We also visited Super 99 today which is a major grocery store in Panama. Mario Martinelli, the Vice President of the company, spoke to us about his company and even gave us a tour of his warehouse (which was huge!). Mr. Martinelli is the brother of the president of Super 99, Ricardo Martinelli. Ricardo was also Panama’s president during the last term. Both of them are Arkansas Alums! It was so fascinating to hear from so many people who are very important people in Panama that graduated from the University of Arkansas.
Super 99 was broke before Mario and Ricardo Martinelli restored it. In 1981, there were only 5 stores and grew to 7 stores by 1985. Now, there are 40 stores and more to come in 2014! They are projected to to sell 800 million this year which is an amazing accomplishment considering their setback from the invasion of Panama.
The company employees over 6,000 people. Mario Martinelli told us to “always go the extra mile for your employees. You must treat your employees fairly and they will treat you fairly.” The one thing he wanted us to learn from him above all things is this: “Do not make the people under you, your employees, fear you. There is a difference between fear and respect.” Someone who fears you will be afraid to tell you when something is wrong or when they don’t understand something. It’s better for everyone if you aim to well-respected instead of feared.
He also shared advice on a major question college kids (especially seniors) face: What can you do with your degree? He says “there is a whole world out there. The future comes in many different ways. You have a world in front of you- you need to learn and make connections. Even after you graduate, keep learning. You all need to take chances to make it in this world.”
Mr. Martinelli gave us some business advice that will be very useful. What can you do to stay ahead of competition? The top 3 are as follows: be able to have new ideas and concepts, have better prices, and be a leader that works in the company. You have to know how your company works to be able to manage it and make the best decisions.
Most businesses obviously struggle through hard times sometimes, so we asked how he pushed his business through hard times. He answered with a simple question, “do you want to be an employee or a business owner? That was our motivation.”
Mario Martinelli is a very humble and intelligent man. I enjoyed our visit with him and he was even kind enough to let us tour his warehouse! All of the produce is so fresh!