Monday, March 10, 2014

EMBA 26: Surf's Up - Cruising to Success in Chile

Success abounds in Chile. From large multinationals keeping costs low for consumers and delivering products across multiple retail outlets/brands to recycled fishing net skate boards to strong financial banking and financing, Chile has arrived.

Wal-Mart Chile
Wal-Mart once again did not disappoint with a strong display of operational and cost leadership. One of the most impressive moments for me during our visit was learning that 40% of the senior leadership team was comprised of women. Leaders in key roles such as, CFO, CMO, COO among just a few. Wal-Mart Chile provides significant support for professional women including helping them maintain a work-life balance and seeking growth opportunities in management and senior management. Wal-Mart Chile requires at least one woman-applicant for all management positions. 

Managing risk is standard practice for Santander, but leading a company through the tumultuous seas of a global financial crisis requires the fortitude of a general and the spirit of a coach. For me Mauricio Larrain Graces brought to life the necessity of strong leadership and thoughtful planning. Mauricio provided insight on doing business in Chile by explaining the independent corporate strategy of Santander and the local banking habits of Chilean and South American consumers. Santander has more than twice as many branches as their next competitor, an indication of the personal connection consumers have with their bank and the trust that is build at the local level. Mauricio gave an amazing talk about leadership hitting four points that, like other moments in EMBA, have changed the way I approach work and life. Mauricio spoke about four key areas to building and leading a successful team. 
  1. Have a dream – You need to set goals and have a vision for the future. Renew the dream – continue to push the organization with larger goals, constantly moving to the next place.
  2. Choose the top talent. He joked that you don’t always want the top of the class, but talent that will stick with you and share your vision. Hiring people who only care about money will not provide the company the support needed to reach its goals.
  3. Systematic communication. Share the vision of the future, share the corporate strategy at all levels. Talk to people and get to know them.
  4. Control – put in the necessary controls so each person can succeed.

Once all four are in place support your people. Ask them what you can do for them and how you can support them.

Bureo Skateboards
Elbow pads, helmet and a foam mat may help as you learn to cruise to the beach on Bureo’s newest cruiser skateboard, but it was the soft landing provided by Start-up Chile that allowed this adventure to succeed for the company and the Chileans. Bureo manufactures a sustainable skateboard using recycled plastic fishing nets - nets that collect in the ocean and cause damage to the environment. It isn’t only Bureo “making waves”, but also the Start-up Chile organization. Start-up Chile offers $40,000 dollars, assistance in registering and filing all the necessary corporate documents, makes connections for new entrepreneurs, and provides assistance with language and housing. Repayment of all of these services is a six-month commitment to the program, supporting the organization’s outreach efforts and a public nod to where you started once you hit it big. The program is fully funded by the Chilean government and with the change in leadership happening the day we visited, the program director is confident that the funding will continue in the years to come. 


ESE Business School
While in many respects Chile has cruised into the modern world, many have still had to walk a long hard road. During our lecture at ESE Business School, it was very apparent that income inequality was still a major thorn in the side of Chile. Chile has a high Gini coefficient, which many believe to be linked to the disparity in education levels. Only 40% of the population had enrolled in higher education, a figure that should be closer to 60% to compare more directly with more developed nations. Access to education is a large issue for poorer families. Private and public higher education is similarly priced with each sector providing mixed quality.

--Karen L. Graham

Karen is a Practice Development Manager at Ropes and Gray LLP, a global law firm with offices in Boston and around the world. 

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