An example of how Brightstar services its suppliers occurred in 1999 when Ericsson introduced a new customer-service system. The selling point was that customers could have their mobile phones repaired in a store in 15 minutes. The project required 2,000 retail outlets with the capability to fix cosmetic and minor mechanical problems as well as install new software into the phones. Brightstar won the contract over logistics heavyweights United Parcel Service, FedEx, and Ryder for the North America, Latin America, and Caribbean regions. As the EOY judges noted, Brightstar's "approach to business is exemplary. [The company] implements a philosophy of customer-centric focus effectively."
Brightstar's competitors in Latin America include Cellstar, Ingram Micro, and Tech Data – all huge, well-funded technology wholesalers. But Brightstar also has some big names in its corner: Motorola, Sony Ericsson, BellSouth, and TeleCel. In November 2003, Motorola signed a new multiyear contract with Brightstar that "extends the successful relationship between the two companies which began in 2000," according to a statement from the companies.
Mr. Claure has developed a series of administrative and management strategies to deal with the high-growth risks of international commerce. Monthly meetings with the company's numerous subsidiaries keep the various country and regional operations on the same plan. Technology plays a role in holding the organization together through teleconferences and online meetings.
To quickly replicate the skills of its labor force, the company uses a method called "job shadowing." Brightstar veterans act as trainers to assist new facilities in getting up to speed immediately. The experienced trainer actually takes a long-term assignment at the new facility in Latin America or in the United States, with Brightstar paying for all living and travel expenses during the training period. In some instances the trainers decide to stay at the new location, thus ensuring a broad coverage of the market in terms of sales and service skills.
By 2002, Brightstar had become the top distributor in every country where it operated. In response, Mr. Claure decided to aggressively enter the highly competitive U.S. market. Although contrary to normal business logic (most companies begin concentrating on domestic markets and later go international) the U.S. initiative has paid off. "Now two years old, the U.S. subsidiary is our fastest-growing and our second-largest in the company," Mr. Claure says.
For the future, Brightstar's near-term prospects look brighter than ever. Mr. Shosteck reports global handset sales for 2003 should total approximately 460 million, beating the consensus projection of 444 million. Furthermore, "The focus is shifting from Europe and North America to Asia and Latin America, largely based on economics," Mr. Shosteck says, and that plays well with Brightstar's extensive infrastructure in the Latin American region.
"The last couple of years, the market hasn't grown globally, but this year growth is accelerating," confirms Motorola's Mr. Gomez. "In Latin America, it's still in a very high-growth mode, and Motorola-Brightstar has grown faster than the market." He adds that in addition to handsets, Brightstar carrier Motorola is geared for Wi-Fi (wireless local networks), the next market-driver for the telecom industry.
Although Mr. Claure expressed initial shock at winning the EOY Award, he won't be resting on his laurels. His future plans include preparing Brightstar to go public, moving into Europe and Asia, and investing more in people and infrastructure. "In the next three years," he says, "we expect to be the biggest telecom-solutions provider in the world."
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