8 minute read 10 May 2019
Rubens Menin founder construction company MRV Engenharia

How sustainable growth turns entrepreneurs into mold-breakers

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US Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

8 minute read 10 May 2019

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Rubens Menin’s innovative approach to construction has given countless people on low incomes the opportunity of homeownership. 

From the street, there is little that stands out architecturally about 96 Rua dos Maçaricos. For Rubens Menin, however, the house in Vila Clóris – a hilly working-class neighborhood in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Brazil’s heartland state of Minas Gerais – is highly significant. It was the first home he built, in 1978, while he was working toward an engineering degree. The project came in under budget, at just half the projected cost.

Menin invested the proceeds of that first house in three new projects. Then he graduated, used the profit from his early projects to buy a lot on which he would build 10 units, and founded MRV Engenharia. Today, the company delivers more than 40,000 apartments a year, and one in every 200 Brazilians lives in a home built by MRV.

Most notably, it has given millions of people on low incomes the opportunity to buy a home of their own. That’s partly thanks to the innovative financing options MRV offers, which enable buyers to spread the cost of the purchase over 30 years and pay in instalments that are similar to the equivalent rental price.

But despite the company’s phenomenal success – it is the largest homebuilder in Latin America and the third largest in the world – and Menin’s role as chairman, he still takes a personal interest in day-to-day activities. He enjoys visiting all the 250 active construction sites, connecting with colleagues, participating in land acquisition and visiting commercial locations, where he also meets with potential customers.

“I like to be there to deliver the keys to the tenants when I can,” he says with a smile. “It’s the best moment of the whole business.”

Menin’s passion has not only revolutionized the way homes are built and enriched the lives of millions, but his journey exemplifies three key values all prospective entrepreneurs can cultivate to become mold-breakers.

1. Have a purpose beyond profit

Standard-setting entrepreneurs look beyond their own interests to guide their mission.

Menin himself was not born into a low-income family. Both his parents were engineers and he enjoyed a youth that many of Brazil’s 200 million citizens would have considered privileged. Perhaps as a result, he decided early on that his purpose in life would be to give back to society.

Homebuilding was the perfect vehicle for this calling. While the big construction companies of the time were competing for part of a small market segment – the wealthy – he focused on the low-income segment.

“For a long time, we were the only ones in this market,” he recalls. As a result, MRV has had a profound social and economic impact. Since its inception, MRV has offered good-quality, low-cost homes with attractive financing options – homes that previously would not have been accessible to those on low incomes.

Rubens Menin meets builders Spazio Parthenon

2. Embrace and experiment with new technology

Finding modern solutions to age-old problems calls for technological innovation.

To provide the opportunity of home ownership for those on low incomes and to do so profitably, was a challenge that Menin met head-on. “To build an affordable house, you need technology. I’m an engineer, I enjoy construction, and I’ve spent a lot of time working on the technologies that go into the houses we build,” he says. He and his team have traveled the globe to study building techniques, and these have been distilled into construction plans that trim waste to unprecedented levels. “We’ve refined our process to where we can build a five-story building in 10 days,” says Menin proudly.

This focus on honing technology to create operational efficiencies has also enabled him to break the mold. The construction industry is generally seen as a polluter, but MRV has planted one million trees in Brazil, extracting 550,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, and its newest developments are equipped with solar panels on the roof. The goal is both to bring down clients’ energy costs and to reduce the carbon footprint of MRV and its buildings.

3. Align your family values with those of your organization

Just as his parents had infused the taste for construction sites in him when he was a boy, Menin did the same with his own children, who are now taking over the day-to-day management of MRV. Rafael is company CEO and Maria Fernanda is the Legal Officer; Rubens himself remains Chairman.

Rubens Menin son daughter office

Menin’s youngest son, Joao Vitor, was previously an MRV employee, but with the support of his family he has joined Banco Inter – another of the Menin family’s entrepreneurial ventures – and turned the business into one of the first banks in Brazil based entirely online.

When his children were in their late teens, Rubens asked them to invite 40 of their friends to come and work at MRV. “My father has always had the mindset that, what’s even more important than building the company is building a team of highly qualified people,” Rafael explains. As for their friends, “they were thrilled, because they knew us as a family and they’d heard about MRV’s achievements.”

The approach was so successful that 37 of the 40 are still with the company today, several of them in key roles. “We gave them the opportunity and they took it,” says Menin.

Of course, profit is important, but we need to do business in such a way that we are improving the quality of society. This is one of MRV’s values.
Rafael Menin
MRV Engenharia

As the next generation of the family takes the reins, there is no danger that Menin’s original purpose will be forgotten. Maria Fernanda is the head of the MRV Institute, the company’s social arm, which aims to transform children’s lives through access to education, culture and sport.

“We are engaging in a lot of social projects that can help to bring some dignity to Brazilians,” she says, while Rafael adds: “Of course, profit is important, but we need to do business in such a way that we are improving the quality of society. This is one of MRV’s values and we are doing this more and more every day.”

Meanwhile, the company is expanding into other territories, primarily the US. By implementing his mold-breaking approach to construction, Rubens Menin is looking forward to continuing his successful growth journey with MRV, as he exemplifies the values that drive transformation not just in business but in the world as a whole.

 

The views of third parties set out in this publication are not necessarily the views of the global EY organization or its member firms. Moreover, they should be seen in the context of the time they were made.

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Summary

The EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2018, Rubens Menin, has implemented mold-breaking approaches to the construction industry that have helped build sustainable growth for his business, MRV Engenharia, while enabling millions of people on low incomes to become homeowners.

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By

US Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization