|In an article written especially for this issue of
Odebrecht Informa, the Group’s founder, Norberto
Odebrecht, focuses on the development of a
partnership of trust since Odebrecht’s inception
and demonstrates how grooming new leaders is
decisive for the organization’s future
The origins of the Odebrecht Group date back to the nineteenth century, when German immigrants – among them, my great-grandfather Emil Odebrecht – arrived in Southern Brazil. They brought with them ethical values based on their Lutheran religious background and a strong spirit of accomplishment, and passed them on to their descendants.
My father, Emílio Odebrecht, pursued a career as a builder in the Brazilian Northeast in the 1920s and 30s. One of his passions was educating people, and he taught several construction supervisors on the job.
At home, under the leadership of my mother, Hertha Odebrecht, we lived in an educational, religious and trusting family environment. From an early age, through discipline and organization, my sisters and I were prepared for life and work. The aim of these teachings was always the pursuit of Truth and what is right and best for everyone.
The principles instilled in me as a child at home were cemented in school and during my apprenticeship at the workshops of my father’s construction firm. All my life, I have clearly perceived the value of discipline as the source of respect, trust, loyalty and friendship.
When I had to start up an individually owned construction firm in 1944, my father gave me the most important asset a company can have: people who had been educated to serve others. His former supervisors and their teams, who had agreed to join that nascent company, were trained to run jobsites autonomously and decisively. These were straightforward, reliable, trustworthy men who were fully committed to the company and their Clients. Many were illiterate, but all of them shared the core value of professional integrity.
I followed up on their work, influenced them and was influenced by them, and learned many lessons. At the jobsites, I gained firsthand knowledge of their interests and the Client’s needs. I discovered that this was the school of life, which makes things happen in order to satisfy those needs. To do so, I had to work closely with the supervisors to evaluate and judge their strengths and weaknesses, and enable them to judge and evaluate whether I was an effective Leader. Above all, the direct channel of communication with the Client was to be found right there, at the jobsite.
Discipline when working with those supervisors and their teams generated respect between us. Respect cemented trust, and when that happens, everything else does. The existence of an atmosphere of trust made it possible to develop teamwork and flexible, agile procedures, work synergistically, and increase people’s motivation. The focus of all this was on making our projects more productive, so we could do work of the highest quality in the shortest time and at the lowest cost for each of our Clients.
This is our essential history, the history of a partnership of trust that was born back then, in the 1940s, and has grown and extended to other Brazilian states, other countries and other businesses over the course of 60 years.
The existence of that partnership of trust made up of people imbued with the spirit of service gave us credibility in the eyes of our Clients, suppliers, bankers and insurance companies. It enabled us to establish the basic tenets of the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology, which now constitute the pillars of everything we do:
• planned delegation
• the sharing of results.
A second generation of entrepreneurs was groomed on the basis of these principles and took the helm of the organization’s businesses over the course of the 1980s and 90s. A third generation of entrepreneurs is now gaining maturity through the complete exercise of leadership at the head of teams and businesses. And they are already beginning to groom the fourth generation. The future is always the challenge. History, an ever-available source of teachings, guides our desire to confront the future with confidence.
Our greatest challenge is identifying and grooming True Leaders, because only they can carry on our essential history, our partnership of trust
And it is history that teaches us, among so many other lessons, that:
• the basis for everything is the existence of a partnership of trust developed through the practice of discipline and respect;
•our greatest asset is intangible, and curiously enough, it does not show up on our balance sheets: it is people who have been educated to serve others, and serve them gladly, never viewing service as a sacrifice;
•our business is determined by the existence of a clearly identified Client whose needs and dreams must be realized with a mature attitude; we must always be guided by our philosophical concepts and seek outstanding results with a view to establishing and maintaining a loyal and therefore long-term relationship with each Client.
As for the future, it will always be determined by our ability to groom True Leaders – the most treasured and coveted asset that any organization can have.
A True Leader is an outstanding Individual from whom Team Members seek to learn. He works with his team and makes it a competent, balanced unit. He is an excellent communicator; a born educator. He likes people and productive relationships, and encourages his Team Members to think big, with a focus on their Clients and their needs. He visits the jobsites and the factory floor and evaluates and judges his Team Members, giving them support, educating them, and instilling them with optimism, courage and enthusiasm. He gets them on the same page so they can surpass the agreed results, do things differently and stand out from the rest. A True Leader has assimilated and applies the organization’s culture and transmits it to his Team Members by speaking the same common language. He sets aside competition and seeks cooperation. He is receptive and open, but demands discipline, which generates respect and cements trust.
Our greatest challenge is identifying and grooming True Leaders, because only they can carry on our essential history, our partnership of trust, in the constant pursuit of Survival, Growth and Perpetuity.