- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2003

Manuel L. de Miranda is cementing a larger sales marketing approach at Lafarge North America, the world’s biggest producer of building materials.

Mr. de Miranda, 39, heads up the company’s sales strategies in the cement division, headquartered in Herndon, as vice president for strategic marketing.

His main task since joining three months ago has been to implement a broad performance-improvement measure, called Advance.

The initiative is focused on helping Lafarge cement sales managers address customer needs by setting up more uniform standards and practices, Mr. de Miranda said.

Lafarge, owned by French building-material supplier Lafarge SA, previously concentrated largely on production.

“Advance is a rigorous approach to helping our sales team know our customer base and their needs, so that we can find flexible ways of dealing with those needs,” he said.

The push for the customer-based business model comes after Lafarge SA bought Blue Circle Industries PLC of Britain for $3.61 billion in 2001, making Lafarge the world’s largest cement maker.

“That really catapulted us into a leadership role in the industry,” said Jim Braselton, senior vice president for marketing and sales at the cement division.

Mr. Braselton said he brought Mr. de Miranda onto the team because of his success in turning around business units at the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Cos., a global energy corporation.

He joined the Dutch company in 1997, serving as a business consultant to address internal problems. His most recent position there was general manager for Shell Aviation, the jet-fuel producing unit, in North and West Africa.

Mr. de Miranda moved back to the United States when his wife accepted a job in Washington. “At first, I was commuting from Europe, but that became too much,” he said.

He switched to Lafarge’s $1.8 billion cement division, which he calls “a perfect fit” for his skills. Mr. de Miranda plans to roll out the Advance program for sales managers by the end of the year.

“This is a long-term project where we will identify in 2005 our best sales practices and try to take the company in a new direction,” he said.

He said the biggest challenge will be stressing the customer side to sales managers. “We want them to remember in the seminars that customers are people — not just names and numbers on spreadsheets — and develop sales practices that are consistent with that view,” he said.

Mr. de Miranda lives in Bethesda with his wife, Charlotte Raab-de Miranda, and their two children.

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