Source: ActionCoach Brasil (acisa.org.br)
When our Brazilian Temporary Visas came up for review and renewal, I was working at Melon Exporters S.A. Since my estranged husband had returned to Guyana, I had to prove to the immigration authorities at the Federal Police Department that I was capable of providing for myself and two sons.
After checking my Application for Renewal Form, the courteous Federal Police Officer handling our case looked up at me. “Shouldn’t your position be secretary?”
“I am the import-export manager,” I said, showing him the Declaration from Melon Exporters S.A. stating my position and monthly salary. I had also brought a recent newspaper clipping about our company and its founder. Melon Exporters S.A. was a success story for the State of Ceará. We had a good export record. I was proud to be part of the team.
My first inkling of trouble came when my colleague in the Finance Department shared her concerns about our financial woes. Melon Exporters not only had to contend with rising operational costs, but also the effects of prolonged drought in the semi-arid region. While the population of over two million in Fortaleza contended with water-rationing, the increased salinity in the shrinking reservoir, feeding our melon plantation, affected our yield, the size of our fruits, and their sucrose content.
To preserve our overseas markets, the owner and managing director obtained agricultural lands along the bank of the Rio Jaguaribe, the life-line of Ceará. The new and ambitious project came at too great a cost. Our bankers’ refusal to renew our credit finance heralded the end. A bold strategy to inject life-giving working capital only prolonged our death throes.
As the staff shrunk, those of us who remained had to assume the responsibilities of the departed. Providing our overseas clients with answers and updates on developments became my task. We, the five survivors, knew that the time had come to let go of the bond we had developed as a successful work team.
Our last year-end staff party was dismal. Together with our spouses and children, we only filled two large tables put together at the open-air restaurant where we gathered to commemorate the passing of the year. No Santa Claus lifted our spirits with gifts for everyone. A team member and I won the two cash prizes. We exchanged gifts with our secret friends, picked two weeks earlier. My secret friend, the young receptionist and telephone operator, gave me a pair of drop earrings of a helm in black and gold – a memento I treasure to this day.
For the first time in my professional life, I was part of a dying company. It shook my world and my confidence in working for small- and medium-sized family-owned enterprises. As a working solo Mom, I had to let go of the bond I had developed with my colleagues and the man who had given me so many opportunities to grow as an international trade professional. With a heavy heart, I had to move on.