From agriculture to air conditioning

In this opportunity, the professional of the month is dedicated to a representative of the Central American region. His name is Salo Ponchner, general director of the Costa Rican company, Multifrio.

By Duvan Agudelo Chaverra

The story of Salo Ponchner Geller is full of examples to consider for many of the professionals who are immersed in this industry of air conditioning and refrigeration. For those who do not know, Salo is the general director of the company Multifrio, one of the most important brands in the sector in Costa Rica.

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Salo is a charismatic entrepreneur who has been able to guide a group of workers to position the company in such a competitive sector and with so many players looking to be the best. His knowledge is based on multiple experiences throughout his life with a remarkable academic complement.

From school and school, Salo already had the idea of ​​being an entrepreneur. During this time I was already working on vacations in stores and as an accountant. Later, upon his arrival at the university, he decided that the best educational initiative was to be an Agronomist Engineer, a goal he achieved. In addition, not satisfied with his professional degree, Salo has constantly complemented his education with postgraduate studies.

"My first professional job was at 1990 as Manager of a pineapple farm in the northern area of ​​Costa Rica, called Frutas Tropicales de Venecia, in San Carlos. Then I won a scholarship for academic excellence at the University of California, Davis, one of the best universities in the world in agriculture. I graduated with a Master of Science in the 1992 year in fruit tree production. Since the year 1992-1995 I was a professor and researcher at the UCR, as Head of the Fruit Department of the university. At 1995 I started as an agronomist from the company Chiquita Brands International. I worked in Chiquita until the year 1997 where I finished as Regional Research Manager, covering all the research and development from Guatemala to Colombia. My agronomic life in those years included the planting and development of a large number of mango, avocado, pineapple and papaya farms, "commented the guest.

But it was in the year 1997, after the birth of their first child, when his life took a turnaround in industry and came to what is now his home. Salo has been the General Manager of Multifrio since it was a small company operating in a two-car garage on Avenida 10 (downtown) of San José. It should be noted that the company was founded in 1996 (it had another name) by his brother Marcos Ponchner, who currently serves as Operations Director.

"In the 1999 year we decided that it was not profitable to continue with the automotive air conditioning business and we focused on residential and commercial airs. In the 2010 we went to the city of Athens, near the international airport, taking advantage of the logistical advantages that gave us the new highway with a land of 2 hectares and enough area to integrate offices, training rooms, meeting rooms, duct factory and metallic structures, 5.000 m2 of warehouse and areas for future expansion ".

And as we mentioned before, the professional of the month has taken advantage of the opportunities to broaden his knowledge in the administrative area: "I got a scholarship to achieve a Master in Sciences from the Gestion des Finances at the University of Management in Switzerland and also an MBA in International Management at the International University of Catalonia and a Master of Business Administration in finance and management control from the Francisco de Vitoria University in Madrid. I have also attended multiple seminars and refresher courses in Top Management, Senior Management, Human Capital, Lean Management, Negotiation, Strategic Planning, Marketing and Sales and other technical courses in the area of ​​air conditioning. "

A recognized professional
All these actions, both professional and academic, have led him to be recognized in his country. For example, in the 2006 year the Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce chose him as the Entrepreneur of the Year, and since the year 2008 has been chosen as a World Leader Businessperson, obtaining the Bizz Awards.

And in addition, Salo has also founded several other companies in different sectors, such as Multimaq (company of the group that sells heavy machinery for tunnels, mining and construction), BizSmart Business Launcher for the incubation and development of start ups, small and medium companies, EcoConcretos for the construction of roads and others. He has also led the development of multiple properties and participates in several boards of directors of different companies. Advises family groups on issues of succession, investment, and corporate governance, and is writing a book on the creation and growth of family businesses and personal finance.

Another of the important reasons why Salo deserves recognition is due to its leadership ability, since it has managed to generate a pleasant working environment for all the people who are part of Multifrio.

"We have never stayed in a fictitious stability, we always seek continuous improvement in a linear and disruptive way breaking the paradigms of the air conditioning industry and construction in general. We give much more services than the simple fact of being contractors and installers of air conditioning; We give excellent after-sales service; We develop a professional call center for that purpose, just like a first world maintenance department with an immediate response. That, in addition to all the support from the financial point of view, engineering, Project Management that complement the customer's attention; One of our great achievements is the creation of a high performance team in Multifrio with excellent results, "said the Professional of the month.

Challenges and achievements within the labor group
Multifrio has managed to generate different activities that have been important for the company in its development within the sector. Salo makes mention of the "large amount of in-house software for thermal load studies, electrical simulation, hour by hour 365 days of the year, for the response and immediate attention of our customers, online quotation, immediate report, etc. ,. Other activities that help us a lot in terms of staff development and public relations are all the courses and trainings we do with the help of our suppliers, both open and in the offices of our clients. "

Our guest also mentioned the importance of the company's recent anniversary number 20: "The anniversary event served us enormously for the union and identification of the staff. Other events and certifications are equally important, such as ISO 9001, carbon neutrality, obtaining the country brand Esencial Costa Rica, the development of our seal of Professional Responsibility and others in which we have all had to be participants ".

Perceptions of the Costa Rican market
On this aspect, the Professional of the month highlights the growth that the Costa Rican industry has had, in aspects such as the knowledge of entrepreneurs: "In Costa Rica we have evolved a lot in the knowledge and technologies used. 15 years ago had to explain to customers what a Mini Split was and explain that there is a condensing unit that goes outside, which is not just the internal unit they see, etc. The consultants were accustomed to the manuals of a single brand and there was very little field for innovation; the same thing happened with ventilation, control systems, etc. "

In addition, Salo highlights the contribution that his company has made in this growth: "In part, the activity of Multifrio has awakened the market in the introduction of new technologies, new brands, new alternatives, new ways of quoting and analyzing projects. A key example is the development of VRF systems and to which much older companies are still trying to adapt. For 18 years ago we established an excellent relationship with the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries factory, which has served us directly from Japan and has driven us in the market ".

Regarding the future, our guest looks favorably on the evolution of the Latin American industry in terms of the concept of prices and all that this entails: "Investments can not be seen only in the short term, in addition, operating expenses, disadvantages of putting poor quality equipment. Another concept that has evolved a lot is the understanding of the importance of adequate preventive maintenance to equipment. We have also learned to take advantage of technology and not fear change. " Today Multifrio has established strategic alliances with manufacturers such as Daikin, Johnson Controls, Systemair, which are also innovative leaders worldwide.

Family and hobbies
Salo Ponchner is married and has two children, 17 and 20 years. He says that the family is a central aspect of his life and he focuses on working and improving himself more every day.

Despite his many occupations, he finds time to practice his favorite activities that he mixes with another of his passions, such as teaching: "I love reading, mountain walks, helping companies or people in financial problems, the crossfit , play tennis, ride a mountain bike, etc. I do daily meditation. I love teaching. In Multifrio I give all the basic courses of air conditioning and all the courses of management skills. I give courses in entrepreneurship and professional finance in academic and professional schools in Costa Rica as part of Multifrio's Social Responsibility program and because I love doing it. "

And it is described as follows: "I am a reliable, disciplined, hard-working and grateful person with life and everything that has touched me. I like to enjoy life and be useful for others. I like to learn more every day. "

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