Written by Natalie Bauman, Vicky Ngo-Lam, Jeremy Scheier, Elana Congress, and Alex Austin
“Before you come, there are two very important words which you must know: guacamole y frijoles,” asserts Juan Carlos on our first weekly team call. Juan Carlos is the project lead at Max Warehouse and serves as our cheerleader and guide throughout. He is really invested in our Spanish language education. “Next week, you will learn some new words,” he assures us. Can you guess the word we learned the next week? Cerveza–por supuesto! We learned vocabulary beyond just guacamole, beer, and beans, though. We pick up “Guatamaleños” (Guatemalan slang words) and use them incorrectly and excessively. Our favorite is “va” (“let’s go, sure, got it!”). We figure that between us, we have 2.5 people proficient in Spanish (and also 2.5 MBAs). Our motley collection of Spanish knowledge and ability to support one another in communication attempts represents well our team dynamics.
We are the MaxWareHaas IBD team: Natalie, Jeremy, Elana, Alex, and Vicky. Our project is with Max Warehouse, a subsidiary of Grupo Cemaco, the fourth largest retailer in the country. Max Warehouse started in 2012 as an online wholesaler for Ace hardware products and then launched its own website, MaxWarehouse.com, in January 2017 as a way to increase profits, build brand equity, and ensure a sustainable business. Our task is to create short-term recommendations, tactics, and a 3-year roadmap for MaxWarehouse.com’s growth. As the project progressed additional questions emerged, which kept us busy and provided a perfect opportunity to leverage our MBA skills to help this enthusiastic company. Our work at Max Warehouse
While at Berkeley this spring, we completed a design thinking-style story-board about Max Warehouse as a client and their current story. It really helped us get a grasp on how we fit in and how we can help them. What we came away with is that Max Warehouse is a feisty, entrepreneurial company pushing for growth. They are in a bit of an identity crisis though,
unsure of their value proposition or ideal customer. They are tenacious and eager to succeed in the U.S. market as an ecommerce player, despite the fact that they’re Guatemala-based and competing with Amazon.
Our final recommendation included 5-10 short and medium term recommendations. When we came in the next day, they were already in the process of implementing the recommendations. They had started interviewing for search optimization personnel, cutting products that weigh > 50 lbs from their SKUs, figuring out how to eliminate products without complete content listings, and implementing project management and communication software to increase cross-functional knowledge sharing across the team. This just shows the client’s drive to improve, and is what has made this project so rewarding and fun.
Touring Guatemala in Style
One of the highest ROI moments of the trip occurred when Alex and Natalie attended Grupo Cemaco’s annual internal football tournament. 26 teams competed, consisting of Grupo Cemaco employees from the stores, warehouses, and corporate teams. The Zona 5 office team, where we work, made the championship game for the first time ever. Alex and Natalie attended the game to cheer on the team and show our support. Afterwards, they chatted with Don Mario, the patriarch of the family that founded and leads the Grupo Cemaco enterprise. They mention that the upcoming weekend agenda was a trip to Tikal to see the ancient Mayan ruins. Don Mario asked about flights, arrangement, and hotels. Alex and Natalie sheepishly admitted that nothing has yet been booked. Two hours later, we had an entire weekend itinerary: flights, a stay at a beautiful eco lodge in El Remate (near Tikal) and a luxury hotel in Antigua, a top-notch tour guide, and complete transportation. The generosity and care is unfathomable to us. We cannot even begin to express our gratitude. This is just another example of the hospitality which is woven into the fabric of the Guatemalan
Farewell to Guate.
As we prepare to depart from this beautiful country, return to Berkeley, and start our internships, we are grateful for our amazing experience here. In addition to the work we accomplished for the company, everything that we learned about ecommerce in the home goods segment, and how a startup nested within a corporation can find success, we have learned about this hidden gem of a place and met some of the kindest people in the world.