Prime Group is off the bench and on top of its game

Last month while attending the big flower show in Bogota, Proflora, I got to spend quality time with some industry friends and customers who have worked with Prime Group over the years – people I have known since my business partner Omar Zambrano and I starting this company 20 years ago.

So naturally there was a lot of talk of “back in the day,” mixed in with a bunch of “I remember when” stories.

Reminiscing like this gives us a greater appreciation of just how far we’ve come in the shipping business in the past two decades. It also opens our eyes to the new realities of global logistics — changes that are happening at break-neck speed.

And I truly believe they are changes for the better. I mean, of course, there has since been major consolidation among air carriers and freight forwarders, and a lot of small farms across Ecuador and Colombia have been bought up by big-farm interests.

But I’m mostly referring to the way emerging technologies are now allowing us to build in such significant operational efficiencies, processes that we could never have imagined back in the day.

Ok, before I go any further, I’ve got to just share just one I-remember-when story, about how freight forwarders would come by to see what you’ve got to ship, with a typewriter under one arm and calculator in the other hand. They’d count up all our boxes and kilos, work some numbers, and then hand over an airway bill. I would then pull out my own handy calculator to double check whether they did it all correctly. Sometimes it was right, sometimes it was way wrong. You really had to be on your game.

That part certainly hasn’t changed. We still have to be on top of our game in logistics, but nowadays, we’ve got some amazingly sophisticated new tools that not only boost efficiencies but our competitiveness, too.

Today, it’s all about technology and automation.

Business Intelligence
Take for instance a major new tool that the Prime Group companies just launched. It’s called Power BI, a business analytics service – with the BI standing for Business Intelligence – and it really is a smart way to go.

It’s a platform that provides nontechnical business users with tools for aggregating, analyzing, visualizing and sharing data. The Power BI user interface is really quite intuitive for anyone familiar with Excel, and because it integrates with other Microsoft products, it’s a very versatile self-service tool that requires little upfront training.

With it we are finding insights within our organization’s data, by helping connect a wide range of data sets and then transforming them into easy-to-understand charts and graphs that provide a real-time “story” about what’s going on system wide. Best part is, all of this is being shared with other Power BI users within the organization.
No longer do we spend long hours at month’s end, gathering up our sales, shipping, and performance data, in order to package it in a report that presents stale data on key performance indicators.

Today, we pop out a cell phone, open the Power BI app, and get a real-time snapshot that allows us to answer questions in real-time and help with forecasting to make sure the different departments and division are meeting business metrics. The charts and data visualizations can even examine “what if” scenarios.

Tools like Power BI – and all the advances to come with artificial intelligence are clearly revolutionizing our industry. Only those companies that are able to use the new tech to their advantage will survive, grow, and thrive.

I am happy to report that Prime Group is off the bench and already on the playing field, stepping up our game. With a winning combination of best-in-industry customer service and advanced technology, we’ve got what it takes to win.

I’m glad you’re along with us for this exciting ride into the future.

Prime Group team harvesting business at BOG show

Easily one of the best opportunities to meet the most important people in the floral industry is at the most important flower show in Colombia – Bogota’s Proflora.

As one of the biggest in the world, the show is mostly for flower growers and breeders to show off their wares, but myriad providers of services and products that support the core industry are also represented.

So naturally, Prime Group has been attending for years.

As a veteran of many flower expositions around the world, over and over CEO Roger Paredes says he comes to the same conclusion: “The floral business is as much about the flowers as it is about the people – perhaps even more so.”

For sure, there were hundreds of exhibits and sessions this year highlighting emerging trends and the latest and greatest flower varieties. But Paredes and his sales team, joined by Prime Group’s Chief Operating Officer Omar Zambrano are much too busy to take in any of the “local color,” so to speak. That’s because they are almost solely focused on meeting with new and existing customers.

According to Paredes, it’s all about maintaining and building relationships. “We focus on building new business, but we also taking full advantage of the opportunity to meet with the existing customers of PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling in particular, to continually reinforce those important relationships.”

PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling (PFH) are the primary divisions of Prime Group Holdings that support the fresh-cut flower business. PrimeAir serves as the general sales and service agent (GSSA) on the ground in Latin America for the biggest players in the air cargo industry – including Atlas Air, and Emirates SkyCargo. These carriers alone transport millions of kilos of flowers out of Bogota and Quito each year.

PFH serves as a strategic ally for its clients by handling the logistics end of the business – from start to finish – in order to achieve safe and fresh delivery of fresh flowers and perishable goods to their final destination. With strategic warehouses and handling facilities around the globe, PFH offers a complete menu of logistics services from cold storage and inventory services, to document processing and customs clearance.

“It was a great show,” Paredes reported. “We arrived with solid sales leads that would allow us to continue developing our portfolio of services, and were able to meet with a handful of new customers that we’d already started working with out of Bogota. At the end of the day, it’s always a good thing to meet clients face-to-face, after interacting for so long via just phone and email.”

Other meetings during the show, scheduled in advance of the event, were set aside for existing customers, he said, to thank them for their business and to check in to see if everything is copacetic.

“What we heard most, thankfully, were expressions of satisfaction with our service,” he added.

Mission accomplished.

For information, visit www.primegroup.aero. To contact Prime Group at its Miami world headquarters call 305-592-2044 or send an email at info@primegroup.aero.

After celebrating 20 years with Prime Group, CFO Juan Galarraga banks on at least 20 more

It is said that long-term employees reflect a stable work environment and a great degree of employee satisfaction.

But for Juan Andres Galarraga, Chief Financial Officer of Prime Group Holdings, it’s not just a matter of being happy on the job, working here has become an extension of his family.

Galarraga celebrated his 20th anniversary Oct. 12, in good company, with Prime Group executives and management, sharing stories of the “good old days.” After all, he was just 20 years old when he joined this promising start-up in a tight little office in Quito focusing on the flower trade.

Right in line after the company’s first two employees, founders Roger Paredes and Omar Zambrano, Galarraga got onboard in October of 1999 for the ride of a lifetime, quite literally. Along the way, through the ups and downs of business, they also became great friends.

Family Affair
“But it goes further with me. Over the years, Roger and Omar not only became close friends, they became like a family. And I am so grateful to be a part of it all.”

As a result, Galarraga carries the title “Employee Number 3” – a designation he proudly touts to this day, and plans to hold onto for at least another 20 years.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” he says. “Amazing work and the reassuring feeling of family.

From his long-time perspective, Galarraga sees how most employees also have a great sense of camaraderie, of being part of something big and exciting – as the company expands across the globe with new services and products.

“Their ongoing passion and commitment to this company, something I have witnessed firsthand in Roger and Omar for years, makes a big impression on the employee group every day,” he added.

For Galarraga’s part, he brings great passion to the job, as well. “Don’t get me wrong, I have total commitment to this company, one that comes from dedication to the field of finance – but mostly it’s out of loyalty to the partners.”

Humble Beginnings
Paredes says he normally would prepare remarks in advance of such an occasion, but because it was more a “family reunion” than a formal affair, he chose to speak directly from the heart.

Reflecting on Galarraga’s humble beginnings, he noted, “We were all just a bunch of very young men… But from the very beginning, through all the good times and tough times, to this very day, we remain grateful for the talent and contributions he brings to our company.”

Starting basically as a messenger, Galarraga signed on during college. And quite soon after, while the ink was still wet on his financial engineering diploma, he moved directly into working full time with their flower-trading venture, all the while taking on more and more responsibilities.

He was there for the launch of PrimeAir, the first of what would become four divisions of the Prime Group. By 2006, Galarraga and his wife transferred from Ecuador to the company’s headquarters in Miami in search of new opportunities, and began a family here.

“With Omar overseeing operations and Roger on the commercial side, my place has always been right in the middle, working directly with both of them, serving as a conduit – and smoothing communications when needed,” he said.

Looking Ahead
“It’s almost too much to fathom, but half of my life has been with this company,” Galarraga shared. “The opportunities they’ve given me are nothing short of amazing. And as the company grows, I also get to grow, both personally and professionally.”

In fact, just last month, Galarraga was appointed CFO for the entire Group, consisting of PrimeAir, Prime Air & Ocean Cargo, Prime Fresh Handling, and Prime Fresh Products.

In his new capacity, Galarraga will not only continue to ensure that all business processes are in place and functioning well, but he will now focus more on the bigger picture – financial strategies that will help Prime Group continue to grow and prosper well into the future.

Says Galarraga, “We work incredibly well together. They trust me entirely and I trust them also. It’s a perfect equation.”

Paredes agrees. “It is so very important to find someone you can totally trust – someone like Juan who fights for us as though it’s his own money. That’s a good thing… Congratulations, Juan!”