Friday, March 6, 2015

The challenges in hiring locals

   Foto by Jody King: Jody with tourists playing football with the local children!

This is a rant that I wrote about 2 weeks ago and I certainly feel better now, but it represents what many business owners have to go through when it comes to hiring people or trying to form partnerships with people in your own neighborhood. This is not exclusive to Rocinha or Rio, but many places I have lived. I had similar experiences in the US and Canada too. I write about this as I think some people need to hear this as some may not want or cannot express themselves like the way I am going to. It needs to be said.

I live in Rocinha, a huge favela and I really do love living here. I know and understand that as humans we all have our each individual ways of doing things. Nothing upsets me more than people who try to take advantage of others and people who don’t value one’s time. And people who claim to be friends or partners but don’t treat you like you are. People who don't respect me or my time, don't deserve my respect or time. I do my best to follow through with comittments that I have made with people and I have no problem saying, "NO", if I cannot do something.

I love teaching people about our favela and the truth of what goes on here.  Unfortunately the media tends to sensationalise the bad things. Rarely do they talk about the good things. So, this is where we come in to show the reality of the situation. Hiring help or working with others here can be a challenge.

Since 2007 we have been working here showing the tourists our life from the inside, from the view of the residents. On my website it states that we only hire people from the favela.  The majority of people who work with me know and understand the value of what we are trying to accomplish.

Hiring guides who speak fluent English who live in Rocinha has been very difficult. I have had two guides who worked with me who stole money from me and one guide who doesn’t understand the value of people’s time and responsibilities.

The two guides who stole from me there’s nothing much I can do. So, one stole 40 reais and the other stole 85 reais. Was it worth it to lose a great job over such little money? Its not the amount of money stolen that concerns me but that they don’t seem to understand that their actions create a reaction where they end up being the big loser in the end. They come from jobs making 40-50 reais a day to work with me and earn 90-120 reais day but they don’t value this.

Last night I had a tour booked for another guide who lives here who has his own company. He is a good tour guide and have had nothing but great reviews of his work. His only problem is he has no concept of time or he says he will show up to meet me but then doesn’t. I have a big problem with people who tell me they are going to do something but don’t do it. These people are the same people that if you were to do this to them, they would be upset and complain.

When I do tours I bring enough money with me to cover the bus fare for all my guests. This tour guide never has money to pay and asks the tourists to pay and then at the end deducts the amount from the tour fee. I don’t agree with this. In my company we always pay the bus fare up front as this is standard procedure for most tour companies. It doesn’t look professional if on my website it says that the bus fare is included but when I arrive I’m asking the guests to pay for the bus. Even if I do compensate them at the end, I just doesn’t sit well with many visitors. When I am working with tourists I cater to "their culture” of how things work, not Brazilian culture or my own “culture”. They are paying me to provide a service and have certain expectations of professionalism from me and the guides who work with me.

Yesterday afternoon, I had made an appointment to visit a friend and their daughter was having a birthday party in another favela. The party started at 8:30pm but I told them I would arrive by 9:30pm at the latest. So, last night I asked this guide to come by between 7-9pm to pick up the bus fare for the following days tour.  He replied that he would come by between 7-8pm. I’m thinking this is perfect for me because I wont miss the party.  If he comes by at 8pm I can leave right away and arrive at the party around 8:45-9:00. They know I would be arriving a little late but they said it was ok. So, 7pm comes around, no show, 8pm comes around still no show. I’m slowly starting to get upset because this person is obviously not thinking of his responsibility. At 9 pm still no show. I call my friend and tell her that I’m not sure If I will make it because this tour guide has not shown up or even called me to let me know what is going on. But I wait it out because I am thinking that he might just be late.

Finally, I make a decision to cancel his tour and decide to do it myself. He never did show up last night and no phone call telling me that he would not show! Total disrespect for me, my time, my friend and her 6 year old daughter that was expecting me to be present at her birthday party. This guide ruined my whole night. He only thought about himself and not that his actions would create a problem for me and my friend (who organised the birthday party).

Around 11 pm he sends this message saying I am “too hard and its my way or no way, I thought we were partners.” etc. He is upset with me. Hey dude, I was home waiting on YOU! I don’t tell people that I will meet them and not bother showing up! If I cannot make an appointment, I call and let the person know. One phone call from him telling me that he could not come could have avoided all this trouble! This coming from a guy who told me he really needs a job and money.

First lets clarify what the word "Partner" means. A partner, to me, is somebody you know, you spend quality time with who is on the same wave length as you and shares similar goals especially if you work together. A partner is somebody you trust and work together for the benefit of both people, not just one person. Developing a partnership takes time. A partner is not one who you meet on the street in passing say hello, then move on. They are a person who is usually a close friend. Because when working with a partner you share things, experiences that otherwise you wouldn't share with just anyone. So my definition of a partner is very different than what some people here think of it as being.

By not showing up, this is not a partner. Some people don’t understand but this is still a job. Would he act this way if he worked in a supermarket or a hotel? Of course not, they would fire him. So why is working with me so different.  Lets make this clear, I know for a fact that if I did this to him, he would not be happy. He would be pissed off wondering why I didn’t call him or show up.

Partners treat partners with respect. They do what they say they are going to do. If they can’t do something, then they call to say they can’t do it . Partners do not leave their partners waiting for them, then don’t show up and no phone call.  I would never think of doing this to someone.

I think there are several things going on here. I am very serious about my business but this is why my business is successful. I am not “hard”, I am disciplined! I still enjoy life but I know my responsibilities. If you show up at my place for an appointment and you are 5-10 minutes late, no problem.  And I am talking an appointment, not a party where arriving on time is not as important. But not showing up and no phone call is unacceptable. This is simple common sense and respect for your “partner”. Also the guide is 24 years old and young.  I am in my 50’s and having lived in different countries I “get it” when it comes to commitments with other people.  We all have busy lives and things to do!

Interesting enough, I have two other guides that work with me and I have never had an issue with time, being late, not showing up or lack of communication. Dembore and Obi are both Brazilian born in favelas. I think the difference is both Dembore and Obi have had heavy contact with foreigners and foreign culture. Dembore, born in Minas Gerais in a favela there, had the opportunity to live in the USA for 8 years. In living in the US, Dembore held down several jobs, mostly working as a server in restauarants and as an internet installer. So, Dembore understands the value or having a regular job, showing up on time and when dealing with friends, showing this same respect.  Obi has a brother married to an Australian girl and has had a lot of their influence regarding responsibility rub off on him. Obi is the part owner of a hostel in Rocinha and deals with foreigners on a daily basis. He understands the value of being on time. When tourists come to Brazil, many are here for a short time. They want to see as much as they can while here so it is imperative that if we work with them that we respect their time and limitations. It’s business 101.

I have another guide who is not born in Brazil but lived in Vidigal for 13 months and has lived in Rocinha 8 months. Jody is from England and loves Brazil and enjoys living in Rocinha. He loves the great choices of food, decent transportation, a lot cheaper rent and the friends he has made here. He also is volunteering with some football projects here. He approached me over 8 months ago asking about working with us. He had done tours in Vidigal and also specializes in over 10 different hiking tours in Rio de Janeiro. He is motivated and again, I have NEVER had any issues of lateness or not showing up when he said he would. Just this morning he came by my place to pick up a refrigerator. The moving guy had scheduled to meet at my house at 9 am. Jody arrived at 8:45 am.  I had asked Jody to come a little early because I had to leave to work by 8:50 am to catch the bus. We get along great because we show this respect for each other.  This is the kind of people I want working with us! Dembore, Obi and Jody, never a problem.

It’s interesting because this tour guide who wrote to me mentioned something about “your culture”.  I am a business person, so, I have a “business culture”.  In other words, I get shit DONE! I am sure he never would have mentioned this if he were in Sao Paulo. The “culture” of Sao Paulo is a “business culture”. Much like the developed world. In Sao Paulo if you don’t show up or call, people will not take you seriously and it will be very difficult to find work.  And this is in regular relationships too. I see a big parallel with Rio and Los Angeles and comparing Sao Paulo with New York. The Rio/L.A. thing is similar in you have the tourism, hot tropical climate, beach culture, relaxed attitudes etc.  Is it the sun in Rio that creates too much relaxed of attitudes here? In New York and Sao Paulo, life moves faster and people get stuff done and they don’t wait for slackers or flaky people! But I have met serious business people here in Rio where we “click” and understand each other they “get it”. SUCCESS TAKES SACRIFICE!! And success is not about money. Its a mindset that any project you take on, you work 100% until it becomes a reality. It’s too bad I didn’t learn this until I was in my 40’s. But, I know my goals and I prefer those people who share them and want to take part.

When I lived in the USA, I had a job that started at 10 am Monday-Friday. My responsibility was to show up on time! No excuses. It was a job where I was paid to do a job. If I was sick or an emergency came up, it was MY responsibility to show respect to my job and my boss by calling them and letting them know my situation. . This is not “my culture”, this is life! In most countries this is how life works! I can’t choose the time I want to go to work. This kind of attitude is true in most things in life. Look at sports like football. You show up late? You are showing disrespect for those players who have showed up on time and this behavior is not one who is a team player!

I want to give jobs to more people from the favela but it has become a big challenge finding those who show the responsibility and understand of what it takes to do this job. I am very easy to work for. I do not micro manage as the guides are from the favela and know about life here and how to show the guests the community. They have their independence as I don’t tell them how to do their jobs. 

The three things that make a successful tour guide and person are : 

1.) Show up on time 

2.) Respect and follow through on commitments that that you make 

3.) Communicate if you can’t do something or you are going to be late.

These three things is all I ask from people who work with me. Is this unreasonable?

If you work with me, all I care about is that your word can be trusted and you do what you say your going to do. Otherwise, don’t waste my time!

If you want to be the regular “Joe”, continue on, but I got shit to do!