Year-End Message to my Colleagues at Grupo Salinas (2016)
"We cannot change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust the sails"
It’s time to reflect on what we learned this year and prepare for the challenges we can expect in 2017. Even though the winds have changed, we will adjust the sails, and nothing will stop us.
In previous years, business was heavily affected by the fallout from the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and by fiscal and monetary irresponsibility on a global level. This year, the global environment became complicated. From the Brexit vote and the U.S. elections to the referendum in Italy, 2016 brought us electoral surprises that can have serious economic consequences for the coming years.
As a result of the uncertainty, the peso depreciated 15% during the course of the year and independent economists do not rule out a recession in Mexico in 2017. I believe that if this were to occur, it will be light and short-lived.
This is not the first time we have faced formidable challenges, either as a country or in this group of companies. It’s very clear to me that when there is passion and energy, as in Grupo Salinas, adversity unites us and makes us stronger.
A history of moving forward
Our companies have a history of resolving difficulties. Perhaps this is why we’ve been around for 110 years. Ours is a path that defies adversity; challenges are opportunities for improvement and growth.
When I joined the top management of Grupo Elektra – 2017 will mark the 30 year anniversary – we had 54 stores and 2,000 employees, half of whom worked in the television and radio factory that I had to close. After a series of disastrous devaluations, we were on the verge of losing the company. To pay off our dollar-denominated liabilities, we offered half of the company's equity to the banks. Fortunately our offer was rejected.
Three decades ago, no one would have imagined that we would consolidate our group from such modest origins. Today more than 70,000 employees work in retailing, banking, insurance, securities brokerage, telecommunications, television, mining, energy, and pension fund management in eight countries. The history of Grupo Salinas represents an extraordinary adventure forged by exceptional Mexicans.
Are businesses like boxing?
At the same time, I’m also aware that we’ve had a good dose of failures in these three decades. When you take risks, mistakes are inevitable. What’s important is to learn from them.
I recently attended a talk given by a boxer, a retired world champion, who literally told us about his life of hard knocks. Business is like boxing; you get into the ring and all you know is you’re going to get punched. You withstand the blows from your opponent and try to hit him harder ... and if you fall, you get up and keep fighting.
As in boxing, as you go up the scale, the blows get increasingly potent and the challenges more intimidating. So if we assume the challenge as a group of world-class companies, we can expect stronger and stronger blows. We must be flexible, austere, and willing to adapt, reinvent, and prepare for new challenges.
During thirty years of constant work, a group of determined executives – who gained experience in each of the battles we have fought – have opened the path for future generations.
Today we have an exceptional team: agile, solid, and composed of people committed and ready to continue our history of improvement and advances. The distance traveled and the obstacles overcome allow me to be optimistic. We increasingly encounter business opportunities and I feel that the most important constraint that we face is not financial capital, nor the conditions of the surrounding environment, but human capital. Therefore, the task of enriching our human capital has become a priority task.
This is just the beginning
Despite facing a complex environment, 2016 was a year of important achievements for Grupo Salinas. We made remarkable progress in all our businesses, from retailing and banking to our telecommunications operations and our television networks. This progress lies in the incorporation of a truly effective leadership group. But it’s not enough to provide results; we must do so in accordance with our values. Forming leaders with values has always been a personal priority.
The year 2017 will be complicated, but our group is more prepared than ever. We will move forward with our heads held high, we will withstand the blows, and we will take on increasingly higher goals for ourselves. We're never going to be content with what we have accomplished. I invite you to be rational optimists, always realistic and focused on succeeding.
The same applies for Mexico. I am confident the country will show the world that it is able to face the most formidable challenges with courage and sagacity. In the face of adversity, we must put aside out differences and act with unity and intelligence.
Thank you for another year of effort and commitment
Our vision is to bring prosperity and progress to millions of families through the creation of shared social value, which essentially involves creating economic value, social value, and environmental value, so that we all do well in an environment marked by harmony and quality. Working for the welfare of thousands of communities, in an environment full of enthusiasm, is a great privilege that fills us with pride.
Thank you for your efforts, professionalism and dedication during 2016. I wish you, your families, and your loved ones reflection and peace during this holiday season, progress in 2017, and personal growth in the years to come. The challenges we will face are great, but the strength of our spirit is much greater.