For the second year in a row, R. Marcelo Claure, the chairman, CEO, and president, has taken his company, Brightstar Corp. to the top of the Hispanic Business 500 companies. He's done so with verve, vision, and the ability to penetrate new markets. Despite his globetrotting schedule, we caught up with Mr. Claure this spring for a surprisingly forthright interview. He not only shared his business philosophies, he also gave us a glimpse of his early experiences that set the course for his remarkable success. Our discussion spanned a variety of issues and topics.
HB: What Was Brightstar's Financial Year Like In '07?
Brightstar continues to post strong financial results. In 2007, we ended the year with gross revenues exceeding $4.8 billion. We saw significant success in a number of key markets like Australia, the U.S., and Latin America and continued to grow via geographic expansion into parts of Asia, Africa, and most important strategically, via a joint venture with Tech Data into Europe.
HB: Has the worldwide economic slowdown affected your growth so far this year?
We are lucky to be in a technology industry that continues to accelerate around the world. Innovation and new technologies spur a lot of product activity in the telecom industry, and this, in turn, helps to drive demand with consumers. We again anticipate that the industry will grow this year. That being said, I cannot say that our industry is unaffected by economic conditions. We have certainly seen the economy affect key partners and customers over the past 12 months. I can say that while some parts of our business have slowed, we have anticipated that and have put renewed energy and resources into diversification and growing higher margin businesses like supply chain solutions. This strategy is certainly paying off. For example, we just signed a multi-year contract with Telecom New Zealand to take over their entire supply chain.
HB: What is the hardest lesson you've had to learn in today's economy?
Without a doubt, we must be forward looking and willing to take action to evolve now to meet future needs. I think companies that are not agile and cannot react quickly to market changes will have a much more difficult time in responding to today's economic realities. I have a seen a lot of companies resting on the success of the past, but that time is gone. You must make hard decisions, invest in the areas where growth will be strong, and divest in areas that have slowed.
HB: Is the economy causing you to rethink or change your business model?
I wouldn't say it's the economy causing us to rethink our business model. We have always been a company in motion. I believe Brightstar's success has been, to a large degree, our willingness and ability to act like entrepreneurs even when we started posting billions in revenue. The wireless industry certainly accelerates faster than nearly any other industry, but no company is immune to change. Change is the only constant, and you must build your business and systems anticipating that.
HB: What are the biggest challenges facing Brightstar today?
Our biggest challenge is the thing I am most excited about; we are investing and focusing a significant amount into becoming world-class supply chain experts. We have already an international reputation for excellence in this area, and I believe it will define us as a business moving forward. The challenge is changing mentalities from who Brightstar is today to who we need to be tomorrow. We also are very focused on putting the right people in the right roles. In a more sophisticated business model like supply chain solutions, the human resource element is critical. If we get that right, I believe we will be a powerhouse to reckon with in the mobile telecom industry and beyond.
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