Carlos Vargas ? The CEO of Andino Investment Holding, a business group specialized in transportation, cargo and port and airport management, coordinates the day-to-day management of seven companies in different areas with seven general managers, each supervised by its own board of directors. How does Carlos Vargas Loret de Mola do to be at the head of the managerial leadership of all the companies of the holding, while still seeing the future of the company?
Before convincing managers that he was the right leader to manage the business group, he had to gain leadership within his family. Carlos Roberto Vargas Núñez, father of Carlos, founded Andino Investment Holding along with three other partners. Their participation, without being greater than 50%, was the most important. He died in 2009 but years before he delegated the responsibility of the companies to Carlos, who worked since young in companies such as Cosmos and Neptunia, the first firms that later would become part of the most important holding company in their sector. With four other brothers, some of them as group directors, Carlos recognizes that true leadership begins at home.
As a holding, we manage seven companies. I do not have to manage them because each one has a general manager, who is supervised by his own board of directors. The part that corresponds to me is more in terms of coach, through the general managers. I’m not involved in day to day, I could not.
We have monthly directories in each company. Additionally, as a holding company, I meet with them to help them with what they need. For example, with the manager of Neptunia I can meet three times in a row in a week or talk on the phone, and then I do not see him in a month. It is more to accompany them and give them constant feedback.
What I looked for in each of them, and in general in all the people I have had the opportunity to hire, is passion. If a person has no passion for what he does, he will not do it well. That is the most important. Having the knowledge, the technical skills, is something that is learned in the university and is perfected with practice. But, without passion, you do not achieve goals.
Conversing when a person is passionate about football, you realize it, because they sweat it. I like finances but I may not know many things, how to value a company, but I’m passionate and I’m going to learn it. If you have passion for what you do you will want to do better every day and learn the different ways to continue doing it better and perfecting the processes.
In cafes, by teleconference, by Skype. It does not matter on what platform. Even Facebook. I believe that the person must know how to work in all areas, because he is going to touch him.
With the seven managers do you have the same level of concern?
Within the portfolio we have large and small companies. But all have their place and their moment. They are like children, you do not make differences but you support those who need them most, regardless of whether they are the oldest or the least. A large company may need support because it is going to face a complex situation. The girl can grow if you do not give her the importance she will not achieve.
How do they achieve that the middle managers commit themselves to the company’s objectives and radiate that passion and leadership to the rest of the companies?
It is a very difficult subject. The middle managers, in general, are a complicated task. We work a lot on the motivational topic, that people work for objectives, not to tell them every day what they should do, give them space to grow. And, if everything goes well, the promise is to give them a career line. But without passion they will not achieve it. I would like to participate in these contracts but operationally it is impossible. The problem is that if you do not choose people well you will not be able to inspire the members of the teams and it will break what I call the chain of passion. If that happens, the company stagnates.
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We evaluate people every six months. On an annual basis we measure the goals and if they have met them. Based on these two data, I analyze the performance of each one and make decisions. My role is to supervise that everything goes well in companies, but I analyze them as a whole. If I see a leader who does not meet the goals we see how to reinforce it or eventually change it. It sounds hard but it is what must be done.
It’s difficult, it takes me. But it’s something that should be done. Many times I have had to remove a person and in the middle of the dialogue this does not understand. I try to make him understand that what happens is that he does not like his work, that’s why he does not do it well. I even tell him to look for another job that he likes, that he is passionate about. After a while, not at that moment, they give me the reason. Since they did not do what they wanted, they did it badly. That is not a secret recipe: if you do not like something in your life, you should change it.
Personally I try not to get involved but there are times that, unfortunately, I should get involved, especially when things are not going well. You must make decisions and enter the operational part. But usually I try to empower people in the position and I help them more as a coach than by making decisions.
As CEO of the holding, the degree of responsibility is greater when you make a mistake. How do you react when you make a mistake?
I am wrong many times and I succeed in others. The balance, in all cases, must be positive.
Making a mistake is part of the process, you must accept it. If you understand it that way, there is no reason to be ashamed. When someone makes a mistake you do not shout at them, you sit down with them to reflect on what went wrong to not do it again. In 2005, when I was the manager of Neptunia, we made an investment to make an asparagus plant in Chiclayo, thinking about exporting. The business did not work and I had to take responsibility. We lost little respect to the holding size but we learned a lot, especially not to be impulsive. We learned more about the air sector, where we later invested. Once a teacher told me: do not wait to get a product when it’s perfect, take it out when it’s good, because while you’re trying to do it perfectly, the competition has already won you.
We do not have formal committees for decision making. Our process is more informal: we gather the people that correspond to the topic. In the end, after knowing more, I have to decide. But I always try to convince everyone that the decision I make is the best one. That way I’m sure we’re all going to fight for that.
Pucha, I try to be humble but it does not come out (laughs) … I would say that giving participation to the successes and taking responsibility for the failures. The leader is always going to be the leader but for people to follow you must show that you do your job well and the best way is to do it as a team. One trick I discovered is the internal feedback. Listen to everyone and if suddenly someone has a good idea I encourage everyone to go that way. The lack of rigid, formal structures allows everyone to feel confident to say what they think and do new things.
With a lot of passion … and with my wife who helps me a lot. I love my work but I dedicate time to my personal life in such a way that I do not neglect either of the two areas. I bought a house three blocks from my office so everything is fine (laughs). I used to work at El Callao and spend three hours in traffic every day.
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First you must gain leadership within your family. If you achieve that, relationships are more bearable. Family protocols help but effective coordination on a day-to-day basis is a task that is carried out with respect.
The sector in which some of the group companies are located can be complex in terms of people management, due to the presence of unions, how do they handle it?
We have unions in two companies that are boys. But they are not a problem. In general we try to make people feel happy in their work. Relations with unions are sometimes positive but sometimes they are very negative. I remember, in the eighties, that in Neptunia there was one affiliated to the CGTP. The discussion was not in terms of work climate but of a political party support character … the CGTP told them that they had to stop and stop. We managed to make them understand that this was damaging them and the level of interaction with the CGTP decreased. Since then we have not gone through anything like it.
I no longer have hair (laughs). The world has evolved, interpersonal relationships and technology are not the same. When I was a manager in Neptunio, Cosmos or Oceanic, I even knew the names of the children of the workers. Today I no longer have that privilege. I miss that, having more contact. But I understand that it is not my role anymore. People tell me “why do not you come to visit us,” but I cannot go because there is another manager there.
Yes always. More than a leader I have tried to be a person.
4 TIPS to have a good working climate according to Carlos Vargas
1.- Holidays: It is important that workers rest so that they return renewed and with new ideas to their work.
2.- Satisfaction: It is the key that everyone feel happy occupying the position assigned to them so that they do it well.
3.- Training: Continuous training is part of a successful model in a world in constant competition.
4.- Mobility: To retain talent you must be given the opportunity to grow not only in the company but within the group.
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