My recent trip to Argentina was everything but ordinary. In just two weeks I had a total of 7 flights – went from the southernmost city in the world (Ushuaia), covering over 4.200 km in distance to the amazing Iguazu waterfalls in the north of the country.
The name “Argentina” comes from the latin word for “Argentum”, which translates to “shiny” or “white” – commonly known to us as silver.
Argentina was rich in precious metals, raw materials and food, so in the beginning of 20th century, it became the “Dubai” of South America – the number of monumental buildings in the 15 million people city of Buenos Aires, is counted in hundreds.
Just to name one – a famous theatre “Teatro Colon”, was considered to be as prestigious as European theatres in that period of tremendous growth Argentina was going through.
A regular middle class family in Argentina would work for 4-5 months to raise sheep, food or produce raw materials, and for the rest of the year they would move to Paris and live there – their economy was among top 10 in the world.
Today, the country is near bankruptcy, with inflation sometimes being 10% in a single day, but averaging 100% per year – life especially for the young generation in Argentina is everything but simple and easy.
The population in Argentina derives their roots from European immigrants, Croatians as well. On one of our trips we visited what is considered a smaller ranch in Patagonia, with 9.000 acres in size, which is owned by a third generation Croatian family from the island of Brač. The regular ranch in Patagonia is around 20.000 acres – due to the lack of grass and food, one cow requires 25 acres for food and one sheep around 5 acres.
On this journey with my business partner and dear friend Saša Cvetojević, we have seen amazing places and have met amazing people – there were lessons learned and I want to share them with you.
1. STEP INTO THE UNKNOWN
When we decided to visit Argentina, we just bought the return tickets and decided to improvise everything once we got there.
We went into the unknown, visiting the country where most people don’t speak English.
Organising trips locally, booking hotels, exchanging the money into the what is called “blue dollar” in the unofficial places to get better exchange rates, getting around cities and places, all of this required a lot of resourcefulness. But great leaders have to be resourceful even when the resources are scarce and conditions are tough.
Stepping into the unknown and living outside of the comfort zone, requires us to grow and become more than we were.
Embracing the unknown is probably the greatest skill we need to master to be successful in all aspects of our life.
2. APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HAVE AND WHERE YOU ARE
100 years ago if you wanted to settle in Patagonia, the state would give you 20.000 acres of land – but you had to stay there for a minimum of 15 years, sometimes even up to 30 years to own the land in the end.
Harsh conditions from an unforgiving environment like Patagonia, these settlers were facing just to survive, are unimaginable for a modern man today.
Just to sell the wool from their sheep, they would need to travel on horses for almost a month to get to the port where they would sell the wool to be shipped overseas.
Nothing grows in Patagonia. It is mostly covered with small bushes and vegetation that can survive these hard conditions.
The average tree will have very flat roots because everything grows on a thin layer of soil, below which are rocks. The average tree grows only 1 mm per year because Patagonia is in the subarctic zone. It takes forever for anything to grow in such an environment.
Compared to what we have today, for example in Croatia, is a paradise and abundance to life in Patagonia.
We should really appreciate and respect this, instead of taking it for granted. So the lesson is to be grateful for what we have, where and how we live.
3. IF YOU ARE NOT PREPARED, THE WEATHER WILL KILL YOU
The weather in Patagonia is very often changing every 20 minutes. You can go from a sunny day, to a cold winter in a matter of minutes.
Many hikers come to experience the wilderness of Patagonia, but if you are not in great shape and super well prepared, the weather in Patagonia can kill you.
The same is in business – what you don’t know can “kill” you. So it is mandatory that we work on being prepared and question everything that can affect our business.
4. SHARING IS CARING
There is one amazing custom in Argentina and that is sharing the cup of famous Yerba Mate tea. Mate is prepared in a small cup, where you put the herbs, hot water and use a special straw to drink the tea.
But Mate is not meant to be enjoyed alone – the cup of Mate travels from friend to friend and this ritual keeps people closer and together.
Or as we like to say – sharing is caring and giving is living.
5. NURTURE YOUR KEY RELATIONSHIPS
When we were on our way to visit the famous Iguazu waterfalls, in order to enjoy the view from the Brazilian side of the waterfalls, we had to change into a Brazilian car and cross the border from Argentina to Brazil.
As we were approaching the border, we saw a huge line of cars, already waiting to cross the border. Then our guide told the driver to skip the log line and get in front.
At first we thought that he was rude, but then he explained that tourist agencies have priority at the border.
Once we were near the border, an officer saw our guide and waved us to come in front of him.
We were finished with the paperwork in 5 minutes and continued to drive to the Brazilian part of the national park Iguazu.
The same thing repeated a couple of times during the day and it was always a person that knew our guide that moved us forward. Basically it was relationships that our guide developed over time and nurtured on a frequent basis that moved us forward.
So, work on your most important relationships and nurture them as often as possible – all the business boils down to the quality of your relationships with your team and with your customers.
6. CONTROL YOUR COSTS
The only thing we have a direct control over are our expenses.
Argentina was among the top 10 richest countries in the world just a few decades ago. Today they are near bankruptcy with inflation skyrocketing up to 10% in a single day.
The country is booming with a “gray” economy and it will be almost impossible to bring “this ship around”. The debt they have collected over the last couple of decades is not serviceable any more.
The same rule applies for business – that fact that you had amazing results in the last year, doesn’t guarantee that you will repeat the same. We have to watch over our expenses constantly as this is the only thing over which we have direct control.
It is easy to spend the money we have in our bank account – but once spent, it is gone. We have to make sure that we keep spending money only on the activities that will increase our sales or profits – all the other stuff we need to keep weeding away on a weekly basis.
7. A RUNNING HORSE CAN’T DRINK
I had the privilege to watch the Thai Polo final game in Buenos Aires.
Polo is considered to be the most expensive and exclusive sport in the world. There are many historical reasons for that, but the most important reason is that every player needs at least 10 horses for a game of polo.
The teams are divided into 4 players – so in total you need 80 horses for a single game and a stadium with professionally grown grass, like at Wimbledon.
Usually the game has 7 rounds, with each round lasting for 6:30 minutes.
Due to the intensity of the game, each player will at least once change a horse within a single round. The horse can maintain this high pressure for 3-4 minutes and then it has to be replaced.
The same analogy is valid in business – we cannot run without stopping every now and then to “drink water”.
My whole trip to Argentina was a “drinking water” part of my life and my business.
I kindly advise you to do the same.