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American Business Gurus Flood Mexican Book Shelves

October 8, 1992

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ The how-to business books, audio tapes and self-help courses that crowd the U.S. marketplace are now moving south of the border thanks to the recent free trade agreement.

Spanish-language books dealing with concepts once alien to Mexico, from telemarketing to customer service, are everywhere these days.

There’s ″See You at The Top″ and ‘No Stinkin’ Thinkin″ by the American guru of positive marketing Zig Ziglar. There’s ″Creative Selling Today″ by Stan Kosser and Donald Trumps’ ″The Art of the Deal.″

Radio talk shows fill the airwaves with chatter about Mexico’s mania for opening American franchises here.

And more than 40 English-language schools are finding a boom business with secretaries and CEOs-in-training hoping to master the world’s business idiom.

″With the free trade agreement, anyone who wants to advance is studying English,″ said John Nieman Cramer of the school Interlingua.

Cramer said most are banking on opportunities expected from the as-yet unratified North American Free Trade Agreement, which would create the world’s largest trading bloc between Mexico, Canada and the United States.

Miguel Manzanilla is among the hopeful. The 32-year-old businessman credits the self-help explosion for helping him expand a Cancun publishing business from tourist flyers to desktop publishing.

″I started by myself three years ago and now I have 12 employees. If anything, I owe my success to the idea that you have to serve the customer,″ said Manzanilla, spotted in a bookstore reading about a successful fast-food chain.

But he said a challenge is being posed for a nation where customer service is an oxymoron: Bank lines often are an hour wait and a bribe is the best way to get a phone hookup before next year.

″There’s still such a great deal of resistance to changing the old way of doing business. Many businesses will simply fail,″ Manzanilla said.

But the signs of change are in the wind.

Mexico City’s Radio Mundo has broadcasts for executives promising ″information that will give you firm ground to stand on in today’s evolving business climate.′

The School of Banking and Commerce in Mexico City this year began requiring a foreign language. English is usually chosen.

″Beginning this year, our students are required to take three semesters alone to study the global marketplace,″ said director Jesus Cantu Trevino. ″There has been a radical change in thinking.″

Business magazines are plump with information on boosting employee moral, improving ad campaigns, launching telemarketing programs and winning over the customer.

″You don’t have to poison a salad with curare or pour hot coffee in the lap of a customer to keep him from coming back,″ one article warned.

The challenge may not be wooing the business class, but reaching a largely unskilled rural population.

″Many campesinos come to the cities looking for work and they are not prepared for factory labor. They only think of starting when they want and stopping when they want,″ said Cantu.

He cited the case of farm workers hired by factories who failed to return after the midday meal because they remained home to tend the animals.

″These new ideas call for a new mentality, a new kind of discipline,″ said Cantu. ″When workers go home and don’t come back ... there is a training cost involved.″

James Gregory, an American who consults foreign businesses considering expansion into Mexico, said any trickle-down effect would be a long time coming. ″The extent to which these books about business are catching on, frankly I haven’t yet seen much adherence to them,″ he said.

Teresa Gutierrez, a professor at the U.S. Studies Center at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said cultural differences have to be overcome.

″Some people don’t understand the Mexican way of thinking toward work, commitments and responsibility; they are very different from the American way of doing things,″ she said.

″Whether or not the free trade agreement is finally ratified, we need to change the Mexican mentality, we need to become more productive, more competitive.″

End Adv AMs Thursday, Oct. 8

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