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Running a Business in Costa Rica is Tough

Editorial – When you start a business anywhere in the world you are filled with unbridled optimism and the excitement of a world packed with possibilities.  This is true even here in Costa Rica, but somehow here your vision is more likely to hit more potholes then your average local highway.

tico time costa ricaMany an employer here in Costa Rica will absolutely drool at the thought of a virtually limitless pool of well, educated, English speaking employees that they can have for pennies compared to the US and Canada.  That is they will until they try to run their business on a daily basis.

Many things that make a business successful anywhere else in the world are not traits that can be counted on culturally here in Costa Rica.  Let me list a few of my favorites and most frustrating.

“Tico Time”   Tico Time is the charming tradition of never being on time for ANYTHING!  Sure we as Gringos may put way too much emphasis on punctuality, but how do you run a business when the starting and ending time is optional?  There are many excuses for not being on time, but more often then not the explanation is non existent – just the blank stare of someone that doesn’t really care.

Entitlement:  Ticos are amongst some of the most protected worker classes in Central America- they are guaranteed CAJA (insurance) which adds about 40% to their monthly wages, they have a zillion holidays a year and get a Christmas bonus that is the equivalent of a one month salary (BY LAW).

Though still cheaper then their Gringo counterparts – they still come with a lot of extra expenses to consider.

Lack of Responsibility:  Most Tico employees are unable to think outside of the box – to problem solve effectively in any way.  Maybe it is a cultural thing or maybe sheer avoidance, but passing the buck and dodging decisions or resolution is a national pastime.

All of that said – there are great opportunities here for people to start any number of successful businesses – just beware that it will not always be easy sailing!

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