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January 23, 2012 The woman behind the Cisneros Group screensAdriana Cisneros de Griffin directs strategic planning for one of the world’s largestprivately held media, entertainment and telecommunications organizations. BY JANE WOOLDRIDGE / THE MIAMI HERALD JWOOLDRIDGE@MIAMIHERALD.COM When Adriana Cisneros de Griffin takes the podium in Miami Monday at the annual convention of NAPTE, the global TV industry conference, she’ll be on familiar ground. The Cisneros Group and its subsidiary, Venevision, has offices in Miami, where she visits frequently. Her job keeps her on the road: As granddaughter of company founder Diego Cisneros and daughter of chairman Gustavo Cisneros, Adriana Cisneros directs strategic planning for one of the world’s largest privately held media, entertainment and telecommunications organizations. Currently, its Spanish and Portuguese-language content is Adriana Cisneros De Griffin is Vice Chairman and Vice President of Strategy of offered in 120 countries and, she says, “we are the Cisneros Group of Companies. continuing the constant process of expansion.’’ ADRIANA CISNEROS DE GRIFFIN Title: Vice Chairman and Vice President of To do so, Cisneros is looking to new Strategy of the Cisneros Group; president of Fundación Cisneros; chief executive of technologies. Tropicalia, a Cisneros Group eco-resort project in the Dominican Republic “Our outlook is already pointed toward 2030, Family history: Granddaughter of company and we are betting heavily in markets such as founder Diego Cisneros; daughter of chairman Gustavo Cisneros and Patricia Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Phelps de Cisneros China; we are also seeking to have a greater Education: B.A. from Columbia University; presence in social networks and alternative master’s degree in journalism from New York University; alumni of Harvard Business media every day.’’ School Community: A director of the International Q: If you were a book, what would your Academy of Television Arts & Sciences title be? (Emmys); involved with the Museum of Modern Art in New York and various This is Only the Beginning. international development and scholarship programs. Personal: Age 32, married with two young children
Q: What does your average work day look like?When I am home in New York, I wake up early for a morning run along the West SideHighway. Upon my return I wake the children, Eva Luisa (2) and Tomás (4), havebreakfast with them, take them to school and then I head straight to the office.My work day begins touching base with my teams in Caracas, Brazil, Madrid, Miami andthe Dominican Republic. The rest of the day is filled with meetings and conference callswith strategic partners and alliances. When time allows, I step out for lunch at a nearbyrestaurant with colleagues or potential business partners.Once I have wrapped things up at the office, I head back home to play with the kids, keepthem company while they have dinner, give them baths and read them a book (or two orthree.) Once they are asleep I spend quality time with my husband, Nick, and occasionallymeet up with close friends for dinner in our neighborhood.When I am traveling I fill my days as much as possible - meeting with associates,developing new business relationships, and networking in the community to ensure that Iam constantly in touch and aware of the local business environment. I also try to find timeto visit cultural exhibits and nonprofit organizations aligned with Fundación Cisneros’philosophy. Lastly, when time permits, I try to connect over a meal with friends livingnearby.Q. Media has become an increasingly competitive business, even in theburgeoning Hispanic market. What’s your overall strategy for staying on top ofthe market?I could sum it up in one word, “innovation”. During the last five years that I’ve worked forthe Group, my main commitment has been to modernize the traditional media system andtake advantage of the new technologies, transforming our content and the way in whichwe relate to our audiences.Thanks to an innovative interactive strategy, during its transmission in the UnitedStates, Eva Luna, our most successful telenovela to date, captured more than 2 millionnew viewers by refreshing the genre and making this soap opera into an attractive formatfor the younger audiences, incorporating blogs, episodes on line, summaries, exclusiveweb videos and surveys among others.Q: What’s your prediction for where media overall will go in the next 5-10years? Will social media still be important? Will print have a role? And how willtelevision change?The new technologies are transforming communications media and the social networksare a fundamental part of that. We are closer than ever to our audience, there is nowpractically immediate feedback and a greater involvement of the public with their favoriteprograms. The tendency is toward interactivity, when we produce a format, we have to doso thinking about designing special content for every screen.Technology also allows us to have ever greater and quicker access to information; in myown case, with the advent of the iPad I can say I now read more news than ever.
Q: What is the Cisneros Group doing to adapt to these new trends?Rather than adapting ourselves, we identify the opportunities provided by these trendsand we capitalize on them. There are two ways of talking about our work:1. Activities aimed at creating synergies with our traditional business such as: our alliancewith Netflix; the work we have been doing with Hulu in the United States; our winningpresence on YouTube (where we receive 25 million visits a month); and of course on oursite www.venevision.com.2. The initiatives we undertake based on business opportunities that present themselves.Even when these initiatives are not directly linked to our traditional business, such as theadvertising network and mobile agency that we are creating for the Hispanic and LatinAmerican market.Q: Do you envision Cisneros moving into English-language programming? Orwill the shift in demographics and increasing use of Spanish in the U.S. beenough to keep the company where it wants to be?The Hispanic market is the segment with the greatest growth in the United States; theHispanic population grew 43 percent from 2000 to 2010. Moreover, this segment watchesmore television and its buying power and influence grows every day; which is why it issuch an important focus for the Cisneros Group.However, we are aware that this segment is changing, and if there is a part of thepopulation that still prefers content completely in Spanish, there is also a good part,principally bilingual families, that watches more and more television in English, but thatdoesn’t mean they stop being Latinos and thinking as such. There is a great opportunity inthe creation of content for this market and that is why we are starting to work on astrategy for the development of content in English.Q: You work in a high-profile company that also happens to be a familybusiness. What’s the hardest part about being in a family business? And what’sthe best part?Given that our company is 80 years old this year, our TV network 50 years old and ourFamily Foundation 35 years old, the hardest part of running a family enterprise is knowingthat I am expected to do so for the next 20 or 30 years. I know that my family is lookingforward to celebrating our 100 years, so clearly this is a game of not only strategy andsuccess but also of endurance.The best part is knowing that all the hard work, the long hours, the endless travel is all tobenefit my family and our business. I like having that sense of purpose. From a young ageI have been immersed in the business culture of the organization, which allowed me tohave a natural formation of the business philosophy. I always knew I wanted to work formy family, to continue the work that my father and mother have done in the Organizationand the Foundation; it’s a vocation that I enjoy tremendously.
Q: Being a woman in business in Latin America isn’t always easy. What impactdo you think that has had on you? Have you had any difficulties because of it?Do you have to juggle more between family and business? Has it in some waysbeen an advantage?The “woman” issue has never been an issue at Cisneros. I grew up in a household whereour parents had the same expectations of us regardless of gender, so I suppose that wayof thinking also carried over into the work place.The only challenge I face in being a woman is feeling like I am always in a hurry fromwork to home. For me, it is as important to succeed at my job as it is to be a great momand wife, but doing all three can, at times, be exhausting! I wouldn’t have it any otherway though, all three roles are equally important to me.Q: What’s the best business advice you ever got?“Put Mind, Heart and Courage” in business. This was my grandfather, Diego Cisneros’,philosophy. He inculcated it in us, and over three generations it has allowed us toconsolidate into a leading organization, diversified, innovative and with a great socialcommitment.Q: What’s the best business advice you wish you had been given, but had tolearn the hard way?I wish someone had told me early on that this is an endurance race, with long-term goals,where time is a key factor in planning any business.I am a results-oriented person and have always wanted to see immediate results. I can beimpatient in that regard, but now I can see that timing is a key factor in the planning ofany business and that being in a hurry to deliver can actually get in the way of seeing thegreater potential of a deal.Q: As women, we know that packing for business trips is harder for us than it isfor men. How do you handle packing?I travel four days a week on average, so packing is a big part of my life. At this point Ihave it down to a science. When I am packing for a business trip, I have two objectives:to be able to take only carry-on luggage and that my clothes should arrive withoutneeding pressing. I have a few cardinal rules: commit to one color accessories, foldclothes strategically to avoid getting wrinkles, and though I am an avid runner, if the hotelhas a pool I bring goggles instead of my sneakers, which gives me some welcomed extraspace.When I travel I like to be able to focus on my job 100 percent, packing strategically is oneof those things that really makes my life less complicated.Q: How does being the CEO of a real estate project square with your company’smedia interests?The company’s entrepreneurial spirit has always been to identify and capitalize onopportunities, my grandfather said we should "collect all the diamonds that we find"; wehave worked under this philosophy and as a result, we are a company capable ofsuccessfully undertaking new business when it presents itself, regardless of the sector.
Q: What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do in business?The hardest thing I have had to do in business is accepting the challenge to be myfather’s successor and to feel confident that I am the right person for the job.I am surrounded by people who are extremely smart and have been at it for a muchlonger time than I have. I always feel that I still have so much to learn from my team andmost importantly from my father.Q: What keeps you awake at night?I lose sleep when I feel that the day has ended and I don’t have full clarity on something Iam working on.Q: What do you do to unwind?To unwind I like spending time with my family. I try to make it home for the weekend nomatter where I am. I love cooking for them, going for long walks in the woods with ourkids and dog, and reading books. Pretty simple, but very gratifying.Q: Tell us one thing your colleagues might be surprised to learn about you.I love climbing big mountains. More concretely: I like climbing 14,000-foot peaks. RecentlyI climbed Plata Peak, Pyramid Peak and Mt. Elbert in Colorado.Next on my wish list are Pico Duarte, Cotopaxi and Kilimanjaro.