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I am always on the lookout for interesting companies to learn about. That’s why I was so excited when I got a call from my friend Sérgio Rosendal Ribeiro of VRI. I first met Sérgio over 15 years ago when we met for coffee in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. At that time, Sérgio was looking to expand his business, located in Sao Paulo, Brazil, into the North American market. Since then, he has been making inroads and is about to open up a location in Florida. In this interview, we discuss his growing company and the business climate in South America.
Dan Beaulieu: Sérgio, it’s good to talk to you again. Thanks for reaching out to me.
Sérgio Rosendal Ribeiro: It’s good talking to you as well, Dan.
Beaulieu: Tell me about your company.
Rosendal Ribeiro: I founded the company in 1991. I wanted to start the best contract electronics manufacturing company in South America. We were taking over a division of a large company by the name of Villares Group. I wanted to provide our customers with the best value in contract manufacturing.
Beaulieu: What is your background?
Rosendal Ribeiro: By training and experience, I am a mechanical engineer, but I also have a business administration education. I was ready to combine both of my skill sets into a company I could own.
Beaulieu: With your company being in South America, how different is it to do business in Brazil as opposed to the U.S.?
Rosendal Ribeiro: In Brazil, you need to teach the customers about the difference high-quality components and processes make. Most of them search only for a low price. Any competitor could take a PO at a cheap price using poor-quality or counterfeit components. We showed our customers the difference and demonstrated that you get what you pay for, as you say in the U.S.
Beaulieu: That is not that much different than in America. Those who value what you do and understand what it takes to build high-quality products are willing to pay for them. How do you handle that in your company and country?
Rosendal Ribeiro: With us, everything is about values. That is what we teach and preach to our associates, and that is what we sell to our customers. Good enough is never good enough when you want to be great. I believe that there is always a better way. I also believe in the nonconformists who see the way the world could be and try to do that.
Beaulieu: That reminds me of Apple and Steve Jobs when he praised the “crazy ones” who dared to think differently. They are the ones who change the world.
Rosendal Ribeiro: Exactly. I actually have a message on my website saying how I admire nonconformists and support them, especially the ones in my company who have helped keep us alive during hard times and laser-focused during the good times. They have always focused on not only business development but also product development.
Beaulieu: What are your goals?
Rosendal Ribeiro: Right now, my goal is to have a solid and confident CM in both Americas. I want to get my business in the U.S. and duplicate what we have done in Brazil.
Beaulieu: Why do you think you will be successful once you set up your manufacturing center in the U.S.?
Rosendal Ribeiro: Business is business wherever you are. And if you are running a good business with strong ethics and values, it will succeed wherever it is. I find that the U.S is still the most company-friendly country in the world with the best business environment, which suits me and VRI well. But my secret weapon is my team.
We have a small team, but we’re made up of the best professionals in each area and department. The plan is to use the current team to help train the U.S. team in the ways we have developed in Brazil. We are very proud of the systems and processes that have made us very successful in South America, and we will duplicate those in the U.S.
Beaulieu: Talk about some of your processes.
Rosendal Ribeiro: First, we have what we call mounting plate or what you call the actual assembly. We do PTH as well as SMT, and we are experts on both of them, including providing fine-pitch and BGA assembly. Of course, we have testing, both electrical and burn-in, and we have conformal coating as well. We also offer box builds and complete product integration, including cables, wire harness, cabinets, cable assemblies, panels, chassis, controls, and all electromechanical devices.
Additionally, we work with the customer very closely on product reviews, PTH-to-SMD component conversions, updating existing products with new components, troubleshooting outdated components, product nationalization, and finding ways to cut the customers’ cost out of the product.
Beaulieu: I know that you focus on new product introduction (NPI). Can you talk about that?
Rosendal Ribeiro: With so many new products being developed today, it is important that we provide our customers with quick-turn prototype services. As we have 40 years of experience in all kinds of areas, we use it to point and suggest modifications to the product. We work side by side with the customer to make sure the design and call-outs for components are practical and available so that once they release the data to us, we can build the product as quickly as possible. This way, they can make sure that they have the product when they need it.
Beaulieu: In the end, what would you say is the most important thing that makes VRI stand out?
Rosendal Ribeiro: I like to say that we have spent the past 30 years getting ready for the future. We are looking for what the future will bring. We believe that with our processes, technologies, and experiences, we are prepared to take our customers into the future, knowing that we will be able to handle all of their needs.
As we say on our website, “With you, we can create the technology of the present. Connected, we will create a new experience and resources for a new time.” Our entire focus is on our customer’s success. There have been many times that we have put our customers’ success in front of ours, and with that kind of thinking, we make customers for life.
Beaulieu: What are your thoughts in terms of this pandemic? How are you faring in these times?
Rosendal Ribeiro: We are doing quite well. The numbers are down, but things look promising. I think once we get through this, things will be better than ever. More products are being invented and developed, especially in the medical segment. I also think automation will grow as we look for things we do not have to touch, like automatic doors and bathroom fixtures. We are already working on products like these.
Beaulieu: I know that you are spending some of your time in Florida right now, getting things started down there. I’ll check back in with you in a few months, and we can talk about the things you have done to start growing your North American business.
Rosendal Ribeiro: That sounds good to me.
Beaulieu: Thanks for speaking with me, Sérgio.
Rosendal Ribeiro: It’s always a pleasure, Dan.