Adriana Cisneros is the mother of young children, wife of an author, daughter of a mogul and now CEO of one of the world’s most interesting and powerful global conglomerate. While she is comfortable in all of those roles, she still is adjusting to the last one.
In making that adjustment, a lot is a stake.
If all had gone according to plan, Cisneros said she would be running a news agency somewhere in the United States that would report on Latin America.
Instead, she now occupies the corner office of a Coral Gables office tower from which she runs the Cisneros Group, a family-owned, multibillion dollar media and real estate enterprise. Its programming spans more than 90 countries and five continents.
When Cisneros ascended to the role of CEO last month, she became the third generation to run the 87-year-old company founded in Venezuela by her grandfather, Diego Cisneros. Only 33, she is candid about the pressure that places on her to create a strategic vision and succeed: “In family businesses, the third generation is the one that ruins the business. I think there’s only a five percent survival rate. I want to be part of that five percent. Not only that, but I want to be able to hand over something to the fourth generation that is healthy, stable and strong.”
While it may seem like a risk to put a young woman with only eight years experience at the helm of a global empire with revenues of more than $1 billion, nothing has been left to chance.
As Cisneros settles into her new leather CEO chair, she takes the next step in a carefully orchestrated five-year preparation process that her father, Gustavo Cisneros, described as “meticulously organized and properly planned.”
The process included hands on mentoring and academic reinforcement. Although she has an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and a graduate journalism degree from New York University, experts identified her leadership weak spots and customized a nine-month Harvard MBA program to bolster her skills in those areas. She also received one-on-one tutoring in finance from a Harvard professor.
Of course, Cisneros’ education includes years of shadowing her father as a young child and seeing a possibility that she one day would take over. She joined the Cisneros Group as an employee much earlier than she had planned. She thought she would join in her 40s, but said she realized it needed to happen at age 25 when job interviews at media companies went nowhere after hiring executives discovered her family business.
For the past seven years, Cisneros had lived in New York and carved a strategic niche for herself by creating Cisneros Interactive, the company’s digital media division. She focused on getting into mobile and online advertising networks, e-commerce, social gaming, and crowd-funding. “There wasn’t a clear road map, so of course I went straight into innovation,” she explained. “I started pushing for digital strategy and we were able to make some pretty radical changes within the company in terms of content and how we were thinking about media.”
Cisneros said she experimented with digital initiatives in Venezuela where the company controls the full cycle of the TV experience from production to broadcast to marketing. Some early wins gave the top leaders confidence to give her latitude.