Each summer Endeavor sends a number of incoming and second-year MBA students, recruited from top schools, to work on-site with Endeavor Entrepreneurs on projects ranging from strategic planning to market expansion. The program is supported by a generous grant from Barclays. Following is a post from Pablo Calabuig Pascual, a member of the IESE Business School MBA Class of 2014, who spent the summer working with Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Colombia’s Refinancia.
I heard about Endeavor some years ago, but never thought about applying to it until this year. I was looking for something to do during my six month vacation before starting at McKinsey, and unfortunately I was totally broke after a two year MBA at IESE. I saw Refinancia’s project proposal and found it very interesting, and since I had never visited Colombia I saw this as a great opportunity to get to know the country.
Refinancia is a specialty loan provider that operates in Colombia and Peru, and offers solutions to underserved niches. It basically purchases portfolios of non-performing loans to retail banks, and after thoroughly studying the client’s payment behavior, offers them special solutions so that they can be back in the market. It also has a division that deals with merchant solutions, guaranteeing customer check transactions and providing them with short-term financing. It was started in 2006 and already has more than 800 employees.
A few weeks after I applied, Kenneth (CEO) and Juliana (Head of Corporate Affairs) interviewed me via Skype, and they gave me such a good vibe that just five days later I was already landing at El Dorado airport in Bogotá. I didn’t even have the time to plan my trip and almost even to pack the right clothes, but to be honest the welcome was so smooth and warm that I didn’t even need it. When I got to Bogotá, a driver took me to the apartment they had arranged for me, where I could cook some of the food they had left in the fridge. It felt like home from the moment of my arrival.
The project itself was incredibly interesting and had a very high impact in the organization: they wanted me to implement an activity-based costing system for the whole company, and thus I was constantly dealing with the CEO, VPs, and Managers. They did not have any way to track indirect costs to the final customer for any of their divisions, and their fast growth complicated things even more. The Merchant Services in particular had no idea of what customer groups were consuming their huge chunk of indirect costs, and the project ended up being a useful tool for segmentation according to actual and potential profitability of the customer.
People were incredibly attentive, not only in the way they provided me with the required information I needed (which was really a lot), but also regularly meeting with me to give me some feedback about my first results. I was particularly surprised about Kenneth’s entrepreneurial attitude and intelligence: he would challenge my ideas and asked me for information that made me reflect about the direction of the project several times.
My social life was no worse. From day one I was getting along well with all of Refinancia’s people. They took me to play golf and introduced me to some of the city’s bars and nightlife. I was also very lucky to be here during the World Cup, given the Colombian passion for football. In fact, after Spain’s poor performance in the tournament, we were back home after the third game and they had me buy Colombia’s jersey and watch all the games with it. Some of them even say I ended up being more Colombian than them! Camila Salamanca and all the of Endeavor team were also very nice and helpful to me.
As I reflect about my whole experience at Refinancia, I realize that everything has gone way beyond my expectations. Not only did I learn from the project, but I also got to meet some amazing and outstanding people in both work and social environments. The memories we created will certainly stay with me, and I am sure I will be back to Colombia sooner than expected.