Along the years 2001 to 2005, I was working between Barcelona, Geneva, and Dallas as an expert in business competitiveness with a model of my creation, which derived from the principles of total quality management and the Deming's Method. Everything was great.
In 2005, a project to implement my vision of Sustainable Viability led my path towards Mexico City. In the beginning, I assumed that something that worked in the most advanced economic contexts should also work in a not-so-competitive ambiance. Tremendous mistake. It is just the opposite: the absence of abundant resources raises exponentially the ability to thrive up to levels for which the competitiveness models, initially designed on the premise of working with a minimum of means and rules, are not prepared.
Unquestionably, excellence has to be an essential part of any organizational culture. However, what can we do when there are no leaders, nor time to develop them? Beyond this, what is the answer when the environmental driving forces are focused just in the opposite direction of leadership? A business company simply cannot wait for a profound change in social standards and ethics.
When leadership is little more than an unattainable desire and labor turnover is above 100% per year, thinking of quality is not realistic. When sales strategies are extensively based on progressive and continuous discounts, stopping the bleeding of selling below cost needs something else. The list may go on but, in short, the initial proposal for competitiveness that was successfully working in a developed context had to be adapted to two new premises: a massive lack of focus on leadership and a hyper-aggressive competition.
Development of People's Profiles
The adoption of an entirely strange concept is easier when individuals have some nearby references, which facilitate the adaptation of their mindset to the new paradigm. Hence, if a company in the USA decides to reinforce its culture of leadership, it will be a relatively straightforward process because of the abundance of good examples around them. On the contrary, when there is no close experience of what a person is trying to understand, embracing it can be tough.
Considering that a person's logic is shaped by its principles or beliefs, the absence of something to be compared with has to be replaced by a particular development of that logic. From that assumption, the Sustainable Viability proposal was re-shaped to be able to support the development of people's profile for precise results. This was the origin of the Executiveness approach.
Emotions and Emotional Bonds
When the competition makes offers based on discounts and price cuts progressively close to the product cost, something really powerful is needed to increase sales while not damaging the chances of achieving a reasonable mark-up.
The first step was to revise the very concept of selling, which led to the necessity of managing emotions and emotional bonds as the core concepts of the sales strategy. The result of that work was the development of a methodology named Listen to Influence.
So this was how, year after year, the new model for competitiveness helped Mexican companies from many industries (graphic printing and cardboard packaging, automotive products, components for white goods, plastic containers, food products retail, mobile phone services, department store chains, electronics and telecommunications engineering). Besides the most tangible results, the effective change of some entrenched paradigms where no references were available was probably the most relevant outcome.
However, thinking that on the basis of excellence well tested in Spanish companies (mostly related to the furniture, the manufactured wood products, and the automotive services), the addition of the two empirically proven methodologies mentioned above (Executiveness and Listen to Influence) would be powerful enough to face any situation, no matter its complexity, was another mistake.
After almost eight years working in the Mexican market, there was still a shocking test left ahead: the Spanish real estate development sector.
In late 2012, my family decided to come back to Spain. What we found was a bleak situation as the result of two combined crises: the Global Financial Crisis, which since 2007 affected with devastating force the Spanish banking and finance sector, and the Construction Crisis, which was the direct consequence of the collapse of the "housing bubble" in 2008.
In that context (in 2016, almost 90% of the Spanish real estate development and construction sector has disappeared), Castellon is a region highlighted by the negativity of all indicators (always between the first or the second place in the ranking of the worst) related to real estate development and construction. Castellon, also was where UMA Group had (and still has) its headquarters and all of its business activity.
The problem, in this case, was not just an unsolved issue of generational change or a lack of leadership, but also the sudden disappearance from the market of the prospective customers for their products. Moreover, the former allies (banks), besides being the holders of the loans on which the business was founded, became the toughest competitors who offered the new real estate assets incorporated into their balance sheets at prices much lower than their cost. Hence, the market was broken twice: First, when potential buyers lost access to mortgages, in some cases, or their confidence in...