10/05/2014

THE RECIPE FOR BEING IN COMMAND IS TO LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Responsibility and trust are the two active ingredients that move the chairman of this pharmaceutical and chemical group, now present in 60 countries.

"I test myself every night. Sometimes I pass, sometimes I fail; some nights I go to sleep happy, some nights I don't". Being self-critical is a heavy responsibility, but Joan Esteve (Barcelona, 1944) is a man of discipline who does not shirk this duty. He is the chairman of a group that closed 2013 with a turnover of 810 Million Euros, is now present in more than 60 countries (including the US and China), and employs 2,300 people. He is committed to the company founded by his father in 1929, and is proud to belong to it. A very discreet gentleman, he has spent almost 45 years on building an internationally acknowledged trademark for the common good.

–How do tradition and avant-garde research blend?
Tradition cannot be forgotten. My father founded the company and my elder brother brought it to date. The spirit of research and innovation remains the same. The company must evolve constantly, and evolution does not always result from tradition: changes must be made in order to evolve.

- Even if these changes are painful?
Even so. The worst that ever happened to me professionally was last year's layoff. There are times when hard decisions need to be made, but we're on the right path now. It took us some extra time to adapt ourselves to the changes required by the market, but we are now reaping the benefits of last year's transformation.

- What is the challenge today?
To create value again by fostering R&D, which is what we do here. We are focused on growing stronger in the international market. Sixty per cent of our sales go abroad.

- After 40 years in the company, what motivates you?
This is easy to answer and difficult to put into practice: responsibility.

- Do you manage your own life the same way a business is managed?
I cannot have one personality when I'm at the company and another when I'm not: I just don't know how to do it. I have my manners and I follow them in all aspects of life. My life is built upon three pillars: family, friends and the family company, which I'm passionate about.

- Any defect you wish to confess?
Yes, he smiles, I want to be aware of everything. Even though I am not the executive chairman, I like to be informed about every relevant aspect of the company's daily routine. May be I shouldn't act this way, but we have the advantage of a very fluent communication, which is essential.

- Any master formula for being in charge?
The basic ingredient of the recipe is to lead by example.

- Any other elements?
To transmit security and trust. In order to do so, one needs to commit oneself completely with one's tasks, and accept problems with serenity and emotional balance.

- More than economics, it looks as though you had studied philosophy...
Life teaches... Some things are understood only over the years. For instance, one should not blame others for one's own mistakes. Easy to say, harder to do. Also, listening to other people's opinions and not losing sight of reality is crucial.

- Do you think this is what happened in Spain? Did we lose sight of reality?
I think we did. Not learning from the crisis is a bad thing.

- Is it enough to give the best you can?
No, it isn't. When facing radical changes in the market or in one's sector, one's own effort is not enough. The crisis has taught us that rapid decisions have to be made to respond to market demands. One must always listen to the market.

THREE SENTENCES TO PROGRESS IN LIFE

A simple frame upon Joan Esteve's desk depicts three sentences in Catalan. "Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". This quote of the famous serenity prayer can be translated as: "We cannot change the crisis, but we can adapt ourselves to it".
What is efficacy's worst enemy?
Immobility. Failing to accept what is real or obvious is ineffective. We are frequently stuck in the present. My responsibility is to think about the future.

- Is there anything that helps you think?
Physical exercise does. Being in good shape is very important to me –mens sana in corpore sano. I go to the gym every day. A professional life requires being in good physical condition.

- What calms you down?
Sailing. I sail in the winter and in the summer. The silence at sea, the waves that reach the shore... It is the best relaxant.

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