When a self-made entrepreneur like Francisco Martín Frías, who is on every list of Spain’s most respected executives, announces his resignation, it’s hard to believe. Stepping into the background when you’re used to being the first sword must be difficult. Doubts are cleared during the interview. Martín Frías only occasionally interrupts the conversation to clarify details from the company’s past or to play a joke, but he always leaves it to Francisco Martín Villanueva (his son) to explain everything related to the future of the company.
They personalize the past and the future of MRW in absolute harmony. There’s just a little friction when I ask them to skip the usual script and, for a change, talk about something they got wrong (MRW is considered one of the best companies to work for, a pioneer in things Corporate Social Responsibility, it is an example of a company created from scratch that becomes a market leader…).
ENTREPRENEUR. Even the best writer blurs…
Martin Villanueva. Our mission has been to enable competing companies to grow in the same market where we have historically spent more years. For example Nacex, a company that came from us (an MRW manager exported the idea) and which is still a clone in terms of organizational philosophy. What we have to give ourselves credit for is that during this time we have allowed other competitors to grow at acceptable levels. We need to read this as the homework we need to do to regain that market share. Perhaps we have not managed to be more attractive or closer to the customer when declaring our excellence…
Martin Fries. Well, that will remain unknown. [interrumpe el padre]. If we had grown more, we might not have done so well. If you grow 20% instead of 10%, which was our average, you have to adapt everything: new people, more platforms, more franchises…
MV That’s an uncertainty, but work needs to be done at this stage to absorb a lot of growth. We are aware that many of our competitors have slowed down due to the crisis. We believe this is still a temporary cycle, with no end date, but a cycle nonetheless. We are above this situation because our vision is more medium and long term oriented and that helps us not to get nervous in everyday life. Our energy doesn’t let up. On the contrary, it is being strengthened by the truce that the market is experiencing.
This dispute between the two perfectly anticipates where MRW is headed with Francisco Martín (son): a more technologically advanced company with greater marketing weight (they have had a social action department since 1993… but until two years ago the company had no marketing) and with a completely international dimension. It is a project that is undoubtedly more ambitious: “The youth put a lot of pressure. That distinguishes us old from young”, the father accepts without any problems.
EMP. How is your management different from your father’s?
MV My father and I share values, but I have to admit that my management style is different from his. The proof is the strategic plan in which we have included more than 70 projects created with the participation of the entire management team. We came from a medium-sized management model and are changing from a chip to a large company. In doing so, we want to make use of the bone. And when I say to the bone, I’m not only referring to the management team, but also to the franchisees, to the customers…
EMP. And how does this change manifest itself in everyday life?
MV Perhaps decision-making in the company is now much slower. We have acquired a dynamic of choosing the different proposals. Before it was a little what came to our mind. Because it really was the right thing to do. Now we have to be much more stealthy in order not to make mistakes in the steps we take. And that doesn’t mean that we won’t make mistakes, quite the opposite, because another important change is that we now delegate more. Otherwise we’d stay like Tom Thumb.
EMP. And this project is based on internationalization.
MV We will not only internationalize, but also re-internationalize, because we are already present in Portugal and also in Venezuela. The difference is that back then, entry into this last land was, as they say, with pickaxe and shovel, starting a company from scratch. Now it’s very different. We will participate in existing projects on a local level, take control and pass on our know-how directly.
EMP. What are the priority markets?
MV Our natural growth is in Latin America. In the end, the Champions League is made up, so to speak, of well-known operators (the main international companies in the sector: FedEx, TNT, UPS, DHL…) and each dominates or is a leader in very specific areas. Even if they cover the whole globe. FedEx is the leader in the United States; UPS is from Asia; TNT from Australia; DHL in Europe. And why can’t MRW be part of the Ibero-American market? We want to achieve absolute leadership in 15 years.
EMP. Is the foreign market the only way to grow?
MV. no Internationalization does not mean relaxation on the Spanish market. This turn of events I am talking about implies a change here too. So far we have focused on the large customers, now we will compete with the average customers that we can serve due to our diversification and operations. And we will follow them. We also interpret the reality of e-commerce, which has grown by over 40% in the last year. This opens up an opportunity that we want to face up to in order to do justice to it. My challenge is to offer my team a project for growth and future. Reach out to a large group of executives under efficient leadership with the leverage of internationalization. That would be my success.