Rafael Marrero built his own successful company, but don’t think for one second he’s forgotten about the building blocks that got him there.
Marrero is the founder and CEO of Rafael Marrero & Company, a Florida-based business that specializes in business-to-government management solutions to help its client base drive cost savings and mitigate risk. Marrero and his teams’ efforts have helped the business make not only Inc. Magazine’s Top 500 list, but also the magazine’s 50 Best Places to Work in the Country list.
“It’s huge to be on the Inc. 500 list, but to me, the fact that this small company was listed among the fifty best workplaces in America is a landmark achievement,” Marrero says. “It felt like winning an Oscar in the management field.”
The success Marrero is savoring now was established before he joined the workforce. He studied at Stanford and Cornell universities, where he picked up valuable leadership skills.
“First and foremost, I learned to focus on the financial mastery of projects and converting strategy into action,” Marrero says. “Leadership for strategic execution was another important area of focus—how to leverage the customer relationship, master the project portfolio and integrate project program and portfolio.”
Marrero’s top-notch education helped him secure a job at MasTec, a multinational infrastructure, engineering, and construction company where he held several different positions, including vice president of business technology, director of government solutions, director of operational improvement and vice president of vendor management.
The company had a positive impact on his life, because he was inspired by the company’s late founder Jorge Mas Canosa. The fact that Mas Canosa fled Cuba, became a milkman for McArthur Farms, founded MasTec, and grew it from a mom-and-pop business to the first Hispanic company to reach the billion-dollar mark, made Marrero believe anything was possible.
When you combine Marrero’s education and the experience he gained at MasTec, it is no surprise that he ultimately founded his own company. He recalled a report he read in college—“The Chaos Report”—and discovered many nationally implemented projects were failing or not being delivered as promised. It inspired Marrero to build a practice and consultancy for project management.
“I wanted to simply deliver scope compliant projects on time, within budget and safely,” Marrero says. “That, plus my love of working with community-based businesses and Hispanic businesses is what led me to begin my own company.”
Marrero’s business card may read CEO, but to him that abbreviation stands for “Customer Experience Officer” rather than “Chief Executive Officer.” As the company’s highest-ranking officer, Marrero has made it his personal mission to make sure all his customers are delighted with their experiences.
“I mean, the buck stops here, and at the end of the day, it’s my name on the door so I have to make sure that I’m delivering a quality product, that the customer is happy, that my team is pleased with the result and that we’re all playing fair in the sandbox,” he says. “I’m not a micromanager, but I do believe that the devil is in the details.”
One of the company’s biggest initiatives is building a “better mouse trap” when it comes to vendor risk management. The Rafael Marrero & Company mantra is “we manage, to get your ducks in a row.” To help clients do that, the company is working on a third-party vendor risk management and business intelligence software that will predict if a company will be able to execute a project successfully and the likelihood of a vendor defaulting on their contract deliverables based on industry benchmarks, the contractor’s past performance, and business analytics.
This software “is fundamental because a third of the American economy is based on projects,” Marrero says. “That’s trillions of dollars. If a vendor can’t deliver as promised, or is not capable of delivering, then that is going to impact the overall project quality. It’s going to be delayed, there’s going to be cost overruns, etc. We feel we’re going to give the existing leaders in the quadrant a challenge and a run for their money. That will help us productize some of our offerings, so to speak, and let us scale.”
Rafael Marrero & Company has collected high praise from numerous outside forces, but the boss knows he couldn’t have done it alone. Yes, he’s created a “Silicon Valley” atmosphere that allows team members to work remotely, choose where the team goes for birthday lunches, and offers unlimited vacation time, but the atmosphere works because of the people working there. Marrero doesn’t hire people by himself. Every candidate meets with the management team in a casual setting—basketball, golf, whatever they want to do—so the other team members can get to know them better. Afterward, Marrero and his senior team members meet and vote on whether to make the hire.
“I want to make sure that we maintain the company’s culture of hiring the best of the best,” Marrero says. “As we scale up and out, as we continue to attract, retain and train some of the finest minds of the business, I want our efforts to be reflected by the results we generate.”
In addition to creating one of the fifty best places to work in America, Rafael Marrero is an active philanthropist in his community.
*Rafael Marrero & Company sponsored double-amputee athlete, Rafael del Castillo in the Paralympic Games. Del Castillo fled Cuba, and was looking for funds to join the US Paralympics swimming team. Marrero heard about his story on the radio, and led the charge to help del Castillo attend the games, where he broke six world records.
*Marrero raised $130,000 in support of the Jorge Mas Canosa Freedom Foundation, which holds an annual golf tournament that offers college scholarships to Hispanic students.
*Marrero donated Apple iMacs and network printers for the Little Haiti Optimist Club in Miami, Florida, to support the organization’s STEAM summer and after-school programs.