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Interview With Daniel Servitje in The Universal Newspaper by Miguel Áangel Pallares Gómez

20 Jul 2016

Interview with Daniel Servitaje in the universal newspaper
by Miguel Ángel Pallares Gómez

The third CEO of a global baking Company.
Daniel Javier Servitje Montull is the Chairman and CEO of Grupo Bimbo. His father, Lorenzo Servitje Sendra, is one of the founders of Grupo Bimbo. Daniel was born on April 1, 1959 in Mexico City. He has Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from the Universidad Iberoamericana and an MBA from Stanford University.

In 1991, he became a member of the Board of Directors of Grupo Bimbo and held different positions such as General Manager of Marinela and Bimbo Vice-President. He is the third Corporate CEO and also participates in the Boards of other companies like Coca-Cola FEMSA, Banamex and in the Supplier’s Board of Walmart México.

The Group. The Mexican corporation founded in 1945, is the largest baking company in the world. It has operations in 22 countries, has 10 thousand products as over 100 well-known brands; for example, Bimbo, Marinela, Barcel, Sara Lee and Tía Rosa.

In the last 10 years the Group integrated into its holding 48 companies in various parts of the world.

Today, Bimbo operates 153 production plants; it has a distribution network with 52 thousand routes distributed over 1, 700 sale centers.

Reinvestment, is a strategy that drives the company

Responsibility is Daniel Servitje’s daily bread. As Grupo Bimbo’s Chairman and CEO, he shares the habits and disciplines that have allowed him to remain in the marathon of entrepreneurial life. He also gives advice to entrepreneurs on how to understand the markets and make a value proposition.

The senior leader did a self-analysis of his strengths weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and also shared his perception of the characteristics that have his company at the forefront of the baking industry.

After arriving at the CEO’s Office in 1997, and becoming Chairman of the Board, who is Daniel Servitje?

-To start wit, I would say that I am responsible for the Company, but I share the adventure with other 127,000 associates, and it is an adventure that started 70 years ago, in 1945, by four young men with great hunger and illusion to serve and transform the industry.

Throughout the years I have always grown. In this almost 19 years I have been leading the company mainly towards its internationalization.

Chairman of the Board of Grupo Bimbo, how do you organize your daily activities? How not to surrender?

- is like marathon runners; you have to know that this entails working along many kilometers, of a lot of travelling and requiring an understanding that you have to do things balancing them up with our personal life, as well as having a team of co-workers with the capacity to assume their own responsibilities and work in a team.

It is typical of companies that one has to travel a lot. I probably spend half of my time away from the office. We operate in 22 countries, more than 162 plants, but one has to be where things happen.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to entrepreneurs?

- First, try to understand the markets and know which is the proposal to serve and satisfy better than other companies customers’ needs. This is not easy since in each market there are tens or hundreds of offeror companies, so one has to innovate and offer added value to customers.

Second: have the capacity to put teams together; there is no work that can be done without others. I believe that leaders, the entrepreneurs, have to have this capacity to set-up teams.

third: resilience; be able to withstand the blows; bounce-back from crisis; insist in its project, since facing the first crises many decide to abort and sometimes success is around the corner.

Regarding your habits, in a book your father mentions that you take time to think. Which are your main disciplines?

- (He laughs) Well, I no longer have too much time to think, because I live having to answer e-mails and WhatsApp messages. But I would say that I try to exercise daily and it is a means to release tension, be active and be in good physical condition.

The other habit is trying not to have e-mails accumulate.

Thinking now happens in shorter periods than in the past, but give yourself some spaces, specially in the Company, to reflect on what s happening… the world is moving very fast and if we do not have the capacity to stop along the way and reflect on what is working and is not, we may go with mental models that no longer match the new reality.

I would add another one: touch base with reality. I think a leader has to be where things happen; visit customers, talk to consumers, listen to them and learn about the problems faced by or associates in operations so senior management touches base with what is happening in reality. This has been a habit… being attentive not to elevate myself and loose the floor.

In a short SWOT analysis, which would be your main strength, weakness, opportunity and threat?

-As a person?

Yes, as a person.

- Now you are make it difficult for me. May be as a strength, if it can be called that, is my working capacity and make decisions quickly. As an opportunity, acknowledge others more and listen more to my close associates. Weakness and opportunity, to me, would be almost the same.

And the threat in my working life is that we are in the final stretch. I am 57 years old. I think that what behooves us is to form good or better successors than we are. I would say that the challenge is not running out of time.

Which is your father’s main advice that marked your career?

- The relationship with him has never been one between supervisor and associate, but one between father and son. I greatly appreciate his integrity, the clarity of his ideas, the breadth and depth of though.

He has been a very educated man, well-read, and I would say that his capacity to live in different worlds: the entrepreneurial world, the world of ideas, the world of spirituality. He has also, been a person who has always been close to his family; he was very close to his wife. Relative to work, he has been a very austere person with a very clear work ethics and market orientation.

What have you done in the last decade to accelerate your growth?

- The Company has had a vocation and it is geared to growth. To grow and maintain it, it is necessary to earmark a high percentage of profits to reinvest, and reinvest.