"The team and passion are essential in life and in business", Carolina García, the CEO of IKEA Poland
12 de February de 2019
12 de February de 2019
Entitled "Adaptive leadership and Business Development", this session of the Business Networking program 'Spanish Executives Around the World' was held at the Hotel Intercontinental in Madrid and was run by Carolina Gómez, the CEO of IKEA Poland. The successful executive shared her professional insights and her experience working at the furnishings multinational.
Carolina García Gómez is an industrial engineer with an MBA. She has worked at ICOM Ingeniería and the Vocento group. In 2005, she first joined IKEA Barakaldo as a Sales Manager and, 4 years later, she moved to Sweden, to work in the company's head offices in Helsingborg. Since then, she has worked as a Store Manager at IKEA in Malaga and Valencia, as well as holding the position of Deputy Retail Manager for IKEA Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. After her experience at IKEA Japan (2017), since October 2018, she has been based in Warsaw as the CEO of IKEA Poland.
Enrique Sánchez de León, the General Director of the APD, introduced the event, emphasizing the value of Spanish talent and its executives. In addition, he referred to the scale of a multinational like IKEA, "a company with really strong brand attributes, focused on innovation and which is constantly reinventing itself", its strong commitment to sustainability as it "consumes 1% of all the world's wood mass", and its adaptability to the cultures and lifestyle in the countries it operates in. Marcelo Leporati, the Academic Director of the Strategic Management, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Department at EAE Business School, then introduced the guest speaker. After her presentation, there was a question and answer session.
In a session entitled "Adaptive leadership and Business Development", Carolina García shared her professional experiences leading teams in Spain and abroad, explaining how she has embraced concepts such as Sustainability, Social Responsibility, Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and Leadership. A fan of IKEA since it arrived in Barakaldo, this Bilbao-based professional born in Venezuela sent her curriculum to the multinational, where she had her first experience of leadership. Although she initially focused on the more commercial side of sales, when they offered her a position in the head offices in Helsingborg, she changed her mindset to focus on team management. "It was a big change and an opportunity to learn to lead with a more horizontal approach, with people at the same level as you". She spent two years there before returning to Spain in the throes of the economic crisis, to oversee the opening of the stores in Malaga and Valencia.
"Malaga was my first experience of leadership, as a store manager", explained Carolina. Supervising more than 400 people, she learned first-hand how to adapt to costs despite reporting negative figures. The solutions came with a number of initiatives full of creativity, such as supporting the local football team and emphasizing teamwork. At IKEA Valencia, she gained experience of responsibility for a company dealing with customers and employees. The opening of the store was a real phenomenon in the region: around 100,000 people applied for the available jobs. Her solution was to respond personally to each of them. The third challenge involved learning about differences, which occurred when she took up the position of Deputy Retail Manager for IKEA Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. "When you arrive in another country, you realize how the leadership style differs depending on the place's history and culture". Used to a more creative and participative approach, Carolina shifted from a creative leadership style to a more adaptive approach, focusing on diversity management and empowering women.
In Japan, she again embraced the concept of change, with the OTMA (One Tokyo Market Approach), with the added difficulty of the cultural component. She describes it as "the hardest market I have come across, because of my lack of knowledge of the brands, the product range and the lack of accessibility to the IKEA stores, located outside the cities". On her return to Europe, the successful Spanish executive began working at IKEA Poland in October 2018. At the moment, she is undergoing a time of growth filled with challenges. "Digital transformation is hard for us because we have the whole supply chain integrated", she explained. "The big task now is to adapt to the new needs, run tests and try ideas out to keep moving forward".
Carolina García's new objectives also include a shift to a performance-related leadership style. "We have to change the way we work and lead. We have to get results and make progress with creative people who want to move forward. Unless we change, we are not going to be able to fulfil consumers' needs". The future will have to encompass Corporate Social Responsibility and climate change. The CEO of IKEA Poland attended COP24 and gained a first-hand insight into the responsibility of companies in relation to the sustainability of the planet, and the opportunities that this change represents in terms of developing new services for customer.
To conclude, the Spanish executive summarized the lessons learned over the course of her professional career so far in two words: 'team' and 'passion', principles that she applies in her work every day, advocating togetherness: the unity, cooperation, energy and motivation of teams to achieve the objectives.