The history of small and medium-sized firms that managed to make the leap and became large companies. How did they do it? The stories of its leaders and the advice of specialists.

It grows from smallest to largest, There is no other way. No company is born billing millions of pesos, nor having a portfolio of important clients. It is a road that is traveled overcoming obstacles. To make it, it is necessary not only to want it but to plan it, prioritize the professionalization of the company and be attentive to opportunities, specialists stand out. "To think big, you just have to think, as simple as that", resume Miguel Logarzo Azúa, chairman de Vistage Argentina, an organization that brings together CEOs. In this sense, expands his colleague Adriana Turdera, "Planning the growth of a company allows to identify the guiding idea of ​​the business making the necessary corrections to meet the established objectives".
Apex America is a Cordovan company specialized in Business Process Outsourcing services (BPO), what, today, operates in six countries in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, El Salvador and Honduras). Employ some 5.100 people and, in 2016, invoiced between u $ s 73,6 millions and u $ s 66,4 millions. For 2018, they plan to exceed u $ s 100 millions and land in new countries. However, this was not always so.

In its beginnings, in 2005, its founders, Marcelo Cid y Humberto Sahade, bet that Apex would export its contact center services, focusing on the North American market. The decision was a success: for foreign companies, Argentina was an attractive market due to its low costs and the quality of human resources. So interesting it turned out that Sykes, an American company decided, in 2006, contract Apex services. after a while, they bought it. However, as Argentina was losing competitiveness, Sykes began his withdrawal. Cid and Sahade decided to buy back his signature, but understanding that the context had changed: if they wanted to survive, should focus on the domestic market. With this decision, they not only managed to lift the company from its relapse but also made it grow.

For Patricio Ríos Carranza, Apex America CEO, there were three key elements on that path. The first was to have a dream, distinctive competence and its human resources. Regarding the dream, explains that it is nothing other than the company's vision, the aspiration of what one wants to be. "Any project that is born has the condition of having a dream. From his minute one, Apex dreamed of being a global firm that would guarantee the professional and personal development of its people and customer satisfaction ”, stands out. Regarding distinctive competence, that is to say, the differential with respect to competitors, Ríos Carranza assures that it is given by its work philosophy based on the values ​​of flexibility, speed, austerity and innovation. "The maximum challenge for a company when it begins to grow and diversify is not to lose the entrepreneurial spirit and not to fall into slowness and bureaucracy", Explain.

Another key item is people, according to Ríos Carranza, the premise is that they are always a priority. "We are convinced that with happy people we will have satisfied customers and, with satisfied customers, we will have happy shareholders. This is not rhetoric, but we apply it through a program that we call Closeness with other people, which implies that each process we do is designed prioritizing the link with the collaborators, because they feel happy when their leader is close and, clearly, improves productivity ”, dice. Apex staff turnover, dice, is in the country below 1,5%, a percentage that, in the words of Ríos Carranza, is nothingness itself for the industry
Ríos Carranza joined the company in 2006, as General manager, lived the transfer of owner and ended up leaving in 2009. But, when Apex became the property of the Cordovan partners, he too returned to become the CEO; today, know the company and its history as your own. So, He says that the best advice you can give to another entrepreneur who dreams of ceasing to be an SME to become a global company is: "Never betray ideals and their definitions. The dream, culture and people are non-negotiable. Strategy can change 100 times, but these pillars cannot change ”, concludes.

Ally, change and not miss the train
Orange's history dates back to 1969 In cordoba, with the birth of Salto 96, a sports house founded by two friends who are Physical Education teachers: David Ruda and Gerardo Asrin. They sold sports clothing and materials. Year, to reach more customers and retain existing ones, the partners began to offer sale in installments through a card that they gave themselves. This system was extended to other businesses in the city, who saw a way to increase their sales. However, to consolidate its growth, the two teachers understood that they needed help. So, in 1995, decided to consolidate their growth and expansion, incorporating Banco Galicia as a financial partner.

This gave them the opportunity to replicate the system in all regions of the country and expand the offer of plans and benefits to holders of the already Orange Card and, now, Dry Orange; that alliance was what made them take the big leap and stop being an SME. "It was a perfect alliance. My father and Ruda were two physical education teachers with limited capital to grow and they had the lucidity to find a partner that would allow them to continue leading the operation, but that not only gave them capital but fundamentally knowledge of the financial market. At that moment, Banco Galicia fair also sought to enter this type of business. I think it was a very good synergy of two Argentine businessmen concerned and occupied by the country and they found the ideal partner. That alliance was very successful and it already has 22 years", Alejandro Asrin relates, current president of Naranja. In your opinion, Banco Galicia knew how to see the Orange differential, which was always the quality of the experience.

"Opportunity is key, like other aspects of life, the train stops at the station and one has to decide whether to get on or not, knowing that maybe it won't happen again”, opines Oscar Faranda, Director of the Diploma in Senior Management for SMEs and Companies of the Technological Institute of Buenos Aires (ITBA).

Ruda and Asrin father just got on; by then, the company was only in some areas of Córdoba and a few other inland cities, and emitted around 120.000 summaries. Today, emit 2,9 millions. "The teachers' vision was that with an alliance of this type they could provide the same financing service in other locations and grow organically throughout the country; and they were not wrong ”, assures Asrin.

Although they kept the premises for a time, two years after the agreement with the bank they decided to sell Salto 96 to dedicate exclusively to the financial market. But, how vision and flexibility is all about, today they work to promote the exploitation of non-financial businesses, like entertainment on demand, online tourism and other services, with an investment of $ 12.000 million this year.

That business that sold sportswear, first to friends of the teachers of their owners, became a company that has around 4,5 million customers and employs 3.200 collaborators. "I think you never have to lose the values ​​of the SME entrepreneur. Always be attentive to customers, take care of human capital and budgets very carefully ”, advise.
One step to the side

If you want to take the ship to a good port, the captain must be able to be a good leader and, para Sandra Felsenstein, DINKA director, consultant specialized in SMEs, the good leader is the one who accepts proposals from his collaborators and believes in teamwork.

For it, Federico Carassale, founder of the wholesale tourism operator Aero La Plata, have a road map to follow. He started the business in an office in downtown La Plata with five employees.. Today, it has two more offices, one in Toulouse and one in Capital, employs 130 people and invoice around u $ s 130 millions. How do i do it? It was, according to its owner, the result of a path of professionalization that began in 2006. "The decision to surround myself with the best people was what allowed us to catapult ourselves as a successful company. I think my main virtue was having surrounded myself with people who maybe was more for a Procter & Gamble; we put together a very powerful work team ”, bill. Marketing managers from PepsiCo passed through Aero La Plata, a Peugeot manager and executives from large airlines. Between laughs, Carassale admits that he does not know how he seduced them, but he believes that what they liked the most was the project and the work environment. “The main players I have are top-notch professionals who were dissatisfied at their jobs in large, renowned corporations.; souls in pain ”, describe.

Consistent with the decision to professionalize the company, in 2014, Carassale stepped aside for Luciano Grigera to become the new General Manager. I knew that, if I wanted to make the big jump, he had to let do and empower the teams he had formed. "Now, from the direction, I take care to give encouragement. I believe that the company must transcend its founder. I agree with those who say that the firm is born when it ceases to belong to its founder ”, justifies. Grigera, account the businessman, before being the CEO, He was the financial manager at the agency and, before, a young talent from a financial study and the best average of his litter from the accountant career at the University of La Plata.

On that way, Carassale did ontological coaching, worked with financial consultants, human resources and sales. further, sought to certify IRAM Standards and started the process to obtain System B certification.

As a result of that path, managed to support clients such as Avantrip and position themselves among the 10 most important operators in the country, according to the ranking of the International Air Transport Association (THERE IT IS, for its acronym in English). "However, in the background, one is always an SME. It is hard for me to consider that I am not, because also, always have the difficulties that small businesses have ", warns.

Indelplas is a Junín firm that manufactures household appliances. It was founded by Ricardo de la Fuente Villamil in 1978, when I had not yet met the 20 years, in a shed 8 x 9, with dirt floor. There he installed a press to mold cowboy boards, the first product he made. "In Junín, away from raw materials, inexperienced and without the possibility of bringing a veteran from another company as technical support, theory said you couldn't do well. But I was deeply convinced of what I wanted to do and at that age you have the opportunity to hit you, fall and get back up a lot of times ", bill.

The market rules

Turdera maintains that growing requires, among other things, “Active listening to the transformation of demand, thus obtaining competitive advantages over other players in the same market ". De la Fuente's ears were wide open: recognizes that the one that gave him the chance to make the first big jump was the three-legged flat inclined adapters. "We developed them in '86, when electrical standards began to change in Argentina, We stopped using the round sockets and the electrometers began to come with the flat legs inclined. A mistake of competitiveness and global insertion. But the market asked for it and we did it; we got to sell 200.000 per month", remember.

Indelplast bill $ 200 million per year; not a big company yet, according to the Undersecretariat for Policy and Management of SMEs, but De la Fuente believes that for 2018, if you maintain your sustained growth the 40%, will reach the category of medium-sized company Tranche 2, the last step missing to become a great firm. "Our growth is sustained. We are 70 people on permanent floor. In 2015, we were 34. My explanation is that we do what others do not: to diversify, innovate, invest and seek to be competitive based on market opportunities ”, stands out.

Among the challenges achieved, that the employer defines as “formidable”, is to have inaugurated an administrative building with two floors of 500 m2, they built in seven months. "It went well because as a rule we invested the 90% of earnings, and there is a premise in the company that must be strictly observed, which is to improve the quality of life of people. Every product we launch we do to make it the best on the market. This is a huge price challenge for us, in the product development process, we have to analyze well what would be the necessary components for us to be competitive. Indelplast is not a leading brand, so we have to be cheaper than all the known brands; nobody is going to buy from us just because we are good ”, Explain.

Since 2010, add, they are working on a deep process of technification, incorporating robotics and automation, thanks to alliances they achieved with companies in Spain, Portugal and China. "The idea is to have ever more efficient production processes and to be able to achieve the highest productivity per operator in this area", close.

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