“Today’s accomplishments, no matter how great, will be history tomorrow,”says Marcelo Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Leader (CEO) of the Engineering & Construction business. Early on, he learned to admire experience and recognize the challenges of the past as a source of essential knowledge. Nevertheless, he is emphatic that the key to keeping Odebrecht on the path of perpetuity is the constant renewal of people aligned with the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology. It is they who will be responsible for carrying on a 60-year history of service provided in the field of Engineering & Construction and the constant pursuit of creative solutions for every challenge that arises. Through planned delegation and a focus on the client’s satisfaction, they will be the agents of increasingly qualified operations. “Therefore,” he says, “Our main challenge and concentration must always be the identification and integration of new talents.”
Odebrecht Informa – Odebrecht has followed a trajectory of continuous growth, going from the company Norberto Odebrecht founded to what it is today. What is the key to that process?
Marcelo Odebrecht – The key is the application of TEO by our teams. This especially means integrating new entrepreneur-partners and other talents, effecting planned delegation and keeping the focus on the client’s satisfaction.
OI – What are the main challenges facing your business today, and what are your areas of concentration?
MO – Our main challenge and greatest concentration will always be identifying and integrating new talents into the company. At this particular time, when the opportunities are many, we are only limited by our own capacity to integrate new entrepreneur-partners and teams. The other challenges and concentrations are as dynamic as our business, and constantly changing.
OI – Odebrecht is marking its 25th year of international operations. Can you give us a general review of that history?
MO – We were cautious at first, and that enabled us to survive without aborting the internationalization process. We were as audacious as our operations in Brazil allowed us to be, and as a result, we built up knowledge and laid the foundations for growth. Finally, we reached the point where over 80% of our earnings came from abroad and it was unimaginable to limit our path to perpetuity to the domestic market and even the markets where we are operating at the moment.
OI – What is the key to the company’s success in countries like Peru, Angola, Portugal, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, the United States and Venezuela?
MO – First, there are our internal competencies, which arise from the application of TEO, particularly planned delegation. This enables our entrepreneur-partners and their teams to work locally while being on the same page as our shareholders. Furthermore, we must recognize – and particularly understand – the characteristics of each of these markets, as well as Brazilian geopolitics in many cases. These factors enable us to engage in qualified operations.
OI – Nevertheless, Odebrecht has also been present in several countries where it did not establish a presence, such as some African countries (Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique), European nations (primarily Germany and the UK) and some countries in Asia. What is your analysis of this non-continuity in those countries?
MO – Each of these countries was a different story, but in general it could be said that we either did not have the right entrepreneur-partners and/or we were unable to stand out from the competition in the eyes of our clients in those countries.
OI – What does Odebrecht have to offer its clients that differs from the rest of the market?
MO – Essentially, we offer an entire organization focused on serving them. More than simply providing engineering and construction services, this organization is always prepared to offer the most creative solutions through our entrepreneur-partners to guarantee total efficiency in each business.
OI – How important are the strategic alliances Odebrecht is establishing outside Brazil to the success of its international operations?
MO – We have been getting visibly good results from these partnerships along two lines. On one hand, they improve our operations by adding local competencies and knowledge to our teams, and on the other, they expand our opportunities by helping identify other delegated markets and leveraging our operations there.
OI – Cultural issues are another important factor for international operations. It is key for Odebrecht members to familiarize themselves with the unique characteristics of local cultures and adapt to them. How does that process take place, and what is hardest part?
MO – There’s no other option: either we adapt or we don’t. This process takes place naturally, during education through work and our day-to-day tasks, leading and being led by people from other cultures, while seeking to satisfy our local clients. We always have to understand that the final client is the society we serve. Because we have a very strong culture, the hardest part of this process may be recognizing our limitations and just how much we have to learn from each culture and working environment.
OI – You have said that if each of the over 90 Odebrecht entrepreneur-partners helming contracts carried out significant social actions, Odebrecht would already have achieved a great deal. What exactly is Odebrecht’s social responsibility in the Engineering & Construction business?
MO – We believe that we are fulfilling our greatest social responsibility by creating work opportunities and generating and distributing more wealth. In addition to that, we carry out social programs in our local communities. They are not paternalistic. Instead, as all entrepreneurs should, we are making an effort to improve people’s quality of life and minimize the negative impacts of our projects in these communities.
OI – Is the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology flexible in regard to local cultures? Are there any differences in how TEO is applied in different countries due to local characteristics?
MO – TEO is a single whole made up of essential values applied in all the countries where we are present. The practice of planned delegation and the work of our entrepreneurs and their partners gives us the flexibility needed to adapt to local conditions.
“Our main assets are people and the application of TEO. We have members who are committed, qualified and delegated the responsibility for satisfying their clients” - Marcelo Odebrecht
OI – The expatriation of non-Brazilians – meaning people groomed by Odebrecht outside Brazil who are now working in other countries – is a more or less recent process. How many are there, and where are they located? How did this develop and what does it mean for Odebrecht’s Engineering & Construction business?
MO – This process has to be viewed naturally, to the extent that we have put down strong roots in other countries. It should also be viewed positively because it means we have an even greater wealth of competencies. Today, there are about 41 non-Brazilian Odebrecht members from Colombia, Chile, Peru, Panama, Mexico, Portugal and Ecuador working outside their native countries, in Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Djibouti, the Dominican Republic, the United States and Colombia.
OI – What are the Engineering & Construction business’s main intangible assets, and how do they benefit the client and the Odebrecht Group?
MO – Our main intangible assets are people and the application of TEO. We have members who are committed, qualified and delegated the responsibility for satisfying their clients while staying aligned with the creation of even greater wealth.
OI – How is Odebrecht preparing itself to keep clients fully satisfied, both now and in the future? To what extent is the renewal of people a decisive strategy towards that end?
MO – We are integrating new talents into the company with an emphasis on education through work, and bolstering education for work (specialization courses, etc.). In that context, the renewal of people is a natural process and it is always a priority.
OI – What is the most important thing to remember as the Odebrecht Group marks its 60th anniversary?
MO – Without detracting from the results achieved thus far, our survival, growth and perpetuity will only be guaranteed by what we do in the next few years and not what we did in the last six decades. Today’s accomplishments, no matter how great, will be history tomorrow.