Twenty years ago, in 1992, German Efromovich and his brother Jose were just beginning to set forth the structure of Grupo Synergy. They had started up with the production of hydrocarbons and they had already consolidated their off-shore construction, medical services and inspection businesses. But they had not yet waded into the aviation business with AviancaTaca--today one of the biggest airlines on the continent.
Skip forward two decades and Efromovich has transformed a mid-sized family business into a vast conglomerate with interests in areas like agriculture, petroleum and mines, aviation, tourism and services. It's a sign of the times, where local companies blossom into multilatins ... and global players.
There are plenty of tools available that make life easier for today's businessman, but the method of identifying opportunities hasn't changed during those twenty years. Even though rotary dial telephones and faxes have been replaced by teleconferences and the internet, Efromovich says he still makes decisions the way he did when he became a partner of the super-successful Pacific Rubiales, or when he decided to create a hotel chain.
Efromovich only does what "smells right," he says, touching his nose with his index finger for emphasis. This formula, which would be looked upon with suspicion by almost any business school graduate, has nonetheless yielded extraordinary results.
He notes however that during this time the region has changed radically. "The political stability generated an economic stability and growth never seen before," he says.
At the same time, other conditions favorable to growth have been established, he says. Legislation has permitted the opening of markets and the arrival of foreign investment. Monetary and fiscal discipline has lowered the threat of hyperinflation and flexible exchange rates have eliminated currency black markets.
The new danger, he says, is that the markets move on...