Agile innovation Change & innovation Vision & strategy

Even in the crisis, some companies are progressing

Some time ago, the effect and the end of the crisis was discussed at a session of ESADEFORUM,  (Case Studies in the crisis period). For some companies it was an opportunity for Participating were some chief executives of companies representing business success in this period of crisis. In all of them, the key to the success was the effort in innovation.

The act came, in a way, the presentation of a study conducted by Lluís Soler [1] to identify how companies have changed in this period of crisis. The study contains views and experiences of 232 executives from 16 different subsectors of Spanish business network. Some identified areas called “to build a winning management” and grouped into four main themes:

  • Sales. How sales teams were managed
  • Costs. How cost structures have optimized
  • Organization. How have organized more efficiently
  • Leadership. What has been the leadership style according to the situation which prevailed at all times

Luis Vives, ESADE Professor Department of general management and strategy, presented the event

As mentioned, the guests were executives from five companies that, in this period of crisis, have achieved remarkable growth and success:

  • Manuel Cermerón, CEO of Aqualogy (Agbar Group)
  • Ignasi Biosca, CEO Reig Jofre Group
  • Tomás Diago. founder and president of Softonic
  • Juan Naya. ISDIN CEO
  • and Jose Manuel Arrojo, CEO of GEOX Spain.

The results of these companies went to confirm what we said in a previous post:

The experience of facing crises

i.e.: The experience of sailing in a tempestuous environment to emerge stronger.  If the environment is stormy and the crisis is global, the experience of sailing can be useful.

Each company had its particular history in these years, in different phases and sectors:


It is currently in a phase of expansion and growth, especially internationally, in a selection and consolidation of its business areas, with a strong paradigm shift in their sales organization.


A company dedicated to skin care. In existence since 1975 but its consolidation as a leader in its sector in Spain comes from the late 90s. In the 2000-2005 went international and focuses its strategy on the skincare, being by the end of the decade one of the international leaders in the sector.

Present in 17 countries in Latin America, Europe and South Africa. Presently with some 600 employees.

Reig Jofré

Founded in 1929 in Barcelona, has achieved significant progress in the last decade, becoming an international leader in a specialized sector. With its internationalization and innovation in very special areas, has overcome the problems of today’s pharmaceutical industry, falling prices and margins, and strong competition. Reig Jofre is structured in four divisions: R & D and Records Services, Industrial, and RJ Pharma Biotech Services, each with their own production. Its broad portfolio of proprietary drugs with his ability to serve over 180 distributors worldwide, has allowed manufacturing a volume of more than 100 million units annually. The company has established itself among the top 20 Spanish laboratories, with a presence in more than 50 countries and with 55% of its revenues from abroad. They’re specialists in lyophilisation processes and have a strong commitment to biotechnology.


A company from Barcelona, which is a world leader in software, downloads online. With more than 380 employees and more than 100 million downloads per month. Founded in 1997, represents one of the few successes in this country of IT companies.

Currently is present in the web in 10 languages and 90% of its turnover comes from international business. Their key is innovation and internationalization.

Learning from mistakes:

In Softonic everything seemed fine until last October. The company announced that it was preparing an ERE. The main source of income for the company are advertising revenues, which have fallen, and therefore have to lay off nearly half the workforce. According to a company statement “changes in market conditions have had a significant impact on the business of downloads and have contributed to a steady decline in traffic and revenue.”

Beyond the official explanations, it may be appropriate to discuss the strategy of the company in relation to users and changes in the habits of these users as well as the position of the company regarding the “smartphones”.

In this regard, see:

“El batacazo de Softonic: ¿Qué ha salido mal?”


Company and brand are from Italy and has had in recent years a strong development. They exemplify the use of a technological concept in an area of ​​consumer goods such as clothing, fashion and particularly footwear. The company was founded in the 1990s, being successes and international expansion during the 2000s.

His keys, specialized approach to selling, contact and customer information, enhanced technological aspect and brand image.

Key points for management in crisis periods

In the discussion, it became clear that companies that have made progress share primarily some main lines in their behaviour in recent years:

On the one hand, a company Spartan culture, i.e. saving practices that have affected all employees and managers, and where opulence is no longer perceived positively. With it, going hand in hand, there are methods implementing “lean” process improvement.

Internationalization is a main factor, referred not only to export sales but also to export capital resources.

Additionally, if something good is having this crisis, there are the changes brought in leadership, organization and behaviour of senior positions, which were very necessary.

  • Make communication the main tool for management to convince. Transparency produces more respect and motivation to demand sacrifices.
  • An inclusive leadership, i.e. including all in the decisions and promoting training and teamwork. Recruit to survive
  • Be focused at all times to the strategy and objectives.
  • Delete “stoppers” in the organization and processes, outputting the hidden talent. Empowering multidisciplinary teams to eliminate “bottlenecks”
  • The culture of austerity. The crisis has led to all members of a company assess the costs to the smallest.
  • A flat organization focused on processes. The departments are no longer isolated and processes are transverse. You can get that all departments aware of rowing all together in the same direction.
  • Focus on projects as an organizational alternative, if possible.Facing crises 1
  • Never forget liquidity. A sort of sense of cash accumulation. The attitude of the banks has caused companies to focus on reducing debt and grow in liquidity.
  • Customer and partner’s loyalty. Pamper or caring of key customers and treat providers as allies. The politics of alliances throughout the supply chain seen as fully extended, have increased significantly. Moving from competition to collaboration.
  • Learning for mistakes and rewarding small successes. This is essential for innovation. There innovative culture would not grow if you punish the error.
  • Many paradigm shifts in the orientation of the sales network and business management.
  • Reorder activities to achieve critical mass and take costs to a level of activity or even order if possible.

[1] Luis Soler. Managing Partner. Odgers Berndtson


Francesc Guell is the owner of this site. He was CEO and director of international companies in specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The last 12 years was associated with international consulting groups, providing advice and support to businesses on topics such as innovation and agile innovation processes, operational excellence, knowledge management, change management, strategy and integrated business management. Currently creates and presents courses and workshops on these topics. He graduated as a chemical engineer, postgraduate from ESADE Business School in Business Administration and Master in Knowledge Management. He participated in numerous programs, seminars and ESADE, IESE, EADA, APD and MCE (Management Centre Europe). He is author of articles, presentations and courses on innovation in strategic management, integrated business models, knowledge management, performance measurement, change management and excellence in business processes. See more in: Professional Profile