If the welfare of our employees is improving, that’s a good indicator of the company’s growth and success.
Grupo Urrea is a five-generation family business that was founded in 1907 as "Valvulas Carroll" (Carroll Valves) by William Carroll. Mr. Carroll was an adventurous New Yorker who came to Mexico with a US railroad company. He chose to remain in Mexico where he created a successful business in a rapidly emerging market for indoor bathroom fixtures, valves and plumbing products.
In 1963, thanks to the vision and inspiration of William Carroll’s son-in-law, Raúl Urrea Avilés, the company added a tools division through an association with Proto Industrial Tools in the US (now a division of Black & Decker). Today, Grupo Urrea continues to operate through two equally important divisions: one focused on manufacturing and marketing valves including showers, ceramic products and accessories for bathrooms and kitchens; the second on tools, hardware and locksmith products that are distributed in more than 20 countries across the Americas.
The birth of a family legacy
Raúl Urrea Avilés empowered his children at early ages to take responsibility for the operations of the company’s two divisions, which made it possible for him to devote more attention to social issues that were of great personal interest and importance. The social impact of Grupo Urrea continues to be central to the way the company conducts business today and it is the power behind this legacy that the family and the business have sustained for close to 114 years.
It began with a deep concern for the welfare of Grupo Urrea’s employees. For Raúl Urrea Avilés, the company’s growth and success was only meaningful if the welfare of its employees improved as well. If, for example, the percentage of employees who could own a house or a car was growing, that was a good indicator of the company’s success.
Raúl Urrea worked on many social projects as president of COPARMEX (Employers' Confederation of the Mexican Republic). In this position and working together with the Confederation of Mexican Workers in the region, he promoted the creation of the Institute of Social Welfare of Jalisco, the mission of which was to provide workers with dignified housing. It encouraged workers to save 5 percent of their salary, which would then be matched by their employer as a salary incentive. Grupo Urrea was the first company to implement this program and it was later adopted by many of the companies that belonged to the Confederation.
The improved housing levels of workers through this program was widely recognized and it was presented as a model for decent housing to the President of Mexico. It was one of the most successful practices in the region and immediately became the basis for creating INFONAVIT (Institute of the National Housing Fund for Workers) to improve housing for workers nationwide.
Another important contribution of Raúl Urrea as President of COPARMEX was the promotion of the investment of foreign companies in Jalisco. Working hand-in-hand with the American Chamber of Commerce, he secured the arrival of large technology-intensive companies such as Kodak and Motorola. These milestones laid the groundwork for the state of Jalisco to become the Mexican Silicon Valley, which eventually hosted companies such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and many others.
Raúl Urrea also understood the importance of education within the family and among members of the communities surrounding the family business. He became a benefactor of ITESO (Institute of Technology and Higher Studies of the West), a leading Jesuit University in the region that was not recognized to offer professional degrees in its first years of operation. His involvement was fundamental to the Institute being granted the “Recognition of Official Validity of Studies” by the Ministry of Public Education. This recognition gave the University the freedom to grant university degrees and design the curricula for the programs it offered.
Preserving the legacy
These examples represent the birth of the family legacy that is now being sustained and carried forward by the next generation of successors.
Alfonso Urrea C., son of Raúl Urrea, was also President of ITESO for 10 years, from 1987 to 1996.
Most recently, for example, Alfonso Urrea Martin (grandson), the current CEO of the tools division, participate with a group of Mexican business leaders in an initiative called "Companies for Wellbeing". This program ensures that all participating companies provide their workers with a wage of at least 6,500 Mexican pesos per month, which is 75 percent higher than the current official minimum wage and sufficient to cover the basic needs of an average family.
The tradition of caring for the well-being of the company's employees has been maintained within the Urrea family and its businesses over the decades. When employees face difficulties such as an illness, disability or death of a family member, Grupo Urrea has consistently provided them with compassionate personal and financial support.
Through the generations, different leaders of the Urrea family have continued to build on the vision that the company’s success is a reflection of the success of its employees and the communities in which it operates. The current generation of cousins who are leading the company, Alfonso, Juan Carlos and Raúl, are members of Generation X. They demonstrate the entrepreneurial characteristics of their generation and they have successfully combined their innovative spirit with a social agenda in taking Grupo Urrea to its next level while retaining the heritage that the family has built so far.