WHERE SPEED MATTERS

Panama 2018 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to José M. Miguez Jiménez, Vice President & General Manager of Max E. Jiménez, on increasing customer service, maintaining traditions that stand the test of time, and finding alternative growth methods.

José M. Miguez Jiménez
BIOGRAPHY
José M. Miguez Jiménez studied business administration at the Santa María La Antigua Catholic University (USMA). With 40 years of experience dedicated to the growth and development of his family business, Max E. Jiménez, S.A. is the oldest company in its branch in Panama, importing and distributing high-quality chemical products and raw materials for the industry.

How would you describe the evolution of the company on the eve of its 75th anniversary?

The company started as a small business in the city center run by my grandfather and uncle. Back then, bikes were used to make deliveries due to the city's small size. The idea of establishing Max E. Jiménez sprouted on the back of my grandfather's work experience at Haseth, an older company. The company went through an extended period of growth after our office was moved next to Radio Mia facilities. Later, the offices were moved to the present location, from which the company has been operating for around 50 years. The area around the current office premises used to be on the outskirts; even the street in front of the office did not exist before.

What have been some of the company's main achievements over the years?

Over the years, the company has been involved in a number of different projects. At one time, it used to represent Agfa Color. While the lab was downstairs, the photo development process was carried out upstairs. The company also enjoyed healthy success in the pharmaceutical business. For example, we maintained a partnership with a German pharmaceutical company with 50% capital. We also used to manage the distribution of medicines in the Panamanian market before the partnership ended in the 1970s. Since the distribution industry in Panama is small, we work with nearly every sector in the industry. Through calculated efforts we have gained strength in the food industry, especially via our agreement with Nestlé. We experienced great business from 2006-2013. This is partly because in recent years, we have focused immensely on distributing chemicals and raw materials.

From which markets do you import raw materials?

A major chunk is imported from China, with the remaining raw materials delivered from the US, Europe, or other Asian countries such as India. We are aware of the changing times and the rise in the use of technology. Therefore, in order to revamp the company, we are currently designing a new website that will allow clients to view technical specifications before placing online orders. Additionally, we are planning to integrate live chat in the website for greater customer service.

What sets apart Max E. Jimenez from its competitors?

The prime differentiating factor is the availability of products in our inventory. At any given time, the company's inventory has almost USD2-million worth of products ready to be dispatched. Clients who prefer to buy directly from the supplier due to high volumes often struggle with delays. We are confident that the launch of our website will drive our competitive edge even further. Moreover, we are renowned for our service provision and fast delivery speeds; Max E. Jiménez always receives excellent results in Nestlé's yearly audits.

After working in the distribution sector for decades, what are the identified challenges?

At present, one of the main problems that we are dealing with is the required documentation for imports. Regulatory authorities, such as AUPSA, have different customs controls. These authorities got stricter after the incident related to diethylene glycol lead to several deaths. As a result, products like glycerin must be tested in a lab to ensure they do not contain diethylene glycol—a process that can take up to a month.

How do you want to diversify?

One potential option is to penetrate new markets in Central America. The issue in Panama is that every new company that enters the market starts with cheaper prices, forcing us to buy in bulk and build large inventories. In order to tackle that, we promise our clients to match or beat any price that is being offered in the market.

What is your main goal for 2018?

We want to push out of the recession through expansion and alternative growth methods.