Recently, the international media source, «Estrategia y Negocios», highlighted José Raúl González Merlo’s work. He has led Progreso’s development since 2012, a company which has become a Central American business icon. Progreso was founded in Guatemala by Carlos F. Novella in the year 1899, just over 120 years ago. Gonzalez Merlo is a Francisco Marroquín University graduate, who has studied at the Wharton School of Business, Harvard Center for Business, and the University Of Rochester, New York (MBA). He currently leads the team who is executing the company’s international expansion plan.
According to the publication, González Merlo has not only successfully led an entire team of professionals, but has also consolidated the plan for regional expansion. «At Progreso we see Central America as a natural region for our business to develop. We also trust the region has the best growth potential for our infrastructure.» the executive explains. As he assesses the situation in the region, he understands that there are many different political and social challenges to face. He too believes that businessmen provide hope to the population, because people are able to aspire to a decent job, as well as trust that through their income they can legitimately aspire to economic and social development.
González Merlo explains that Progeso has defined five priorities for the next five years:
«At Progreso, each one of our employees is clear about our transcendent purpose: ‘To build together the country where we want to live.’ To live it, implies that our journey through the company is carried out with excellence and with loyalty to the values inherited from our founder’s legacy, Carlos F. Novella. We receive this legacy from collaborators who preceded us, our duty is to pass it on to the next generation so that Progreso will last for 122 years more.» he explains.
«I would like to be remembered as a person who faithfully lived our transcendent purpose. A person who will leave Progreso’s legacy better than how it was found. That is the message we want to give the future generations of Progreso leaders who will follow us; not only in Guatemala but in other countries where we operate», José Raúl González Merlo, CEO of Progreso.
José Raúl González Merlo has been CEO of Progreso since 2012, prior to which he was CFO (2010-2012). His leadership experience is extensive, including serving as Financial Vice President at The Central America Beverage Corporation (CBC), between 1993 and 2010; General Manager of Financiera de Occidente, between 1990 and 1993, an Investment Bank affiliated to Banco de Occidente de Guatemala; as well as Cemaco’s Finance Manager (1987-1990).
During his tenure at Progreso, he consolidated the company’s presence in Central America with expansion into Panama (2019) and Belize.
Another hallmark of his career, is that the company has begun operations in Colombia, where it exports cement, taking advantage of Guatemala as a production base.
González Merlo explains that the COVID-19 pandemic emergency made Progreso more aware of the importance of living in solidarity. Health and safety standards, although they have always been applied, gained more relevance. In addition, it also highlighted the value of women’s work in Progreso. «This pandemic made us value their roles as mothers, wives, our children’s teachers, and extraordinary executives,» he explains.
Faced with the uncertainty of the emergency, Progreso’s leadership reacted quickly to new circumstances, but the strategic approach essentially remained the same. «We owe ourselves to our customers and consumers, therefore we had to ensure their sustainability. We proved that we could achieve our goals in a shorter period of time as we increasingly relied on digital resources,» he said.