Management insights for the next-gen global organization.

Consulting firm helps clients Stands Tall, as brand positioning catches up with eight years of daily practice and five foundational principles.

By Philipe Schoene, Cedrela Confidential

When David Lugo and Jorge Sánchez set out to found Cedrela Consulting Group in 2015, the veteran advisors were convinced Puerto Rico had the global talent to compete with firms across the world. So they went at it, step by step, recruiting and honing top talent, tending to the needs of their clients—be they promising startups, mature multinationals or government agencies—all with a surgical precision that quickly became one of the firm’s operating standards and brand promises.

Left to right: Co-founder and Managing Partner David Lugo, Manager Krystel Bravo, Director Andrea Vázquez, Co-founder and Partner Jorge Sánchez, and Manager Kaxiomara Custodio.

Eight years later, the model amply proven, Lugo and Sánchez are ready for what’s next—ready, better said, to define what’s next.

“We had this romanticism for good consulting, and it became a reality,” says Sánchez, a lawyer and CPA. “So, we are bound and determined to let the business and government worlds know that we provide these services, many of which we perfected working side-by-side with multinationals.”

Both founders are dyed-in-the-wool problem solvers who have collaborated with many consultancies from the United States, Europe and Asia, dating back to their days working together at financial institutions in San Juan.

“Everything makes money and yields some result, but only if you’re guided by your foundational principles.”

– David Lugo, Managing Partner

“We realized there was a real need for good consulting at prices for clients here at home in Puerto Rico or anywhere, be they businesses of any size and industry, or government agencies.”

With that vision fashioning its early stride, Cedrela has grown alongside its clients with tailor-made advisory—data-driven, technical and strategic solutions implemented by a like-minded team that immediately bought into the emerging Cedrela culture.

The firm’s name honors its claim. “I was thinking one night that I wanted to conjure the name of a tree indigenous to Puerto Rico, and I came across the Cedrela – the Cedar tree. It is a strong tree, solid, firm.” Bonus: the Cedar is aromatic and repels insects much in the same way Cedrela manages risk.

“When the agency recommended a rebrand building on the tree and adding the phrase Stand Tall, like the Cedar tree, we were all in,” says Managing Partner Lugo, a Harvard-trained consultant who shares with Sánchez a passion for solving problems via consulting.

To Infinity and Beyond

The brand refresh responds to the Cedrela tandem’s vision to align the firm’s image and communication to its steady growth and the distinctive value proposition they have had since the start.

“Cedrela has grown by leaps and bounds based on five foundational principles, like the roots of an unwavering tree.”

“Jorge and I had been thinking for a long time that Cedrela is no longer just ‘Jorge and David’. The firm transcends us. Clients no longer hire us; they hire the brand.”

In that vein, he continues, “there comes a moment when brands make a leap, and we believe that moment has come for Cedrela. That’s why we are working on this marketing initiative with ARCO Publicidad, doing the stories, the podcasts and other such projects. It is a platform of knowledge that is more practical, less theoretical. The focus is educational, built on the expertise we and everyone in the team have accumulated. We want to form alliances with universities, use social media to promote and share events, and more.”

“We refer to the team as the Minds of Cedrela, because they have a knack for bringing totally original ideas to the table, and that’s what we’re leveraging across these content items,” explains ARCO Director of Corporate Communications Alex Díaz, driver of the effort along with Creative Director Lilli Madera.

“The objective of helping clients stand tall is authentic, heartfelt, so it makes total sense to place it at the very heart of the brand and the communications,” added Madera.

The Roots of the Tree

Cedrela has grown by leaps and bounds based on five foundational principles, like the roots of an unwavering tree. One, outlines Lugo, is brutal honesty, or saying things as they should be said when they must be said. “If there is a problem, better to bring it up, out in the open, so it can be solved,” he explains.

A second principle: “Breaking away from the expected, being bold, disruptive, leading edge, outside the box, not always conventional. Sometimes telling it like it is can bring consequences” and lead to decisions and actions that take the client in new directions.

A third: “Being ethical, legal and playing by the rules has taken us far,” he added. “We’re able to tell our clients when something is not working, this is what we recommend, and that is the way we would do it alongside you. So, we become your partners.”

Management principles followed by Cedrela’s David Lugo and Jorge Sánchez:

1. Manage with brutal honesty.
2. Be bold, disruptive, break from the expected.
3. Be ethical, legal, play by the rules.
4. Take risks, don’t settle for the way it’s always been done.
5. Every client is treated as if it were the only one.

Fourth: “You cannot do things the way they have always been done and expect a successful outcome. You must take risks.”

Fifth: “We have the human touch of a boutique firm,” concurs Sánchez, “but our methods, vision and markets are global. We can serve clients anywhere, and each is treated as if it were our only client. Our team is put together to approach each client that way. That’s why our aim is to always remain nimble, because when firms like ours become too large, it’s easy to lose the essence of good service. We want clients to feel that we are an extension of their operation.”

The sum of the five allows Team Cedrela, says Lugo, to redefine how consulting is delivered, more so as everyone in the team is in sync with the pathbreaking model.

“We aim to improve client profitability and optimize cost structure, while meeting regulatory compliance, and ultimately make the business model better. Everything makes money and yields some result, but only if you’re guided by your foundational principles.”

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