I had an interview with the founder of a small consulting company called Plan Politicas Publicas. Fabrizio (the founder) did his PhD in Sociology at Berkeley so he was extremely receptive to speaking with me and having it recorded.
Since I was in the neighborhood – noticing many Orthodox Jews walking around in traditional clothes for Rosh Hashanah – I decided to ‘pound the streets’ to seek interviews.
This time, I decided to change my spiel. The original spiel went something like this (in Portuguese):
“Ola! Is the owner here? (no / yes, that’s me / why do you ask?) I’m from Singapore and I’m doing a study on small enterprises in Sao Paulo. I’m doing a few interviews with various business owners, and would like to do an interview with you about your experiences. (About what?) To hear your perspective on what it’s like to open and run a business in this city, your sources of support, relations with the government, strategies for growth. (Hesitation) Would you have some time to chat?”
This was, obviously, on hindsight, a disaster! It clogged all channels of hope. I could see their interest dissipate right before my eyes, the hesitation forming an impenetrable iron curtain between us. Clearly, I needed a new approach.
I realized it was important to highlight that I could provide market exposure for their business. I spoke to my friend Mike for advice, and he said I could say I’m writing a book, which is true.
My new spiel went like this:
“Ola! Is the owner here? (no / yes / why do you ask?) I’m from Singapore, and I’m writing a book on businesses in Sao Paulo.”
It worked like magic. I didn’t need to explain any further; I could see the light of acceptance in their expression. Still, most of the owners simply weren’t present at the stores.
I went in and out a number of furniture stores along the street, and then ran into this gem: a used bookstore.
I delivered my spiel, and the owner was happy to talk!
He’s been in the book business for 25 years, starting with just a street stall selling magazines and books. Then, in the last 6 years, he’s been renting a shop for 3,000 reals a month. His two sons help him with the business – he has no hired workers – and he gets his used books from a wide variety of sources. Typically, people come to him to sell their books, since he’s been in this field for so long, instead of him sourcing for books.
For the follow-up interview, I want to ask him for the title of his favorite book :)