Updates from IBD Team Cemaco

FTMBA students Geoff Grant, Juan Casanova, Jordan Pearson, and Carina Serreze are currently working on an International Business Development project with CEMACO, a large retailer, in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The team is helping the company refresh its Privilegio loyalty program strategy as the program celebrates its 30th anniversary.

In reading about the natural beauty of Guatemala, we lingered on German explorer Alexander von Humboldt’s famous words about Lake Atitlan, “. . . the most beautiful lake in the world.”

Picture1

Beautiful Lake Atitlan vista

Our team of four looked over the turquoise waters and shared the breathtaking view, the warm breeze, and a moment of perfect silence. This was our first trip out of bustling Guatemala City, where we mostly stayed indoors, and it was our first of many unforgettable experiences in Guatemala.

The City had its own charm. Less so in the sights or the views we took in, but rather in the warmth with which we were greeted. Our client, Andrea, met us with an enormous smile and welcomed us to her country with open arms. On our first day she toured us around the city and shared her beautiful home. Once we retired to the hotel suite, we reflected on our good fortune. Our accommodations, like our warm welcome, exceeded all expectations (see a few photos below). We woke up the following morning intent on returning the favor.

Our hotel suite’s living area

Our hotel suite’s living area

Our hotel suite’s master bedroom

Our hotel suite’s master bedroom

Our hotel suite’s loft bedroom

Our hotel suite’s loft bedroom

Our first week at CEMACO, Guatemala’s most respected and well-known retailer, consisted of visits to stores, competitors and warehouses. Think of CEMACO as a cross between Bed, Bath & Beyond and Ace Hardware – basically everything that you would need for the home – plus sister stores selling toys, baby items and construction materials.

We conducted customer interviews and met with CEMACO employees across the organization to build a deep understanding of our client. Most notably, however, on day one we launched a survey to 30,000 CEMACO customers, the culmination of dozens of hours of work in the preceding weeks.

Exterior of CEMACO’s store in the Cayala Shopping Center in Guatemala City

Exterior of CEMACO’s store in the Cayala Shopping Center in Guatemala City

Interior of CEMACO’s store in Cayala Shopping Center in Guatemala City

Interior of CEMACO’s store in Cayala Shopping Center in Guatemala City

Carina Serreze and Jordan Pearson conducting in-store product testing at CEMACO’s Cayala Shopping Center location

Carina Serreze and Jordan Pearson conducting in-store product testing at CEMACO’s Cayala Shopping Center location

Piano key-playing stairs inside of CEMACO’s store in Cayala Shopping Center in Guatemala City leading to the toy area

Piano key-playing stairs inside of CEMACO’s store in Cayala Shopping Center in Guatemala City leading to the toy area

Carina Serreze and Jordan Pearson taking a photo with Tito, the mascot for CEMACO’s sister toy store, Jugueton

Carina Serreze and Jordan Pearson taking a photo with Tito, the mascot for CEMACO’s sister toy store, Jugueton

: IBD team with our client Andrea in CEMACO’s warehouse in Guatemala City

IBD team with our client Andrea in CEMACO’s warehouse in Guatemala City

In the weeks that followed, our team built a roadmap for CEMACO’s 30 year-old rewards program, which had gone all but unchanged since inception, to turn it into a legitimate driver of loyalty and competitive advantage. We presented the key takeaways from our final deck, with 160 slides of original content, over the course of three-and-a-half hours with the company founders, the CEO and CFO, and members of the Marketing and IT teams. The meeting, by the founder’s own account, was an outstanding success. The company’s founder even called us “my heros” after we delivered our presentation! Our clients shared their sincerest gratitude for a job well done and immediately whisked us away for food and drinks at a chic bar followed by more drinks at a hipster art exhibit/abandoned warehouse nearby.

IBD Team with CEMACO’s CEO (Jonathan) and Marketing Team members (Andrea and Sofia) at an art exhibit in the hipster district of Guatemala City

IBD Team with CEMACO’s CEO (Jonathan) and Marketing Team members (Andrea and Sofia) at an art exhibit in the hipster district of Guatemala City

In the brief time that remains in-country, our focus will be on ensuring that CEMACO’s management and the loyalty program team have been equipped with everything they need to turn our business plan to action.

From seeing ruins in Antigua to scaling the Pacaya Volcano with our fearless guide and local CEMACO funnyman, Axel, Guatemala has been every bit as breathtaking as we could have hoped. And, as an added bonus, we’re happy to call our client, Andrea, a friend. Our flight home this weekend marks a “see you later,” but certainly not a final good-bye.

Please enjoy some of our favorite photos from the trip below!

Attempted (and failed) jumping shot in front of the Pacaya Volcano

Attempted (and failed) jumping shot in front of the Pacaya Volcano

Picture19

Our team enjoying a boat ride across Lake Atitlan

 

Our team reaching the end of a wobbly pier on Lake Atitlan

Our team reaching the end of a wobbly pier on Lake Atitlan

Our team catching a little rest amongst the ruins of an old convent in Antigua

Our team catching a little rest amongst the ruins of an old convent in Antigua

Dog lover Carina Serreze showing some love to the locals in Antigua

Dog lover Carina Serreze showing some love to the locals in Antigua

Welcoming the morning in the main plaza in Antigua

Welcoming the morning in the main plaza in Antigua

Local artisan market inside of a courtyard in Antigua

Local artisan market inside of a courtyard in Antigua

Butterfly whisperers Carina Serreze, Geoff Grant and Juanito Cassanova enjoy some bonding time with the local butterfly population in the Lake Atitlan Natural Reserve

Butterfly whisperers Carina Serreze, Geoff Grant and Juanito Cassanova enjoy some bonding time with the local butterfly population in the Lake Atitlan Natural Reserve

Hanging bridges hike in the Lake Atitlan Natural Reserve

Hanging bridges hike in the Lake Atitlan Natural Reserve

: Juanito Cassanova leading a pack of local “servicios taxi” up the trail to Pacaya Volcano

Juanito Cassanova leading a pack of local “servicios taxi” up the trail to Pacaya Volcano

IBD Team with CEMACO Funnyman Axel in Lake Atitlan

IBD Team with CEMACO Funnyman Axel in Lake Atitlan

All of the volcano selfies at Pacaya Volcano

All of the volcano selfies at Pacaya Volcano

IBD Team taking in the view of Antigua after a hike up to The Cross

IBD Team taking in the view of Antigua after a hike up to The Cross

IBD Team with CEMACO Funnyman Axel in front of Pacaya Volcano

IBD Team with CEMACO Funnyman Axel in front of Pacaya Volcano

The adage that learning happens best outside one’s comfort zone held true for team CEMACO. We expanded our horizons a great deal while working in a country none of us had visited before. Just as importantly, we feel confident that our hard work and fresh perspective will make a valuable difference in driving our client’s business forward.

We’re grateful to CEMACO for their amazing Guatemalan hospitality during our three weeks here, and we hope future IBD teams will have the pleasure of working with such a great client.

Sincerely,
Team CEMACO

IBD team with CEMACO’s Founder and Chairman Don Mario and CEO Jonathan at CEMACO’s headquarters in Guatemala City

IBD team with CEMACO’s Founder and Chairman Don Mario and CEO Jonathan at CEMACO’s headquarters in Guatemala City