CEO challenges and strategies: Professional and corporate vision
24 de July de 2020
24 de July de 2020
Experience is the foundation of all expertise. Only through constant practice over the course of several years can somebody acquire the knowledge and vision required to gain a real command of any discipline. This rule also applies in the corporate world and, with this in mind, when discussing key issues, EAE Business School often relies on insight from professionals with a long career behind them. One such case is the second session of the professional conversation series, Career Talks, in which two young pioneers of modern talent, Carlos Sentís and Esteban Bustamante, discussed everything related to do with a CEO’s challenges and strategies, and analysing the importance of leadership positions, based on their experience.
Repeating the successful dynamic from the previous Career Talk, throughout the even, Sentís and Bustamante took turns to answer various questions related to personal brand positioning, key skills for all leaders, and the most effective strategies for getting executive positions. Moreover, they also gave an overview of their respective companies, World Impact Alliance and República del Cacao, which they used as examples for the topics that came up in the conversation.
Before starting with the questions, the two speakers introduced themselves and showed a video that explained the mission and vision of their respective companies to the audience.
In the case of Carlos Sentís, a conference speaker, a member of the Global Shapers Community and a Young Leader of the Artificial World Society, currently, his main project is World Impact Alliance, an international organization made up of leading figures from the worlds of politics, business and communication who work together to improve various social aspects at a global level.
Meanwhile, Esteban Bustamante, a publicist and music lover, is the General Manager of the transnational company República del Cacao, which specializes in making top-class chocolate from Ecuadorian cocoa to export all over the world.
How can we position and develop our personal brand? What skills are crucial in the modern professional world in your opinion?
After the introductions, the moderator started with the questions, the first of which was asked to Carlos Sentís.
It is a really important question, particularly right now, when it is not easy to get hired. It used to be the case that you could spend quite a long part of your career, at a company, but not anymore, now that change is such a common feature. Therefore, we have to do all we can to have a good image and effectively convey our values, as well as showing what we can do.
The most crucial aspect in relation to personal branding is credibility and, most importantly, building a solid reputation. To achieve this, you must be sure not to lie. Sometimes, it may seem a good idea to exaggerate a point or add attractive extras to your CV, but you will always be found out in the end.
If you do things properly, if you always generate value and tell things straight, you gradually gain credibility. Things move so quickly these days. We want everything so fast, but building a career takes years, decades even. In terms of skills, It is essential to understand the difference between theoretical knowledge and skills. The modern market requires the ability to do things, far mor than just knowledge. The ability to speak in public, to interact with people, to sell, as well as languages, programming languages, graphic design skills, analytical capacity, etc.
After Carlos Sentís’s response, the moderator asked Esteban Bustamante the following question:
What did it take to become the leader of República del Cacao and, in turn, to position the brand at an international level?
The key is not to be a boss, but rather to be a leader. As far as I am concerned, the golden rule into to lead by example. If I ask you to do something, I do it first or I do it with you to show you how. I started off as a salesman and climbed my way up. This has enabled me to build trust with others and, as consequence, it has made me approachable. It is also important to motivate people to keep growing. If somebody shows interest, we have to develop it.
In terms of skills, the key ones are soft skills. Machines are increasingly performing more tasks and so CEOs will have to apply soft skills to do business and stimulate the human aspect that makes people grow so much. Likewise, for developing any type of personal or even business branding, the most important thing is consistency in my opinion.
In the case of República del Cacao, we didn’t position the company with hoardings or TV commercials, but rather through an unknown niche in our case, namely boutiques. With this in mind, we have focused on creating consistency not only at a brand level, but also in terms of the customer experience. This has enabled us to expand and we now operate in several countries, including Peru, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.
How do you set yourself apart from the competition and maintain this leadership role?
The speakers responded based on their experience at their respective companies:
The most important thing is to innovate and not pay too much attention to the competition. You have to know who your rivals are, but there is a long way to go beyond that. The way to set yourself apart from the competition is not to copy them. If you pool all your efforts and your company’s resources, and you analyse the sectors, you will realize that there is still a lot of scope for innovation.
At World Impact Alliance, we focus on social impact. We are publishing a list of the 500 most influential people in the world who help to improve things. That is a new idea, because it is not just a list of millionaires but rather people who make this world a better place. Moreover, we are preparing a list of the top 500 solutions for improving issues such as poverty, pollution and other social problems.
If you are innovating, seeing how you can improve and which aspects you need to work on, eventually, the difference between your competitors and you will be huge. In contrast, if you are just copying models, it will be really hard to set yourself apart. The key is innovating to generate value for each customer and for each department of the company.
The key is the desire to keep learning. I try to read two books a week to continue nourishing my mind with knowledge. Another important aspect is emotional intelligence. A leader needs to develop their empathy. They have to be able to put themselves in another person’s shoes. Having drive and passion is also crucial. Five years ago, I told my boss that I would end up taking their job, and that is just what I did.
Moreover, it is very important to have a mission. My mission is very similar to Carlos’s. I want to make a contribution that makes the world a little better. Even if I end up selling nails, I will always try to find a way to generate an impact from that position.
How do you set your company apart? Lots of companies have forgotten about the consumer, particularly in a time when the consumer changes on a daily basis. So, when you have a mission, your job is no longer a matter of selling, but rather generating a change.
A leader’s corporate vision and their ability to convey it to their teams is always a big challenge. Carlos, how would you define the origin of World Impact Alliance and how do you keep your collaborators aligned with your management approach?
The project originated from the obsession that I have had for several years with having a positive impact on the world before I die. This comes from my sense of how fortunate I have been in life. I think that it is important to be aware of how lucky you are so that you can empathize with those that haven’t been so fortunate.
There are over a billion people who lack sufficient resources to survive. What can I do about that? This is where the idea of World Impact Alliance comes from. I want to improve things. I know that you can approach this goal from various perspectives, but you can’t do it on your own. Therefore, it is important to recognize that everybody has their own interests and we have to take these interests into account when we work, and use them to create alliances and drive significant change.
You may be very clever and know your organization and sector inside out but, working all together, we can achieve far more, as long as we know what each person wants.
I want to go back to the word consistency. Lots of companies talk about social responsibility, but that is just marketing. In contrast, if you have a company with a consistent message, you attract employees and consumers.
Simon Sinek says that “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it”, and that idea is also valid at an internal level. So, what do we do at República del Cacao to foster the brand experience? We go into the countryside and give consumers the opportunity to exchange knowledge with the farmers. We visit the places where the cows are raised, where the sugar is grown, and try to get all the stakeholders involved.
What skills and competences do you look for in the professionals that form part of your teams?
More than qualifications, I focus on their judgment and drive. I have the ability to spot when somebody is dying to get my job and make their way in the company, as well as knowing when they have the judgment to achieve that. As I mentioned, I always look for soft skills and values. I look for people who want to keep moving forward, who want to continue growing.
In my opinion, the most important factor is the capacity to find the solution to problems or, in other words, resourcefulness, the capacity to make the most of your resources. I think that is essential. There is so much information on the internet nowadays, so we can use now that information to find solutions and generate value.
We have to be proactive. We tend to be afraid of making mistakes, but that should be seen as a problem. We have to devise projects and promote initiatives, and if it goes wrong at first, we have to carry on regardless. It is crucial to have this vision and be prepared to make the effort to find solutions and opportunities too.
After over an hour of stimulating conversation and discussion the moderator asked a final question:
What message would you give to our students during this training stage and through the long journey to leadership?
There are no short cuts. Work hard and stay humble. Generate empathy and be true to your beliefs.
We have to work to be the best version of ourselves we can, the best person we can be. We have to strive to improve every day and be aware of our mistakes, so that we know ourselves well and can be honest when making decisions.
Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming editions of our Career Talks, in which we discuss topics related to the corporate world, always with the participation of top experts in the field.