Opening a Cross Border Business in Costa Rica Can Be Frustrating – and Rewarding
If a cross border business is in your game plan having patience and a sense of humor are the keys to the success of Jim Parisi, owner of the Jaime Peligro bookstore.
Before opening his warm, welcoming and cozy bookstore in the seaside town of Tamarindo, Costa Rica, Jim Parisi owned a record store in northern California for 18 years. Although it was a success, he decided to move south for a new experience – and a little taste of la pura vida. Not wanting to remain idle, however, he then opened Jaime Peligro, his flagship store. (He’s now offering franchise opportunities for interested parties.)
Sounds simple, but the truth is a bit more complicated than that. The process of navigating business regulations in Costa Rica, for example, is somewhat more difficult than in the U.S., including the simple hiring of Costa Rican natives (or Ticos).
The book store
“There’s lot more bureaucracy here and a lot more of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing,” Peligro says. “And when you sprinkle in the Tico manana factor, things can become downright frustrating.”
For example, if he sets up a meeting with a municipality representative for Tuesday at 2:30 and shows up at the scheduled date and time, the secretary might ask, “What are you doing here? He’s in San Jose.”
“Yes,” Parisi adds, “the paperwork does get done – on a Tuesday at 2:30 – but it’s just a matter of how many Tuesdays transpire before you can check it off your list. I use humor to assuage the frustration, because we’re all here voluntarily after all, and getting angry serves absolutely no purpose.”
This is in part due to a different business mentality, where punctuality doesn’t necessarily fit into the equation – until, that is, it’s time for businesses such as Parisi’s to go to their wallets to pay for essential services. “Manana” quickly becomes “ahora.”
On the other hand, Parisi says, “When I’m waiting for replies, shipments, distributors, I continually find myself straddling the line of not wanting to be the Ugly American, but not wanting to be trampled. I have learned a lot of patience.”
But this has resulted in an upside for this book purveyor. “I’ve grown, business-wise, in directions I hadn’t anticipated. Likewise, some of the ideas I had didn’t work here, but I learned from that” Parisi notes. “My dad used to say, “It’s not a mistake if you don’t do it twice,” to which I’ll add that the biggest mistake is not trying in the first place.”