Day 4 – May 5, 2014:
Business Visit: Flower Plantation & American Chamber of Commerce
Takeaway #1: The Business of Beauty is still just a Business.
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Rose Plantation. After a pretty drive and a stop at the equator for some more pictures and history/science lesson, we made our way to the town of Cumbaya, Ecuador. In Cumbaya, we stopped in for our small pastry treat. They were nestled back behind a building that no one but the locals knew about. After our snack, we headed to the rose plantation just outside of town. There we learned that the selling of roses is a big time business operation. The productions cycle of a rose if pretty amazing. They start with a current style or color that is trending. After that they harvest a rose that matches this trend and see if it will be sustainable for long-term growth. Once the flower is planted and grown, the productions begins. There are men and women on the facility who monitor the growth on a daily basis. The roses are plucked once they have grown into maturity and sent off to be packaged. The packaging process was configured by size, color, and style. They were packaged and prepped for delivery within a few hours of being cut. Off they went, to be sold at market value.
Takeaway #2: Happy Employees, Happy Owners!
Besides all the business procedures and logistics in the business, this place was romantic. Romantic in the sense that it fit the beauty of a classic storyline. There was family heritage, community support and dedication from the employees, a wait staff in the home, home cooked meals, and fresh flowers everywhere. This is my kind of business! One thing that kept popping up in the conversation was that the employees are happy to be working there. Weather this was due to the government minimum health and wage requirements or because of the great service of the family, I don’t know. However, I do have a hunch that people felt a sense of pride working on this plantation. Here is a small description from their website about why they have happy employees, “a socially responsible company that takes special pride in the security and well-being of its employees by providing them not only with the standard industrial safety equipment, but also nutritional assistance, on-site medical care, and a nursery, among other benefits.” To me, this is how you take care of your employees if at all possible. Sign me up!
Takeaway #3: Am. Cham, Storms and Sleepy Time.
After the rose plantation, we visited the American Chamber of Commerce. On any other day I would have enjoyed this talk. However, I think we all had too much fun at the rose plantation and just finished eating an amazing meal that slowed us down a bit. At any rate, our discussion was about the current business climate in Ecuador. The biggest factor in the current climate was who the president was going to be at any given moment. Currently President Correa has made some big changes to the economic policies in Ecuador that have hurt and strengthened the state of business there. One reason he is liked at home are his poverty-fighting programs which seek to spread the wealth and close the gaps of all the classes. The results of his reforms are in, Unemployment fell to 4.1%, a 25 year low, poverty has fallen by 27% since 2006, public spending on education has more than doubled, and health spending has expanded. With all of these “great” signs of prosperity in Ecuador, you would think that the business climate would match those statistics. In the Am. Cham. presentation, we learned that the real issue in business is the ban on all imports. This means that as an American company looking to do business with Ecuadorians is not the most attractive place to be. The sale of exports and the ban of Imports causes an imbalance of economics in the country. The best example is of the oil production going on now. If they export oil but don’t import it, their prices tend to drop within the country. However, this has a reverse effect as the external consumers disrupt the drive for oil. The oil prices can fluctuate dramatically in Ecuador, causing unrest and instability.
Business is getting interesting in Ecuador. For the rose farmer who depends on exports to the president who bans exports, there is a sense of friction within these walls. I’m still skeptical about doing business in Ecuador at this point.