It’s been more than a year and a half since plastics and chemicals distributor Grupo Solquim of Mexico City partnered with M. Holland to form M. Holland Latinoamérica (MHL), and in that time, Director General Xavier Lebrija has seen unprecedented change and equally unprecedented growth.
Last month, as he and the administrative offices packed up and moved to their new facility in Tultitlan near Mexico City (inventory and production are already up and running at the new plant; the grand opening is set for May), he came to the realization that every one of the short-term goals, objectives and deadlines he had set for the partnership has been achieved. Goals for sales, hiring, production, expansion, the new plant opening: all are met.
“As a result of the joint venture, we achieved 30 percent growth year over year from 2015 to 2016,” Lebrija said. “We achieved record growth despite making investments in infrastructure, bringing in new people, and the new facility. In addition, we integrated M. Holland’s two other Latin American acquisitions into the partnership, giving us reach to Puerto Rico and Latin American export markets.”
The Lebrija family and Ed Holland first started talking about a joint venture several years ago, when Solquim was looking to grow in Latin America and M. Holland was looking to expand its supplier network beyond the United States and Canada into Mexico and other parts of Central and South America. Solquim has been a distributor for Pemex for 45 years and one of Mexico’s top distributors of solvents and polymers, with 500 customers, warehousing, break bulk terminals, bagging lines, resin pulverizing capabilities and a fleet of trucks.
The similarities between Solquim and M. Holland are obvious. Both are decades-old family owned businesses, run today by a son of the founder. Both follow a similar set of core values and have the same close-knit corporate culture, driven work ethic and independent spirit.
Lebrija has worked at Solquim for 29 years, and as he looks back, he really can’t remember anything but the family business being a central part of his life. His father, Javier Lebrija Vazquez Gomez, founded a transportation company that evolved into a chemicals and plastics distributorship. His father was entrepreneurial, good at what he did, and the business grew fast in the 70s and 80s. In January 1988, Lebrija got his first job at Solquim as traffic supervisor and worked his way up from there.
He is the oldest of five boys, four of whom have worked in the family business and the fifth providing occasional consulting and counsel. His youngest brother still runs Solquim’s solvents business, which was not included in the MHL partnership.
“The overall sentiment here is one of excitement and happiness,” Lebrija said. “We are living the achievements that we have accomplished, and I am so pleased with all the staff. From the managers to the people working on the line, everyone realizes we are an important part of the M. Holland family.”
Lebrija’ s current priorities are expanding the sales force to support continued growth and addressing sourcing challenges. Near-term, the resin market has been tight and several new plants aren’t up and running as quickly as expected, creating industrywide supply and pricing volatility. MHL recently added its first Sourcing Director to work with suppliers in ensuring the company’s material needs are met.
“Because our volume goals and sales are more aggressive, the supply constraints feel even tighter, particularly in our export markets, but the situation is temporary and the end is in sight,” Lebrija noted. He is looking to set up new warehousing in export regions to store high volume products, which will provide secure supply and faster delivery to export clients.
Lebrija is an intrepid business traveler. Besides traveling to MHL offices in Puerto Rico and to Chicago, where he meets with M. Holland management about once a month, he regularly flies to business sites in Houston, Colombia and Spain. He is traveling to South America in April, followed by meetings in Spain and North Africa later in the year. Between these trips he fits in regular visits to sites across Mexico and Latin America.
“It’s always been a good fit with M. Holland,” he said. “We share the same core values, and over the past year and a half, we’ve been working together very well culturally. Although we were a smaller, more informal company and there were differences in the way that our businesses were run, we’ve made sure that we keep the same company culture we’ve always had.
“Having a different corporate structure hasn’t changed the way we do business. We make it a point that throughout the company, everyone has that familiar feeling about the way we do business, the way we talk, the way we conduct meetings. It’s important that we make this family feeling stay and stick and that it transcends borders. That is something I’ve been very proactive about achieving: being a company without borders, making sure people feel no borders whatsoever.”
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