Meinrad Spenger (Knittelfeld, 1974) is revolutionizing the telecommunications industry. He came to Spain 13 years ago, and in 2006, he founded MASMOVIL, a company that is challenging the leading carriers in the Spanish market. What is the reason for his success? Perseverance and tenacity. And something else.
Who is Meinrad Spenger?
I’m an Austrian who has lived in Spain for almost 13 years. My wife is from Madrid, and we have two daughters. I work in telecommunications and founded the company MASMOVIL in 2006.
You went from carpentry to telecommunications. What prompted this change?
Carpentry was part of my professional training in Austria, and I still apply many of the things I learned in those years to my current work, such as being patient, doing a good job, paying attention to details and finishing what you start. These lessons are applicable to almost every aspect of life.
How did MASMOVIL get its start? You established the company in 2006 but didn’t start operating commercially until 2008…
We thought it would be easier to get started, because our industry, which is regulated, includes a regulation that obliges telecom carriers to share their network with new players who wish to offer mobile phone services. But those were very challenging years, because none of the traditional operators wanted to work with us. They didn’t want the additional competition. We eventually reached an agreement with Orange, and our customers were able to communicate through MASMOVIL starting in February 2008.
Did you ever think the project would fail?
No, I never thought failure was an option, because I’m a tenacious person who is optimistic by nature. Plus, seeing it through was a question of honor, because I couldn’t let the friends who had invested in the project down. You have to be realistic, but when times get tough, you have to keep believing that the idea and the project are worthwhile, if they are, and worth fighting for.
You’ve only been in business for 10 years, but you’re already the fourth largest telecom carrier in Spain. What is the secret of your success?
The reason why MASMOVIL is doing so well is that we have the market’s most satisfied customers. They are the reason we do what we do, and we put a lot of effort and resources into this area. We don’t want to bother our clients with promotional offers that a few months later substantially change the amount they pay or with services they do not need in order to charge them more money for something they don’t want. We focus on providing the best service in Spain at fair prices. Our customers are also our best advocates, because most of them recommend us, and word of mouth is the best kind of marketing. By now we have over 7.5 million customers, and we are incredibly pleased that they decided to trust us with their business.
Why do so many customers switch over to you?
For the same reason. For example, customers want to know what they’ll pay at the end of the month. With us, they know exactly what they’ll pay. Their phone bill is completely predictable, with no nasty surprises. They also know that when they call customer service, they’re speaking to someone in Spain. This is more expensive, sure, but like I said, we invest in providing the best service, we invest in our customers. And finally, because of our network, because we have the fastest fiber-optic service and the widest mobile network coverage of any Spanish telecom. This year we’re investing 500 million euros in our network.
What made you decide to pursue your professional career in Spain?
I lived in Spain when I was studying for my Master’s in Madrid, and I always liked the country for its quality of life, culture, food, etc. And now my family is from here! I love Spain. But there were two other important reasons. The first is that as a customer, I had suffered through the bad service provided by traditional Spanish carriers, and I thought Spanish customers clearly deserved better. The second reason is that a friend in Austria—a very small country, in terms of population, compared to Spain—set up a telecom company there, and it went well. So I thought that Spain was the perfect country to set up a different kind of telecom.
What does it mean to head a company that trades on the Madrid stock exchange?
Responsibility, hard work and enthusiasm, because large investment funds invest in MASMOVIL now, as well as small investors—individual savers—who entrust us with their money. We’re responsible for working and doing the best we can to maintain growth and have the shares reflect the value we are creating.
What sacrifices have you made to get to where you are?
To tell you the honest truth, very few, because I like what I do. I feel privileged to be able to run this company, which by now employs over 600 professionals. This is another key factor in our success—we have the market’s best team, and this also makes a difference.
What is left for you to do?
So many things! I feel the same energy and eagerness as when I started out, and I think we can still do new and interesting things in this industry and have fun doing so. I think we still have so much ahead of us, and we’re going for it with great enthusiasm. For example, we’re building the most digital telecom carrier in Europe, which is a really exciting challenge.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs who want to start their own business?
They have to believe in their idea. Times will get tough, but they have to keep believing. They have to work hard, and it’ll pay off. They have to put together the best possible team. They have to pursue their dream without fear of failure. I always say that an entrepreneur is an excellent employee so—go for it and have no fear!
A Brief Taste
The best moment to enjoy a glass of wine?
With my wife, family or friends. I like making time to see people I love, and if that includes good wine, even better. I will say this: Spanish wine is definitely my favorite.
A song to accompany a glass of wine?
Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen.
A place to get lost in?
The mountains and beaches of Asturias.
What do you do in your free time?
I like spending time with my family, skiing or cycling.
A flaw and a virtue?
I’m both stubborn and tenacious.
What did you want to be as a child? And when you’re older?
As a kid, I wanted to be a professional skier, now I want to be a good professional who has time to ski.