Life is good for Mario Guevara: Chief Executive Officer of the Big Group: life is made up of a series of decisions, or at least that is how Mario understands it, knowing which opportunities to take advantage of and which to let slide by.
Studying chemical engineering was the right choice for Mario who had grown up in a family of engineers. After graduating from the UNAM, he completed his master's at the IPADE and entered the Condumex Group "in the area of corporate finances, which has a lot of visibility among those companies that make up this great industrial group."
From the Condumex Group, where he worked just over five years, he went over to Moulinex, a French manufacturer of small household appliances, which recently was acquired by SEB, says Mario.
"I was the Vice President of Finance and Administration of Moulinex Mexico and Central America. Then 1 got a telephone call from Tomas Fischer, Human Resources Director at BIC who wanted to know if I would interview with them."
With a lot of projects and work ahead of him, Guevara told his old colleague from the Condumex Group that he was not looking for work, but the human resources director insisted. "So that he would stop calling me, I told him that we should meet over coffee.
In turn, he proposed that I get acquainted with BIC Mexico and wanted to take me to the United States to their factories."
He accepted the offer to go to the United States where his first interview was with Bruno Bich, the heir of Marcel Bich (1914-1994), BIC's founder. "As it turned out, the interview was at his house in Greenwich, Connecticut. I arrived and said 'What is this!'" he recalled with a huge smile.
The interview with Bruno Bich was at the beginning of the decade of the 90s. After seeing the plants in the state of Connecticut, he decided to join BIC Mexico. In all of the professional decisions he has made, Mario Guevara adds "I talked it over with my wife," "we both decided," or something to that effect and with the opportunity of growing in the company, world renowned for its ballpoint pens, he joined in 1992 as Finance Director of BIC Mexico.
"In less than a year, Bruno Bich honored his promise and I took over as General Director of BIC Mexico," he relates. He adds that since his time at Moulinex he has studied French as major decisions were made in meetings where French was spoken.
He draws a smile remembering Professor Pontones, "a very demanding and strict teacher, I remember how he made us conjugate all the verb tenses--present perfect, past perfect, subjunctive to which I would then reply 'how is this going to be any use to me in life?'. I now see how it helped me learn another language."
Following Bruno Bich's mission to renovate the company, Mario Guevara's group "began showing good results and when you show better results in one direction and poor results in another, it is the opposite. As the results were good, they told me to "take over Central America and the Caribbean."
To his French classes, he added Portuguese because my boss arrived and told me, that he need me to take over South America from an office in Brazil. Again, he consulted his wife and after negotiating Portuguese classes for her and himself, went off to manage the Southern Cone for the company.
Again the lessons his professor taught him paid off and in one of Sao Paulo's suburbs, he had experiences he describes as complicated, knowing that "the plane ticket of an ex-patriate is only one-way, you don't know when you'll come back or if you ever will."
Brazil represented "a different culture, a different work culture, with tremendous potential but that also required a leadership change as it had been very successful in the past but the management group was aging and there was no clear succession in the group."
The secret, if there ever was one, is that in every position he has tackled in the positions he has held with BIC worldwide, Mario has tried to be authentic. "The key has been to not fake it, know who you are, know what you like, and if you do not like something know that there are many options in this world. The company's values are also my own personal values. It has been positive for my professional career that what I propose in my personal life is the same as what I propose and seek to model at work."
Mario asked his boss to keep him in Brazil for at least three years so that his efforts paid off, and at the end of the term they gave him the management of the entire continent and a transfer to the United States.
Very reluctantly his wife accepted the new change after assimilating Brazil's society with all its similarity to her own. But the move to New England "was very difficult to the point of almost destroying my marriage or tearing oneself apart inside." He accepts that "it wasn't easy, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
Europe and the World
After surviving New England, turning in good results, and becoming one of those executives visible by upper management, Bruno Bich offered him the charge of taking over worldwide operations.
The reasoning was simple--he had already been in charge of an entire continent, had produced good results, and now it was all about taking charge of the other half. But this time Mario made a demand: "I'll take charge of the operations but I'll stay where I'm living now. I have traveled a lot since I went to work for BIC Mexico. I took the next step and in 2006 they nominated me COO, Chief Operating Officer, and I accepted. Of course, the decision was very important professionally although the level of stress also increased. I told myself let's see how much stress I can take."
Guevara accepts that he developed his own set of skills but it was others who trusted his talent and work, and Mario recognized his own potential. Two years afterwards, Mario also doubted that he could take on the responsibility when, for reasons of best practices of corporative governance, Group BIC separated the positions of Chairman of the Board and the General Manager. In the first position Bruno Bich remained and in the second the Board designated Mario, "they made the change and I became the CEO of the company." It is not a joke when Guevara recognizes that "he fooled himself' thinking that the new position would only demand slightly more than the others--it was much more responsibility but someone else knew he could do it.
"I've never turned away from challenges, always if someone trusts you and they push you, why not? I am grateful for my boss after all these years because he saw more potential in me that I thought I had." He ends the interview saying that his career "is a lesson for managers who inspire others. Many times we do not know someone's potential. It is an art to bring it out, sometimes all you need is just a little push."
Mario Guevara is now the General Manager of a French multinational that employs 18,000 workers in 60 countries and has a presence in more than one hundred. Today he is concerned with not only selling pens and lighters but with leaving a solid base for the person who will follow in his footsteps and keep building success.
Story by Jacobo Bautista
Photos by Roberto Tetlaimatzin
Design by Carlos Cuevas
Translation by Pamela Rogers
After directing BIC Mexico for several years, Mario and his wife searched for a house in the country to pass the weekends outside of Mexico City. They had already signed a contract when the offer to go to Brazil came, and they could not finalize it. In Brazil he had also started to find a house for the weekends when the offer came to head up operations for the entire continent.
WHO IS HE?
Born September 10,1959
Chemical Engineer, UNAM, Masters in Business Administration, IPADE
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|Date:||Feb 1, 2016|
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