Real life experience: Entering Colombian Market

Antonio Caparrós

Antonio Caparrós

About the Author:

Antonio is Director de Gestión (Managing Director) of Grupo SM Colombia. He had to envision the company as a whole: designing, developing and implementing a strategic plan in the most cost effective and time efficient manner for the commercial, marketing, operations, finance, human resources and institutional relations departments. He was part of the valuating team in 2005 – 2006, and was chosen to be the person responsible to lead the Colombian project. He was a CFO before taking up this role.

Grupo SM is a multinational publishing holding that focuses on providing solutions and materials to educational institutions. It also promotes youth and children literature. Grupo SM has footprint in 9 countries: Spain, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, México and Brazil.

From Antonio’s Desk:

I work for the international division of Grupo SM, and in 2005 we started to evaluate the alternatives to enter the Colombian market. Finally we decided to buy an existing player (at that moment the 6th place in the market with no more than 9MM USD in revenues, was a family-owned business and was losing money).

In 2006, we bought the company and I came to Bogotá (Colombia) to manage the transition period, stabilize the company and start a new era. The landing was quite difficult. All the employees cared a lot about the previous owners and they were scared of losing their jobs.

The first year was all about winning people’s confidence, building teams that believe in this new venture and giving them the opportunity of turning around the situation and propose new ways of doing things (they never had this chance in the previous company). The second year was all about creating new brands and image in the market. Internally, the employees were involved in the strategy planning for the next 3 years. They were assigned specific tasks and were clear on how to contribute to it.

The big task was to tell the customers that a new player is in the market; we were ranked 3rd in the market share at that time.

We are in the third year. Lot has been accomplished including gaining market share (revenues are up to 14MM USD), new products have been launched and a new organizational structure is in place. Now, we are focused on keeping the growth, but taking a lot of care of the profitability ; this year our revenues will revenues will be close to 16MM USD.

All this turnaround is possible because of a cultural and values based change management. The employees first concept (similar to HCL’s philosophy) is the solid path to a solid organization.

Critical Success Factors:

· Clarity since the beginning: Mission, Vision and Objectives (short term for small wins and midterm… something you can see coming)

· Always WHY and HOW :leading by example… actions… Explain ‘Why’ we are doing it and ‘How’ should we do it)

· Story telling: People like to hear stories and, if used well, you can send very potent messages they can sense your emotion and passion to the process.

· Good sense of humor:  Opportunities like this are rare, so we are in this together. Lets enjoy it and learn from it!!!

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