Spreading risks

Supply chain
With operations in 20 Latin American countries and $300 million in inventory, the Brightstar supply chain has enormous reach. But Claure’s desire to serve locally has done more than just offer quicker and easier service to the retailers in Latin American countries.

“We are a supply chain management company,” Claure says. “We saw an opportunity, if we could be good at what we do and concentrate on efficiency — being able to transport goods better, faster and cheaper than anybody else — there was a value proposition.”

The move into supply chain management is a natural extension for Claure. And just as he did when he started his distribution operation, he is taking advantage of an underdeveloped market.

“We go to a lot of our customers and we show them why we believe we can run their supply chain more efficiently,” he says. “This is our core business; we’re an operator managing the supply chain from end to end. It is not their core business. The core business of an operator is to sell their stuff, to make their customer base happy and to be able to introduce the best technology there.”

Handling the supply chain tasks has made the lives of those he supplies easier, which has a direct impact on the amount of product they buy through Brightstar.

“In the past, a customer had to place a purchase order of a minimum number of units in order for the factory to even pay attention to them,” Claure says. “We figured out, if we could be better at that, manage a great supply chain system and if we could have great logistics, we could make a big difference.”

Not only has it made a difference to the retailers, it has made a difference to the manufacturers.

“In a market like the U.S., it is completely different to crack it,” Claure says. “Supply chains are highly advanced in the United States. You have Federal Express you can call by 5 p.m., they pick up the cargo and deliver it the following morning. In Latin America, it was a completely different ball game.

“All of our customers appreciated the services that we gave them. We saw that there was an opportunity. Today, we’re present in every single Latin American country.”

Brightstar has gotten very good at managing supply chains, so much so that one of its American partners has taken notice. Motorola has approached the company to handle some of its operations in the United States.

“Motorola was happy enough with what we were doing for them in Latin America, they approached us to go into the U.S. market,” Claure says. “The approach to the U.S. market has been completely different.”

Brightstar is acting as a sort of consolidator, dealing with all the small resellers a larger manufacturer like Motorola doesn’t want to bother with. A large manufacturer typically wants to make large quantities of phones and ship them to as few locations as possible to save money.

Claure has set up Brightstar to take the large quantities of product and sell the resellers smaller quantities than they would be able to get directly from the manufacturer. The manufacturer benefits by still moving product but not having to deal with hundreds or thousands of small retailers.

The retailer wins because a small shop can order what it needs without having to meet a large minimum quantity a manufacturer might impose. And sitting right in the middle is Brightstar, which profits from the convenience it provides to both ends of the supply chain.

Claure originally moved beyond distribution to give his company a more stable base. Knowing that competitors are always looking for ways to steal market share, he continues to seek new opportunities for his company to grow and has extended its supply chain reach. Not only does the company offer everything from sourcing to reverse logistics, Brightstar has begun selling to the end user.

“If you look at our customers, they also have to manage their supply chains,” Claure says. “Today, we have evolved into a company that is manufacturing, that is selling, that’s providing services to our operators. Recently we have launched several contracts with our operators in which we’re managing the stores on behalf of the retail operators. So, we have our own shops.”

Claure’s move from distributor to manufacturer to supply chain manager has accelerated the company’s growth. From just a handful of employees at the start, Brightstar now has nearly 2,000 employees.

“We’ve grown (from) zero in 1998 to $2.2 billion in sales in 2005,” Claure says. “Our objective this year is to surpass the $3 billion mark. We like to grow from all sides. We’re continuously adding new lines of products that we’re offering to our customers. At the same time we’re continuing to grow geographically.

“We’re growing organically in the market that we’re in, but we’re also growing in different regions.”


HOW TO REACH: Brightstar (305) 421-6000 or www.brightstarcorp.com

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