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Interview –
satis&fy do Brasil

All the clichés and the near mythical aura surrounding ­Brazil aside, it’s still a fascinating place where interesting events ­transpire. Some are well worth reporting. Take, for example, satis&fy’s recently launched new venture, the local subsidiary satis&fy Producoes Ltda. TRUE COLOURS checked in with the movers and shakers to find out how the fledgling outfit is ­faring in a market as promising and exciting as Brazil. A transcontinental interview with Matthias Prill, Managing ­Director satis&fy Producoes Ltda. in São Paulo, Dirk Vennemann (Venne), satis&fy Group CEO (resident road warrior) and Ana Areia, ­Project Manager and Coordinator for satis&fy Producoes Ltda. and in Portland, Oregon, follows. 

How do you open a branch in Brazil? Hop on a plane, rent facilities,
set up the company, hire people and off you go?

Venne: It would be great if that was all there is to it. The country and market work differently from ours, and you have to be aware of this to gain a foothold here. satis&fy has long sought to be there for its customers in Brazil and provide full service, especially since we were awarded the contract to execute a complex project for a spectacular presentation of a new soccer cleat in Rio. That was in 2013. We ­travelled here on the wings of euphoria, as well prepared as ever, but we were soon brought down to earth. It was only with local support that we managed to wrap up the project on time. The key takeaway was this: You can‘t get anything done as a foreign company without Brazilian go-betweens, and they want to be paid accordingly. That‘s when it dawned on us that we need a company of our own down there.

Then came the World Cup, which you were also involved with.

Venne: Exactly; that‘s when we started gaining some experience as satis&fy Producoes Ltda. We handled some smaller projects, learned more, and branched out our network of contacts. The more we did on location, the better we got on with our local partners—and they with us. It took two years to set the company up. It is headquartered in São Paulo with a branch office in Rio de Janeiro. Now we are perfectly positioned and have all the means to meet our customers‘ ­demands to the high level of quality they have come to expect.

satis&fy‘s family ties helped you become the perfect partner for European and
American customers who want to stage events there?

Venne: They did indeed; one of our long-time employees has a ­relative who is also in the event industry and knows the local conditions like no other.

That‘s your cue, Matthias. Tell me, how did it all start and how did you end up in Brazil?

Matthias: I‘ve lived in São Paulo since 1988 and am married to a Brazilian woman. I came here as a concert and tour manager as part of the entourage of various internationally successful rock ‘n‘ roll bands. Then one day my cousin Sebastian Hofeditz got in touch with me. He‘s been with satis&fy for ages, and he told me that the company was looking for someone who‘s familiar with business practices in Brazil to set up an independent company under Brazilian law. I have quite a bit of experience and so without further ado I became the Managing Director of satis&fy Producoes Ltda.

You have been officially registered as a company in São Paulo since April 2014.
Why not Rio?

Matthias: São Paulo is a far more business-friendly place than Rio. You can find a lot more companies here that are reliable and deliver good quality.

How are you set up in the way of staff?

Matthias: We now employ many locals, which simply works better, as well as some people to liaise. We also have a number of local partners and suppliers. What we don‘t have yet are local production facilities of our own for custom builds, scenic pieces and the like. But we‘re working on it.

What is your strategy for the Brazilian market?

Matthias: We want to make a name for ourselves with satis&fy‘s ­customary production quality, customer service and effective project management, and earn a reputation as a competent partner for events in Brazil to recommend us to potential customers worldwide. That is why we recently reinforced our team with several capable people out of the local production scene. Above all, we are set up to be exceedingly flexible; we can respond immediately, at any time, and according to the given circumstances and the wishes of
the ­customer.

Next up is the Olympic Games. Are you ready? What projects are in the works?
Any capacity for more?

Matthias: We‘re nearly booked solid with several projects in 2016, including a very big one. But as I said, we can expand satis&fy ­Producoes Ltda. on the fly and at any time, should this become necessary.

What‘s it like for a customer to be working with the team at satis&fy Producoes Ltda.?

Matthias: We have employees from here to optimize communications and processes—not just because of the language, but also because they‘re familiar with local practices. Brazil is a modern ­country, but on a different continent. Things are different here, and not like at home. It‘s hard to get ahead here with our ways and mindset, so we have people like Ana to be an intermediary between the two worlds and ensure that projects go smoothly.

Ana, how do you fit into this constellation and what brought you to satis&fy?

Ana: I was born in Brazil, but attended a school for marketing ­communication in California, which is where I met my future ­husband. First I worked as a freelancer in São Paulo and commuted a lot, but then I eventually met Maika Janat of satis&fy LLC in Portland. Now I have been employed by satis&fy since early 2015. This is ­perfect for me; I‘m part of the cultures that I find particularly ­inspiring. I work with Germans, with their impeccable design ideas and a ­highly professional work ethic; with Americans, who have innovative ­thinking and the entertainment world as such formative influences, and with Brazilians, who impress me with their creativity and talent for improvisation.

In other words, you‘re familiar with all sides; that is, not just the languages,
but also the cultural differences.

Ana: Definitely, and that‘s important because we work on location with employees and partners who are locals. I am able to see the ­situation from all sides and mediate between them so we end up with something that works for everyone and achieve the desired outcome.

You are responsible for projects at satis&fy Producoes Ltda., but work out of Portland.
How do the two go together?

Ana: Very well, at least at the moment. Most of our orders currently come through the LLC, and I‘m here as the face to the customer; the bridge between the client and the team in Brazil. I close the gap ­between the time zones, mindsets and working methods.

And this works?

Ana: Very well, actually. Basically, it‘s like working with different technical standards. On the one hand you need more tolerance; on the other, different standards have to be applied. I know how to get this across reliably and factor it into my job orders. My big advantage is that I understand how to deal with the people here and in Europe, and I know Brazilians.

What are these differences from your perspective as a Brazilian?

Ana: In a few words? That‘s hard. We live in a tropical country and don‘t have to worry about blizzards or earthquakes. That‘s probably one reason why planning isn‘t our greatest talent. At the carnival, on the other hand, you can certainly see the can-do spirit, perfection, ability to improvise with materials, and passion for what‘s to be achieved. So my climate theory isn‘t entirely accurate. Granted, sometimes it‘s hard to find true professionals, but things are different when there‘s enthusiasm for the job. So you have to handle this ­situation in the right way, and then Brazilians are great partners and lot of fun to work with.

How would you describe the collaboration from the perspective of satis&fy?

Matthias: It‘s a give and take, and not so much in the way of a service rendered and a consideration given in return. I mean to say that we‘re learning from one another. For example, the Brazilians are learning from us about design and technical innovations here and there. We‘re learning from them about creative sourcing and ­improvising.

Thank you for taking the time for this interesting -conversation.

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