World Economic Forum on Latin America 2008

  • Lessons from a New Breed of World-class Companies

    Wednesday 16th April 2008 - 12:30pm - 2:00pm

    Download PDF

  • Lessons from a New Breed of World-class Companies

    • Felipe Bosch Gutierrez • R. Marcelo Claure • José Antonio Fernández Carbajal • Thierry Moulonguet

    Moderated by

    • Jorge Becerra

    Wednesday 16 April

    Latin American companies are increasingly investing across borders and becoming worldwide giants, causing them to face a new set of challenges. Although they differ, many of the lessons they have learned from the experience are similar.

    Participants agreed on the following:
    • Talented people must be recruited from all over the world and taught the company culture.
    • Having a good team is a greater challenge than having a good product.
    • Companies need to have clear goals and values that they can communicate from the leadership level to every worker.
    • Consumers increasingly view a company’s corporate citizenship as part of its brand.
    • Governments are active supporters of incoming investment, but promote less actively their nation’s companies making investments abroad.
    • Too many goals can be as damaging as goals that are unfocused.
    • Management must be simple and able to move fast on issues.
    • The company must be both rooted and willing to adapt.

    Several issues were identified as potential pitfalls:
    • A management group from only one or two nations. A monoculture risks missing out on adapting to new cultures. A bicultural management team risks creating an “us or them” atmosphere where managers act and think as a bloc, treating ideas from the other group as attacks or with hostility.
    • Over-reliance on branding. Consumers in several nations instantly see certain brands as a part of their identity, but other brands have radically different meanings in different nations. When the latter happens, managers must be brave enough to abandon a brand image and find new ways of promoting the product.
    • The idea that a corporate culture can only be taught to citizens of the culture where it developed.

    On the topic of corporate citizenship, one participant described an example of a factory that at great expense had converted its waste water into clean drinking water. However, when an employee got involved in activities at the village level the company discovered that residents were suffering water shortages because the local council had been throwing out the cleaned water, believing it was waste water. The participant said his company now urges all employees to get involved in their local community at every level so they can communicate the company’s good citizenship and boost it where it may be lacking.

    Another participant said his company encourages workers to send top managers an e-mail on Sunday to air their complaints. Although at times tough reading for managers, this practice gives them a chance to instil the corporate culture and to fix small problems before they become more disruptive.

    A third gave an example of how the corporate culture can differ from the national culture: a fellow Latino had failed to connect with his firm’s culture, causing a major clash. Later an English employee absorbed the company ethos completely and is now leading that company’s new operations in China, teaching workers there what is described as the Latin way.




  • José Antonio Fernández Carbajal José Antonio Fernández Carbajal
    Executive Chairman, FEMSA, Mexico

    Bachelor's in Industrial and Systems Engineering and MBA, Monterrey TEC. With FEMSA: 1995 - January ...

  • Marcelo Claure Marcelo Claure
    Chief Executive Officer, Sprint Corporation, USA

    Marcelo Claure is Founder & CEO of Brightstar. Since founding Brightstar in 1997, Marcelo has grown ...

Moderated by

  • Jorge Becerra Jorge Becerra
    Senior Partner and Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group, Chile

    Degree in Industrial Engineering, Univ. of Buenos Aires; MBA, Univ. of Navarra, IESE, Barcelona; Exc...