When the Clover Group was founded in Venezuela 50 years ago, it got its start by moving families around that South American country and between Venezuela and the United States.
“Within two years after Clover was established, we were the leaders in domestic and international moving,” said Luis Alonso Rincón, one of the five children of Luis Alfredo Rincón, who founded the company in Caracas in 1964.
Demand for the company’s moving and storage services grew astronomically during Venezuela’s 1970s oil boom, when legions of executives and their families moved to the country from the U.S., Canada, Europe and other parts of Latin America, while Venezuelan diplomats and other government officials traveled to fill new positions overseas.
“Today, household moving is our smallest business unit, accounting for about 6 percent of revenues,” said Rincón, who is a director and co-owner of the company, along with his four brothers and sisters.
“We grew and evolved into an international logistics company with seven divisions,” said Miami-based Rincón, standing in Clover’s 120,000 square-foot Doral warehouse packed with industrial equipment, capital goods for the oil industry and family household items.
Clover’s most important business units now are freight forwarding, transportation (trucking), customs brokerage, warehousing and distribution, procurement and trade financing. It recently started a new division to provide document storage and imaging for customers in Venezuela.
Clover also supplies companies that stage trade shows, receiving, storing and assembling equipment for exhibitors.
Rincón and two siblings are based in Doral and run the local operations, plus another office and warehouse in Houston. Two others manage parts of the company from Venezuela.
In the 1980s, the moving company saw opportunities for importing heavy equipment, vehicles and parts for the auto, petroleum and other industries in Venezuela as well as other Latin American countries, and expanded.
To meet demand for its new businesses and establish a foothold in the U.S, Clover opened its Miami office in 1985, later buying its current warehouse in Doral. It invested in trucks, hundreds of huge storage racks, forklifts and other equipment. It now has about 80 employees in Miami and works with a range of multinational companies and local concerns in Venezuela and other Latin American nations.
Its customers include Odebrecht, Ford Motor Co., Citgo, New Holland and Venezuela’s national oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, and its subsidiaries.
Clover recently shipped a fire truck that was stored at its Doral warehouse to Curacao, several $1 million generators and four new Mitsubishi sedans to Venezuela, industrial equipment to Panama and an ambulance, outboard motors and spare parts to other clients in Latin America.
“About 60 percent of our exports go to Venezuela, while 20 percent are shipped to Central America and another 20 percent to other parts of Latin America,” said Rincón, who earned his bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., in the 1990s.
Clover has grown steadily as a result of its diversification. Company revenues in 2013 for its U.S. operations alone (Miami and Houston) were about $80 million, Rincón said, up from about $10-$12 million in 2000.
The logistics business typically involves procurement, revising and verifying merchandise received at the Doral warehouse storage, fulfilling export orders for customers, customs brokerage, shipping by air or sea as well as receiving and verifying shipments at their destination. It is highly competitive — Clover competes with scores of other Miami-based freight forwarders, customs brokers and logistics companies, including giants like DHL and Kuhne + Nagel.
But Rincón said that Clover, which knows the Venezuelan market very well, offers some particular services its customers appreciate.
For example, a Clover employee recently was checking a shipment of expensive machine parts that arrived at the warehouse for a customer. He opened the crate, examined and counted each piece, and sent the shipment to be repacked at Clover’s in-house carpentry shop.
For another customer, Citgo, Clover received the contents of thousands of book bags that were to be distributed to students in Venezuela. Clover employees put together separate shipments of pencils, pens, erasers, notebooks and other items, placed them in the book bags and securely packed them for shipment.
“We’re a filter for our customers,” said Rincón. “It’s very time-consuming and expensive, but if the wrong amount of goods arrives at their destination, our customer will lose the needed parts and money.”
Clover also employs carpenters who custom-build sturdy crates, sometime over 12 feet tall, for merchandise after it has been revised. The crates make it harder for damage and theft to occur at the final destination.
Rincón pointed to one customer who annually shipped about $180 million in goods to Venezuela. The company lost about 9 to 10 percent of the value of shipments each year because of damage or losses due to “bad delivery.”
After working with Clover, which revised and securely packed the shipments, the client’s losses were reduced to less than 0.1 percent per year, “thus saving them a lot of money,” Rincón said.
“We are very specialized in what we do,” Rincón noted. “Not everyone does this careful revision and packing. It’s one of our strengths. We’re not just a regular freight forwarder.”
These extra steps are expensive, he added, “but at the end of the day, we provide value added and customers save.”
New Holland, which makes agricultural machinery and construction equipment, has been working with Clover for over seven years. “We sell and distribute equipment and spare parts in Central and South America, and we use Clover’s warehousing and shipping services in Miami,” said Florencio Saturno, New Holland’s Weston-based area manager for agricultural products.
“We need to make sure complete shipments are sent to the correct destinations safely and on time,” Saturno said. “Clover assures us of this ... they provide excellent service and excellent relations with our people.”
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Business: Clover Group is an international logistics company that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Clover, with its head office in Caracas, Venezuela, operates seven divisions: freight forwarding, transportation, customs brokerage, warehousing and distribution, household moving, procurement and trade finance, and (only in Venezuela) file storage and imaging. An important share of Clover’s business is managed by its Miami-area operations.
Office: 1910 NW 97th Ave., Doral
Founded: Office in Doral opened in 1985; Clover was founded in Caracas in 1964. Clover also has an office and warehouse in Houston.
Employees: 80 in Doral, about 1,000 company-wide
Operations in Doral: administrative offices, 120,000-square-foot warehouse, 20 trucks. For household moving in the United States, Clover works with Allied Van Lines.
Owners: The Rincón family
Directors: Luis Alonso Rincón (Miami), who runs the company with his four siblings
Revenues: About $80 million in 2013 from U.S. operations
Customers: From families moving between the U.S. and Venezuela, to large companies that need to transport equipment, vehicles, components and parts; customers include Ford Motor Co., Odebrecht, Citgo, New Holland and Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (Venezuela’s national oil company).
Source: Clover Group