Spain is an amazing country with its own unique culture and traditions. Travelling from North to South, visiting the biggest cities like Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid, you also come to know and love all the small villages with their historical architecture and friendly people. And then there is Seville in the South – quite apart from its beauty, anyone who has happened across a spontaneous Flamenco session during a walk on a random Sunday afternoon will not forget this place, and may well come back over and over again. We went to the heart of the country, its capital Madrid, and met Ángel Gonzales Lucas, General Manager of Sika Spain, to hear how he feels about his home.
What are your personal secrets for managing a team?
There are no secrets. Sika Spain is a business with a clear customer focus which stands out from the competition by pursuing continuous innovation in both products and services. In addition, when you surround yourself with the best professionals around, people who are focused and motivated, everything comes easier. The thing that makes the difference between good companies and the best companies is the team you gather around you.
The trick? Knowing that you are working at the best company, with the best products, the best team and the best customers...
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of working in Spain?
Commitment, creativity, enthusiasm, professionalism...
Right now, Spain is a very attractive country, highly developed and modernized, with huge opportunities in a very wide range of sectors, and with a pool of ultra-qualified young professionals for whom mobility is no longer an obstacle.
The impact of the crisis in the construction sector which began in 2008 has forced Spain’s construction and engineering companies to expand their know-how and business models for different emerging and developed markets around the world, with major projects such as the AVE high-speed rail line to Mecca, the Panama Canal, the Quito Metro, or the London Olympic Ring...
The financial crisis disrupted the entire Spanish economy and the construction market deeply in 2008. As a businessman, how did you handle this very difficult situation to get above this crisis?
For a variety of reasons, Spain had maintained a very high level of activity in the
construction sector, with cement volumes in 2004 and 2005 reaching 56 million
tons, and 800,000 new homes a year. The impact of the crisis in Spain was threefold - a global financial collapse, a debt problem, and a slump in construction - and it brought ruin to 80% of the construction market, with a dramatic effect on the country's economy.
In that moment, we gambled on a highly diversified and flexible model which would allow us to make expedited decisions in the initial phase of the crisis. What’s more, throughout this period Sika Spain has remained true to its strategic base of offering innovative products and services to its customers, for which, during these 8 years of crisis, the company has maintained its levels of
investment in marketing, organization, sales, R&D and its technical department. This has meant that we have been able to go ahead with promotional and training initiatives similar to those run in the more active years, thus clearly differentiating ourselves from our competitors.
I would like to stress that Sika Spain has been able to manage the crisis at local level with a successful model thanks to the substantial leeway and trust we have been granted by the Sika Group.
Spain now ranks third among the economies of the euro area and is the fourth largest economy in the European Union. The country has a strong and diverse manufacturing industry and is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world. However, after the bursting of a real estate bubble, the country sank into recession and only started to recover in mid-2013. The economic crisis has led to very high losses in production and employment, with almost a quarter of the active population having been unemployed for the last 5 years. We are now in the eleventh consecutive quarter of economic growth since the great crisis of 2008, driven by households and public spending. What are the prospects for economic growth looking forward?
At this point, we are experiencing a recovery which has already lasted a number of quarters, but which has been hampered by the political situation created at the time of the December 2015 and June 2016 elections, and the failure to form a government that year.
Looking at things by sector, some sectors are doing very well, like tourism and the automotive industry, and export levels look to be rising. Furthermore, we are beginning to see a degree of activity in the area of housing, especially in mid/high-level segments, although the existing stock from 2005 has not yet been well absorbed. However, and due to the high level of debt and the political situation, investments in infrastructures and public works remain very low.
In short, the country is fundamentally reliant on private initiative for healthy
development, as regards both industry and the housing market.
And the construction market? Where exactly does the country need Sika?
Clearly, the Spanish construction model is and will continue to be different to that which existed before the crisis, with maximum cement consumption levels being estimated at around 20 million tons and around 250,000 new homes being built per year, meaning that the sector will have to base itself more on quality than quantity.
New trends and concepts such as sustainability and energy efficiency will be key in the future. Sika needs to deliver continuous innovation in new products and systems, working side by side with universities, technology hubs and research centers.
What are the immediate goals for Sika Spain?
Without a doubt, our goal is to maintain our market leadership position, further enhancing our brand if possible, and embracing our role within society - fulfilling the corporate sustainability and responsibility criteria - and all this without for one moment losing our customer focus.
The author Anthony Ham wrote this about Spain: “The life that courses relentlessly through the streets here always produces in me a feeling that this is a place where anything can happen. Here, the passions of Spain's people are the fabric of daily life; this is a country with music in its soul, a love of fine food and wild landscapes, and a special talent for celebrating all the good things in life...” I think that comes pretty close to what Spain is all about, don’t you?
Spain is one of the most attractive countries in the world, thanks to its culture, climate, cuisine ... the lifestyle, very open and with a lot happening in the street, means that the people here can very successfully combine a highly professional dedication to their work with an enjoyment of life in terms of all the opportunities and potential the country has to offer.
What is it that you personally enjoy the most about life in Spain?
Our lifestyle, our culture, the way we relate to others, the passion with which we approach everything we do ... It can’t be described, only experienced.
What are your aspirations for your country looking forward?
My “Christmas list?” ... That’s easy, I would ask for political and economic stability, to allow us to focus on projects which will add value and bring wealth to our society ... And I would like to see construction, the sector which has always been the driving force of Spain’s economy, get back on top where it belongs.