Welcome to BCMPInterim’s

In forthcoming issues we’ll be updating you on BCMPInterimís activities and other interim news and issues we think are crucial to an organisationís competitiveness and success and an interim managerís understanding of the marketplace.

Kicking off our first newsletter is HR specialist Anne Sherryís entertaining account of life as an interim manager in Costa Rica, where she is helping one of our clients to consolidate its leading position in the dynamic and highly competitive online gaming sector. Her practical tips for a successful overseas assignment make valuable reading for clients and interim managers alike.

The BCMPInterim Bulletin also marks our first anniversary. It has been an exciting and very successful year in which we have helped our clients across a wide range of industry sectors to resolve their resourcing issues and manage change and growth in creative and cost-effective ways.

If you would like to know more about any of the issues raised in this or future Bulletins, have an issue of your own you would like to discuss with us or would like to have a chat about opportunities in interim management, please give us a call on 020 7665 1836 or email info@bcmpinterim.com. To find out more about how we could help your business visit our website at www.bcmpinterim.com.

Alan Charlesworth
Managing Partner

The easy-going Ticos encourage Anne Sherry to experience the hot water springs at Tabascon

Anne Sherry’s guide to a successful overseas assignment

If possible, visit the location of your potential assignment for a recce before accepting it. Reassure yourself that you can function in a different work, social and cultural environment and possibly climate. Talk to the other people and find out what they like and dislike about working there.

Agree any specific requirements you may have as part of your contract, e.g. a secure flat in as safe an area as possible, a dedicated driver &40;if you decide you don’t want to risk driving&41; and regular visits home on a long assignment.

Be prepared for culture shock and a steep adjustment curve: the honeymoon phase, disenchantment and/or frustration, recovery and eventually adaptation.

Be aware of your own self conditioning and values. This will give you an idea what’s likely to affect you in your new environment and the adjustments and allowances you may have to make. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Make the language and the cultural differences you encounter things that connect you to, rather than divide you from, your new colleagues.

Learn the language, even if only a few words. Get out and about - see the country and get to know its people. Avoid associating solely with fellow expats and adopting the ‘ain’t it awful here’ syndrome.

Lastly, enjoy the good things and cope with the bad!

Anne spends weekends exploring Costa Rica’s exotic landscapes and wildlife

Destination Costa Rica

HR specialist Anne Sherry is having more excitement than she bargained for on her challenging but ultimately rewarding interim assignment at an online sports gaming call centre in Costa Rica

It’s hot again today, temperatures in the low 80s. Cloudy, intermittent sun, white skies, no breeze. Poas Volcano National Park is closed due to ‘significant volcanic activity’, the first time in 20 years. ‘Last night the earth shook!’ Alejandra laughs. I slept through it all. ‘I hate Costa Rica,’ another manager tells me. ‘It rains all the time.’ Comparisons can be enlightening. I’ve been here 50 days and seen a dozen rain spots twice.

It’s seven months since BCMPInterim’s Anne Morgan called. ‘I’ve something that might interest you; the location could be a problem though.’ It was, and it is. Yet here I am considering extending my contract, provided I can get back to the UK regularly - respite is essential.

‘Something that might interest you’ eventually crystallised into a four month assignment at an online sports gaming call centre and marketing facility ten miles west of the capital, San Jose. The company is housed in a warehouse beside the Prospero Fernandez autopista, or dual carriageway. For neighbours we have two packaging plants. Opposite is a soda or snack bar, where the staff eat what is laughingly called ‘smoked lunch’, fajitas flavoured by exhaust fumes from the cars that rev and reverse continuously.

Conditions are basic and will remain so until the facility moves next year. I am lucky; I have an office with a slice of window. If I stand on tiptoe I can peer across the roofs of the warehouse opposite and see the mountains of the Cordillera Central range that cocoon the valley.I have six deliverables and my role is to achieve them through others. This can be frustrating as my preferred style is hands-on and task-focused. The first week I felt like a walking version of Munch’s ‘Scream’, but I’m still here and I’m still smiling. I train, coach, develop procedures and script a new company handbook. I prod, push, cajole and progress chase. Every day I walk the call centre floor.

It’s impossible to work here without being affected by the culture. It permeates everything. TVs blaring across the office, loud voices, shouting, hugging, kissing, touching, missed deadlines, flakey planning - the sheer exuberance of it all. Culture shock is too tame an expression for the experience.

Looking for a flat was my first non-work challenge. I had been promised a shortlist of possibilities on arrival. Nada! Nothing! ‘We have lots of time,’ said Carolina, the MD’s PA. Two weeks and 30 viewings later I was angry and desperate. I was looking for furnished, safe and secure accommodation, one bedroom, simple cooking facilities, clean and quiet, near a few shops, pool if possible. I was taken to empty five bedroom condos, a house with a live-in canary and an isolated house up a mountain beside a barn sheltering three oxen. Eventually I found a flat myself through The Lonely Planet Guide. It’s in an aparthotel, palm trees outside the window, saucer-sized hibiscus in the garden, multi-cultural neighbours, worth the search.

Another challenge was finding a reliable taxi driver. I was offered a car but wouldn’t want to drive here. There are no street signs and few signposts. The way Costa Ricans - or Ticos, as they call themselves - drive is machisto by UK standards. Came the day when Viktor Lopez picked me up. Clean car, seat belts in the back, turned up on time. Perfect! I would use him to take me to work and bring me home at night. The second week he was late every evening. The Ticos are never on time,’ the Finance Director told me. ‘I’m going to try and talk it through with Viktor,’ I said. The Slovak receptionist in the aparthotel translated while I talked. I told him his constant lateness felt like a lack of respect. Since then he has been punctual ‘como un ingles’, punctual as an Englishman.

This casual attitude to time-keeping is endemic. Mañana does not mean ‘tomorrow’. Mañana means ‘just not today.’ Another favourite, scrawled on the bumpers of cars, is ‘si dios quiere’, if God wants, then it will happen; if not it won’t. It’s a fatalistic approach that suits taking off to the beach but not working for a UK multinational company, where it’s viewed as a way of avoiding responsibility.

Costa Rica is expatriate territory. It would be so easy to fall in with an expatriate community and never speak a word of Spanish. The life style here can be very good - maids, gardeners, drivers. Not surprisingly, security is an issue. Most condos have guards. Windows are barred, even in the small houses. Cars parked in front yards are behind grids. It’s not safe to walk out after dark. Streets are ill lit. The few pavements are strips of rubble that suddenly disappear.

I find the Ticos open, courteous and easy going, especially when I try to speak their language. My Castillian Spanish was so rusty that it creaked. So I attend classes twice a week with Iris. I learn fast with her. Less so with Latin dancing. I had one free lesson, intermediate level. Lost - six left feet! ‘Move those English ‘eeps Ana,’ Sergio yelled. How to explain that I’d spent a lifetime trying to hide them; it was hard to suddenly start wiggling at my age. Never one to give up, I’ve booked for beginners on Saturday mornings.

Weekdays I work and have dinner with colleagues. Lots of good restaurants. Weekends I do tourist things and explore. I’ve seen brilliantly coloured birds, iguanas, crocodiles, caimans, a white nosed coati ambling beside our car, and one day, a Jesus Christ lizard. I’ve visited rain and cloud forests and walked sandy beaches wider than Trafalgar Square. I’ve smelt the stink of a sloth up close and almost personal. I’ve felt my hair move with the flight of a hummingbird.

As I write I realise how accustomed I’ve become to so much. Barred houses, armed guards, rubbish in the streets, crazy driving, not throwing toilet paper down the loo - all part of living here and adapting to a totally different life style. The assignment came to me from heaven and hell.

Thank you BCMP!

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