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The homecoming of Lucino Sotelo


After serving as Chief Marketing Officer of BMO Harris Bank for almost three years, Lucino Sotelo has been hired by W.W. Grainger, Inc. (GWW) to lead it’s marketing efforts. With $10.1 billion in sales, Grainger is North America’s leading broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating (MRO) products, with operations in Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Hispanic News Agency, (HINA) .- Lucino Sotelo’s new responsibility at Grainger goes beyond the business generated by this market leader and, for Lucino, turns into something symbolic — It was precisely at Grainger where he started working as a young man to help pay for college.  “I went to the DePaul Career Planning and Placement Center to do a search and did several sorts, including a sort by highest hourly rate and that’s how I found Grainger,” he recalls.

But the job was not sitting in front of a computer, but rather in a warehouse unloading trailers and putting inventory away. “It was hard and exhausting work,” Lucino said.

For Lucino, that was not a problem. He was used to hard labor growing up in a ranch in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. When he was two years old, his parents immigrated to the United States seeking a better life for his family. They left Lucino with his grandparents at that early age to return for him when circumstances permitted.

“From a very young age I knew hard work, next to my grandfather,” he says. From that dear old man whom he helped in all he could, Lucino inherited his name, his grace, his word, and his authenticity. Since then he learned that to achieve great things required a strong work ethic and determination.

At age 11, when he had dropped out of the grammar school near the ranch, Lucino undertook the adventure of immigrating through Tijuana with his father who had returned to get him.

“As a newly arrived immigrant you have few options for work, the most common being in the fields, in a factory or in a hotel or restaurant, and my own father supported the family with two jobs. Meanwhile, I went to school, learned English, and worked with the family on one job or another.”

The memory takes him back to his childhood. One day, at the age of 13, his father asked Lucino to help in a restaurant where he worked his second job washing dishes, pots, pans, and helping out in the kitchen for parties over 300 people. It was the month of January with a frigid cold of 20 F below zero and it was enough to change his perspective on his life.

“I knew then what I was not going to do the rest of my life,” he recalled. “It was when I said that I had to find a way to educate myself and find a way to have different options.”

So he found a way to go to college, studied hard with many tutors and mentors helping him to graduate with honors, while working part-time at Grainger.  He managed to graduate with an accounting degree from DePaul University and passed the CPA exam after graduation.  While he was still in college, Lucino became an assistant branch manager of a Grainger branch where he learned what delivering consistent great customer service is all about.  Where he would get the ultimate satisfaction when customers would ask for him by name and refer new customers to him.  Upon graduating, he decided to apply his accounting degree in Grainger’s rotational development program and, subsequently, in a strategic support role in the Grainger headquarters until he decided to pursue his MBA full time at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

After getting his MBA, Lucino decided to become a management consultant, helping businesses achieve rapid and sustainable growth, often times including digital strategy components to their evolving business models.   After six years of management consulting, Lucino decided to go back into an industry role, so that he could have a more balanced lifestyle and start a family.

Perhaps his most remarkable accomplishment came during his time at HSBC, where he led the customer research team to transform the business model and create a new standard by which customers should be treated as they navigate the complex world of personal and mortgage lending. The eCommerce team that he led at HSBC accomplished exceptional results, growing from less than $100 million to over $1.5 billion in business in just a year and a half. These kind of results earned him additional opportunities to manage other marketing functions beyond the digital channels, which made him a well-rounded marketing executive. Most recently and before accepting the challenge and opportunity at Grainger, Lucino led the retail and commercial marketing team as the CMO of BMO Harris Bank.

Lucino arrives at Grainger at an exciting time as the business model continues to evolve with customers’ preferences and shopping behaviors turn more toward digital and mobile interactions. Lucino’s extensive experience in marketing and digital will be strong assets as he begins to set his vision and prioritized strategies to mobilize his team to achieve breakthrough results. Lucino is embracing the challenge, opportunity, and competition from traditional as well as emerging competitors.

What gives Lucino great confidence is that Grainger is already a top 10 North American eCommerce business across all industries.  Grainger has consistently demonstrated a very strong ability to adjust with the times and customer preferences, as demonstrated by its robust digital platform and capabilities. “We will continue to grow and one way to do it is to work with our customers through their preferred channels of choice. We have to make sure that they have what they need to keep their operations running and their people safe through our targeted solutions and products,” he said.

Lucino’s contagious optimism seems to be backed by the story of his life.  He’s the boy who worked on a ranch, immigrated to the United States, and successfully made it through college while working at Grainger, where he returns as an executive, intent to help grow a business that taught him so much. (cn-tgm)