Thursday, July 3, 2008

Working in downtown Rio

The days of sleeping in and walking around town in flip flops all day have come to a close. I’ve got a job. It was bound to happen.

Actually I’m thrilled. And EVERYONE I tell lights up and exclaims CONGRATULATIONS! as if I have won the lottery. Good work is really hard to fine here in Brazil – no fooling.

I’ve been picked up to provide some business consulting and operations support for a friend of ours who owns a business that renovates, repaints and weatherproofs large buildings in Rio; large scale condominium buildings and downtown office buildings.

The business model is a real money machine, but a recent series of missteps on a really big job, including some labor disputes that cost a bundle, ground the business to a halt. We are resurrecting it one week at a time. But the model is a winner and his track record and past client base bode extremely well for a full recovery.

On the surface I’m helping to tighten the operations and provide some reality checks and coaching around certain business practices. We’re focusing on old and new business relationships and their promise to reward over time. The unspoken dynamic is that I’m head cheerleader to a guy who has been beaten down and discouraged.

It’s a lot of fun. My nearly one hour commute consists of catching a bus around the corner from our apartment, then transfering in central Niteroí to a ferry for a 15 minute ride across the bay. Then I walk about 15 blocks through the narrow cobblestone streets of the very old, historic “Centro” district of downtown Rio to the Praça Mauá district.

Our office is on the 14th floor of an office building with a view of the Christ the Redeemer statue out the window.

The odd part about my job (and this may have occurred to you reading this) is that everything from the phone machine to the personnel files to the client contracts and accounting is in Portuguese. (Imagine that!) So I live with Google Translate on my computer and play a constant game of dropping text for translation and navigating my way though the maze, all the while picking up the rather arcane vocabulary of construction materials and contracting. I’m a hoot on the phone!

It’s nice to have an income, as modest as it is. More importantly I’m out of the house and walking the streets of downtown, navigating everyday experiences and soaking up the buzz of it all.

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