Systems Engineer and Public Accountant Alfredo Halm, founding partner of Quanam firm, was invited to give a talk at the course on Successful Cases on Technological Management at the Master’s Degree on Technological Companies’ Management – IT Specialization of ORT University. The Master’s degree goal is that participants develop knowledge and skills in order to create a new approach to manage and lead technologically based companies.
At the University, Alfredo Halm shared his experience both as manager and entrepreneur, made a brief summary of Quanam’s history and answered students’ questions and queries.
As to the territorial expansion, the company has now offices in several places in Latin America (Lima, Mexico DF, Montevideo, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago de Chile and San Pablo). Formerly, we used to have offices in Germany, Argentina and Colombia. “What is most relevant is that we could replicate the business model from Montevideo in all these cities. What is difficult is to have something that works when one is not permanently there and one has to add controlling and managing agents First and foremost, we need good people to achieve this. The human factor in professional services is of essence and secondly, management systems we have made ourselves so that we can follow up each project, each consultant, each work, their progress, profitability, timing, among others".
The strongest markets at present are Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico. “Nowadays, our eyes are set on Brazil, in terms of our future growth, despite its current macroeconomic problem, given its its size. We have made a consciencious decision that we have all the map covered and only Brazil was left, which accounts for 48% of the Latinamerican market and we decided to open offices there. There is growth, there is reason to believe, there is significant investment”.
The company pays special attention to our organizational culture, the set of values which frame our internal and external bonds. “We are particularly careful with this. All our offices must be comfortable places to work, our relationships with customers are well taken care of, we try to interpret customers and understand their demands”. In terms of company management and administration, Quanam has its own methodologies and tools to perform its activities. “Basically, Quanam manages a set of projects as if they were a set of investments, with their own profitability, each one of them has to report costs, expenses, labor hours, sales. We permanently analize whether things are working well or not, which is a form of entrepreneurship, innovating and analizing if something new works or not”.
We have transformed the company several times throughout these years based on the concept “creative destruction” of economist Joseph Shumpeter, “every now and then we realize that certain technology we are using is becoming obsolete, and even if we are making money with it, we eliminate it and replace it. This means making investments regularly, e.g. every year there is something to be changed at the company. Consequently, Quanam professionals have to keep up with new technologies in order to suggest which should be incorporated and study in order to apply this technology. The very organizational model implies that people have to keep transforming themselves.” And we keep an eye on the curve of technological evolution “the curve of technological adoptin is very important for us. According to our own indicators we realize what makes an interesting offer”.
On leadership and his own belief on it, Halm affirms that “in a firm which provides professional services, during the first years, leadership may typically take place in the commercial area. In other workds, to be very successfully in terms of sales of services or whatever. But leadership evolves into organizational capability as the company grows. Personally, I believe the last years of leadership have focused more on seeing beyond the present situation into what comes next.
One of the most recent innovations at our office in Uruguay has been the creation of our fifth Business Unit focused on Competitiveness and Innovation for our customer companies. It is very new but we believe it will grow enourmously in the next few years. “It may deal with service product innovation, which is the most difficult for us, business processes, business models, distribution chain. Nowadays, 95% of innovation requires the use of technology which is but a tool. When we are asked for something very specific in their business chain, we hire someone who knows the ropes of that business and we integrate another professional”. Moreover, Quanam is one of ICT4V founding companies, a research and innovation IT center which was opened this year. Its objective is to develop innovative capability, create value, increase competitiveness and sustainability for the companies of this sector.
In addition to his activities at Quanam, Halm has a wide range of several personal ventures: fishing, forestry, cattle raising, construction, energy. As an entrepreneur he reckons failures are crucial to be successful later, “I learn a lot from from failure and it is only natural to have them The Latin world is very hard on failure, whereas the anglosaxon cultures are not. This makes a huge difference. Several books on innovation and entrepreneurship tackle this issue”.