What You Need to Know About Doing Business in Cuba
Having an International Relations undergraduate degree and having traveled to many cities abroad this panel seemed very much relevant to my personal and academic life. There have been shifts in U.S. policy recently and Cuba has presented an opportunity for U.S. companies to expand revenues, stimulate the economy for the good of the Cuban people and foster entrepreneurship. However, the island seems to have a much more complicated market than many people expect when seeking business opportunities there.
The panel “What you need to know about doing business in Cuba” featured Christopher Harvin, Tomas Bilbao, Matthew Aho and Alana Tummino. They discussed first hand insights on how to navigate the unique business environment of around 11 million people.
Alana started off talking about the importance of forging new relationships between the U.S. and Cuba in order to deepen the economic collaboration. If you are a company wanting to establish a business in Havana, the telecommunications department would be the key. Through this you would be able to help those in Cuba and increase the connection between them and the rest of the world. In addition, to needing telecommunication investments in Cuba, Tourism is hugely needed. However, Whole Sale investment is off the table for all U.S. individuals. Something very important to remember is to possibly take a trip to Havana to interact with people, other entrepreneurs and get to know the culture. This will make or break the possibility of your business thriving in a market that will align and fit into their economy.
“Cubans are hungry to get interaction with the outside world,” Aho said.
Matthew Aho mentioned that in addition to traveling to Havana getting your CEO to actually want to take part in this is vital. After approval, go discuss your ideas and a legal council that is able to advise you in certain aspects of what to do and not do in Cuba. As regulations constantly change just be aware of what you are doing and to stay up to date with that.
Changing over to reputation challenges, Tomas emphasized the importance of your company anticipating what the risks might be and having plans for them.
When it comes to anticipating the risks consider:
- Labor laws
- Human rights
- Risk specific to a company
- Migration issues: Carnival Cruise port having immigrants jump on and not wanting to get off after.
- Know what to do and plan accordingly
- Develop strategies–> seek out experts in this process
- Cuban needs companies that will have a social strategy on how the Cuban people will benefit.
“Marriott and Starwood may be close to signing Cuba deal,” Tomas said.
As far as the recent presidential election. The panelists do not foresee the ties with Cuba to be overturned, however it is possible that the regulations and policies will be altered and changed. The repercussions of going back to square one years ago would be devastating to many, and probably close not being possible for most.
Doing business in Cuba is well worth your investment if you are the right company. Small companies are said to have a higher advantage than bigger ones. The reason for that is that bigger companies want to do everything on their own and do not realize that Cuba is an idiosyncratic place.
Very important, “Recognize your business will need help,” Bilbao said.
Lastly, interview with Tomas Bilbao coming soon.