During its early years, the Cinépolis chain of cinemas, which is based in Morelia (Mexico), opened between four and five new theaters each year. Today it has some 200 of them in Mexico and 150 more in 11 other countries. Miguel Mier, who is the Global COO & Executive Board Member, speaks in a slow voice about the success of his company over the past few decades, something he attributes to patience, discipline, the setting of short-term goals, and his team’s human and professional values.
You say that a country is its people. Does that mean a company is its workers? What share of success comes from the human values of the employees and what part from their professional skills?
It’s difficult to break this down into percentages. We see each person as an integral part of the whole, all of whose components must be very strong. We can’t lose either aspect.
The academic part and the professional skills are the ticket to get someone inside, and then we check their compatibility with our values. We can’t dispense with either. If one of them is missing, the candidate is no longer relevant for us.
What would you say is the key to success?
I think success is achieved step-by-step, year-by-year. To fulfill big goals, the key is in placing milestones, intermediate goals, and success means achieving them. The big goals will come on their own. The goals of a company must be divided into functions, areas and people. Don’t consider success as a long-term objective, but break it down into smaller, more achievable objectives. Weekly, monthly, annually… The sum of all of them will bring success.
And then there’s the discipline. Having financial discipline has protected us from the world’s economic ups and downs.
What advice would you give to the owners of medium-sized firms who have ambitious international plans?
To expand internationally, you must first have been competitive in your domestic market. Once you’ve been competitive and successful against the other players in the industry where you’re operating, you can begin to think about expanding the circle. From the city to the rest of the country, and then on to other countries where your competitive advantages are relevant. The key is that the new ecosystem where you’re going to be should be similar to the one where you’re already successful.
What we do well are cinemas. And then we found ourselves with the ecosystem in India, the second largest country in terms of population and the one where the most movie tickets are sold… and it had very bad movie theatres. That was the strategic justification for us to enter that market, in spite of many obstacles, such as distance and local regulations.
When you decided to start operations in India you had to make big investments in time and money before seeing results. Is impatience a barrier to success?
Patience is the key. When we presented the plan, we hoped to see results by the second year. The board of directors was very patient, because we only saw results starting from the fourth year. If you’re sure that your business plan is sound, and that the macro and micro-economic bases are there, it’s just a question of execution until you get results.
Last year you announced the purchase of the Yelmo network in Spain, some 400 cinemas. What plans do you have for the European market?
The reason we got into Spain was not just to purchase a company, Yelmo. That was just the first step. I think the Spanish market is right for consolidation. There are a great number of chains and family businesses that would benefit from that consolidation. The growth curve that I will present at the Alumni Forum demonstrates our thinking with regard to growth.
And it’s the same with the European market: we’ve looked at other countries in continental Europe and have found similar conditions to those in Spain. Again, it’s a case of looking for ecosystems with characteristics that favor our competitive advantages.
How are you adapting to the new business models in the film distribution sector? Are you afraid of these changes or do you embrace them?
We don’t just create cinemas. We’re good at providing a service and everything that this implies: the technology with which you buy the tickets, the tracking of customers, the CRM, the social networks… We have considerable influence in the entertainment sector.
These are very interesting times with regard to the way the industry is adapting. The distribution companies are devising new platforms, traditional television is threatened…
I should say that cinema is not as threatened as are other formats. The collective experience of going into a dark hall where they are going to tell you a story is almost impossible to replicate in any other setting. Beside, I think that as long as there is dating, there will continue to be movie houses. They’re the ideal place for a date: you don’t even talk, you just share the story. It’s the perfect date.