Guillermo Murchison

  • Interviewed 29 February 2008 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Andrea Lluch, Research Fellow, HBS
  • Clip Duration – 2:21

Mr. Murchison surveys his professional performance from the time he joined the Murchison family business in 1966. While he discusses the company’s developments and diversification efforts, he reviews its business strategies, international expansion, and generational transition in company governance. He also describes Argentina’s financial crises and rallies in the 1970s and their effect on Argentine business. He concludes by sketching his characteristics as a businessman.

Interview Excerpt

P: ¿Cómo era la estructura de la empresa? ¿Era una estructura de tipo horizontal?

R: No. Horizontal, sí en sentido siempre trabajé mucho con los gerentes, una vez que eliminé todos los gerentes que estaban, la gente que incorporé yo creo que casi todos se quedaron toda la vida. Siempre busqué consenso, siempre quise que los gerentes no tuvieran celos unos de otros. Hacía una especie de retiro una vez por año con la mujer a Chile, Bahía Blanca, Brasil. Yo no quiero gerentes que le digan que sí a todo, sino que detecten, aunque que se para pilotear, que se opongan a lo que uno dice. Que tengan confianza en sí mismos.

P: ¿Y su área dentro de la empresa? ¿Cuál fue su fuerte? Lo que más le gustó hacer?

R: Yo creo que la parte comercial. Porque los clientes, especialmente los armadores, eran extranjeros. Yo viajé muchísimo. En esa época cada empresa marítima tenía su empresa privada de estiba. Hoy son pocas las empresas marítimas que tienen su empresa de estibaje. Yo me acuerdo de empresas como Johnson que era sueca. Durante 10 años los visité, todos los años. Al año decidieron - porque se había mecanizado el puerto- que iban a dejar de tener su empresa de estibaje, y me llamaron de Suecia por teléfono para decirme: “¿Guillermo, cómo podemos hacer para que te hagas cargo de nuestra agencia?”

P: ¿Para usted fue importante el buen manejo interpersonal con sus clientes?

R: Sí, yo creo que uno: me conocían; dos: nos tenían confianza, sabían que siempre hacíamos todo correctamente. Seguimos teniendo un buen nombre. Para la gente, eso es importante.

Q: How was the company structured? Was the structure horizontal?

A: No. Well, horizontal in the sense that I always worked alongside managers. When I joined the company, I got rid of all the previous managers; most of the people who joined later spent the rest of their careers at the company. I always sought consensus; I never wanted managers to be jealous of one another.  Once a year, the company would hold a staff retreat in Chile, Bahía Blanca, Brazil. I do not like yes men; I like active managers who lead effectively, who are not afraid to disagree and who are self-confident.

Q: What about your area within the company? What was your strong suit? What did you like best?

A: I think the commercial area because clients, especially shipbuilders, were largely foreigners. I traveled a lot. Back then, most shipping companies owned its own private stowage company. Today, that is very unusual. I remember Johnson, a Swedish company. I visited them every year for ten years.  A year after port mechanization, the company decided to get rid of its stowage company. I received a call from Sweden asking, “Guillermo, how can we get you to take charge of our agency?”

Q: For you, was it important to have good interpersonal relationships with your clients?

A: Yes. In the first place, they knew me. Second, they trusted me; they knew we always did everything the right way. The company still enjoys a great reputation.  People value those things.

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