rate- and it’s refused to slow down since.
Today, Panama is home to the fastest growing economy in Latin America, and entrepreneurs are taking note. If you’re the type of person who has a sense for opportunity (and the ability to grab it), you might have what it takes to prosper in Panama.
But you’d better have these first.
Panama wasn’t dubbed “the land of manana” for nothing. It’s a slow-paced society, where tomorrow means next week and next week means probably never.
If you’re an entrepreneur of the “I need this by yesterday” mentality, this could be maddening for you. But in Panama, you’re occasionally going to have to bite your tongue and deal with it.
Panama (and, to a certain extent), Latin culture has operated this way for hundreds of years. It’s not going to change anytime soon. Sometimes, you’re simply unable to control how quickly things happen.
It’s important, however, to know when you need to practice patience, and when you need to swap it in for…
Does anyone use this word anymore? They should. It means persistent determination, and for the same reason described above, it’s absolutely necessary if you want to get anything done in Panama.
I know, I just told you about the importance of patience. And it’s true- in certain circumstances. However, when you’re trying to score a meeting with a heavyweight or launch a business plan into action, doggedness is vital.
It’s all about finding a balance between determination and patience. You’re going to have to be super determined to rub elbows with that CEO. Afterwards, however, pop a chill pill. He’ll respond to your proposal- eventually.
3. A Solid Network
For most entrepreneurs, the most daunting aspect of operating abroad is having to construct a network from scratch. Even if you were lucky enough to have a friend or a job waiting for you, growing and strengthening your network is at the top of any smart person’s to-do list.
Though important anywhere, the value that a good network poses is ten-fold in Panama. The expat community is tight, and the entrepreneurial one is even tighter. Whatever you’re going to do in Panama, or even if you’re not sure what that is yet, having an established network will streamline your process.
4. An Open Mind
You’re going to encounter some differences in Panama as far as what the cultural norm is. Some things will be done differently than what you’re used to from home. Your first instinct will always be to assume that your way is better, and sometimes it will be.
Other times, though, it won’t matter as much as you think it does- and insisting so could lead to tension. Be conscious about keeping an open mind, and learn to decipher whether your old way is really “better” or just “different.”
5. Creative Transference
Panama hasn’t been developed nearly as long as North America and Europe, and can be lagging behind when it comes to business models and ideas. This works to the supreme advantage of expats, who jump to recycle successful ideas from their home countries and refashion them for Panama.
Don’t pressure yourself to reinvent the wheel (though, if you think you have a better wheel, by all means.) If you have a favorite business concept that succeeded in your country, figure out how it could be molded to work in Panama.
6. Comfort Zone
Finally, it’s important to know your comfort zone so you know when to trash it.
I’ve seen countless entrepreneurs move to Panama for the sole intent of shaking up their routine. Then, they gradually slip back into the same cozy habits that limited their growth back home.
Remember: “No matter where you are, there you are.” It’s not enough to inject yourself into a new environment. Once there, you need to make a conscious effort to do what makes you uncomfortable.
Introduce yourself to the guru at the social gathering; speak up during a meeting, share your ideas with a table of new faces. Pinpoint the actions that make you nervous (in a good way)- and then conquer them.
Your relocation to Panama is the perfect time to reinvent yourself and explore your entrepreneurial abilities. With its thriving economy and inspiring atmosphere, Panama sets the stage for a prosperous and exciting way of life.
If you have what it takes to jump on, that is.