Case Study

Odebrecht: Dreaming the client’s dreams

39 pages
September 2011
Reference: IMD-3-2178

SALVADOR DA BAHIA – BRAZIL. When Marcelo Odebrecht took over executive control of Odebrecht in 2009, he knew that he would have to light his own beacon for the firm. The company, launched in 1944 and still family-controlled, exhibited a strong entrepreneurial empowerment culture rooted in the life and business philosophy of the founder Norberto, Marcelo’s grandfather. This meant he could involve and rely on the support of major entrepreneur-partners of the firm in defining ambitious yet reachable targets for the firm. Vision 2020 aimed to achieve annual revenues in excess of $200 billion by offering innovative integrated solutions to major global challenges such as the availability of water, energy and infrastructure. To “dream the client’s dreams,” the plan required over 200,000 new employees worldwide, united by a common entrepreneurial bond. Such projections would have sounded extravagant for any other firm; for Odebrecht, these were simple linear extrapolations of the company’s performance over the last 10 years, during which the firm grew its revenues at an annualized rate of over 21%… Odebrecht also aspired to become a model of sustainable development and socio-environmental responsibility. For this, it could already rely on its massive investments in “green” plastics and ethanol production facilities. It also rallied behind a colossal hydroelectric project, pioneering CSR practices and novel turbine and dam technology to reduce the impact of such facilities on sensitive Amazon ecosystems. These investments set the tune for the firm in the second decade of the century. For Marcelo, the issue was how to translate the vision into “a dream with a deadline.” Could he depend on the old recipes for growth? Were historical clients the right ones going forward? Would the forces and culture that had created the opportunities in the past support the future? Was Odebrecht ready to handle another massive bout of growth? As Marcelo assumed sole executive leadership for the $23 billion family business at the age of 42, he was aware of his responsibility and challenges. He knew he was expected to build on his forefathers’ successes, and they had set a very high bar for him, but he also knew he could rely on the entrepreneur-partners he inherited.

Learning Objective

Managing growth, family business governance, succession, CSR, sustainable development, renewable energy, managing the value chain.

Growth Management, Environmental Responsibility, Corporate Social Responsibility, Renewable Resources, Green Plastics, Entrepreneurial Leadership, Construction, Engineering, Real Estate, Agribusiness
Latin America, Brazil
Field Research
© 2011
Available Languages
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