7 minutes with Ezequiel Sánchez

Ezequiel and I worked for the same company (but not in the same city) for many years but, believe it or not, we never met in person. It has been precisely in our entrepreneurial life that we have coincided in several projects.He is one of the few CEOs able to evolve beyond a corporate role. Why? Because he is a natural born entrepreneur, always ready for action. An expert in strategy, innovation and retail, Ezequiel has a multitasking profile (board advisor, IE professor, TED speaker, business angel, start-up mentor, …) always keeping the same purpose: to foster the ecosystem model to make organisations (and their P&Ls) grow in a sustainable way.

1. What do you mean by “ecosystem”?
Years ago, competition paradigm was focused on what a company was able to do counting on its own resources and abilities. Nowadays the scenario is different, and competition is about what a company is able to do putting together the resources and abilities of all its stakeholders sharing a common goal. That’s the ecosystem: the relationships a company is able to develop with partners, employees, suppliers and even with its competitors to create solutions competing with other solutions created by another cluster. Value is created in collaboration, which means that a big part of the value of a company is generated by its external partners. So, the more we interact and use the ecosystem’s resources, the better the solution. Some companies embraced this reality years ago and today work on an open innovation basis enabling them to generate unique solutions which, otherwise, would never exist.

2. How has the business code changed throughout the last 5 years?
Increased competition and the arrival of new competitors with a new vision are shaking up mindsets. Companies are more open and willing to collaborate with external resources. Years ago, we looked for internal solutions, but now we understand that solutions can come from outside the company. Most of the talent is not within the company and we need to collaborate in this way. The outcome is a wider vision of our abilities in terms of management, motivation and leadership.

3. Why do we talk more about strategy than about operations?
Operations serve strategy and they should be according to the goals and purpose set by it. Certain companies, in the last years, achieved excellence in operations and this totally changed the strategy game in some sectors. It happened in industries such as fashion, travel, entertainment and also in hospitality, which have created a new strategical vision based on operations. But I notice that very few talk about the importance of tactics. We are able to generate competitive advantage regarding other companies if we react quickly from an operational standpoint. Tactics bring operations and strategy together.

4. A piece of good advice you always give to your start-ups…
As an investor in projects with growth potential, I always recommend identifying the bottle necks. If we apply a systemic vision, every company has its project limitations which are not always linked to finances, but to abilities and connection with the ecosystem. If we manage to identify these limitations at an early stage, we will succeed at solving them so that new challenges appear, which is the goal of a start-up. If a company does not identify its limitations either it’s dead or almost sold …

5. What’s the role of people when talking about organisational reinvention?
We are living fascinating times where paradigms are changing, and new organisational models coexist with the traditional ones. In this context I usually see “hidden leaders” in companies. They are able to make less developed organisations move forward thanks to their passion, vision and drive. They are able to learn autonomously, try new ways of working, convince others to apply them and they are reluctant to work in an obsolete way. I believe the ability to make organisations move thanks to people who continuously reinvent themselves will be the key element of success. Other companies are just the opposite: they look like the Administration in terms of bureaucracy, procedures, execution times, …

6. How will executive boards evolve?
In an Agile world, the board of directors is the first element which has to be rethought. From my point of view, they should assume an initiative sponsor role, so that the teams of the organisation can lead and develop this initiative in a collaborative way. I believe quick operations rely on the ability to execute based on the support of a board open to bottom-up ideas instead of top-down, as many companies keep operating.

7. Tell us a sector where you could see opportunities to create value.
I think there is a big opportunity for medium-sized companies (companies up to 300 million euros). They have very interesting growth potential since they count on a structure which is more powerful than the one of smaller companies and, at the same time, they can react in a more agile way than big corporations. In Spain there is not that many medium-sized companies. The ones we do have perform very well and they are able to compete in the international markets in a very effective way. In fact, venture capital funds relax their limits to include this type of companies in its operations portfolio. In a polarised market, there is a very attractive niche for medium-sized companies.

Many thanks for sharing your perspective with us, Ezequiel!

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