• Ulma Group

Iñaki Gabilondo Director General del Grupo ULMA

Change as an opportunity

Jan 28, 2014


I did not want to start with the word “crisis”, but in the current situation and in the environment where we are moving, it is practically impossible not mention it. Crisis is normally associated to something bad and undesirable, but it also has other meanings, above all in the economic field, more related to the concepts of change and opportunity, that I feel are more interesting. Crisis, understood as “deep sudden, abrupt and violent changes” in the order of things that normally brings transcendental circumstances that help to build the response to the new situation. Therefore, the crisis or change of the current paradigm for a new one has two faces, the negative one of who perceives it as a possible loss of status and the positive one of who sees the “change” as an “opportunity” to improve the situation.

The problem with the “current crisis” is that it continues mutating and every now and again new “changes” are produced that do not let us even take a stance against the new reality. We have quickly passed from the real estate crisis to the financial crisis of the banks, to the crisis of the sovereign debt of countries, to the political crisis in certain countries, to the cash crisis… etc. Changes, like earthquakes, continue occurring and we do not even know when more replicas are going to occur, or where, or their intensity.

In this climate of uncertainty, we have to manage our businesses while making any predictions or future actions is very difficult. However, when you most need a route map is when a situation is like the current one. Now, when we are close to the end of the year we have to prepare the base for the Management Plan of the following year and to do that, previously we should see how last year was for us. To evaluate what the year meant for us, both 2013 and the previous ones, fundamentally we should centre on both economic results, quantitative analyses, like in the positioning achieved by the businesses and that which is the basis for future results, qualitative analyses. A careful balance of both elements is the key for not falling into shortterm views or into a “paralysing illusion” that relying on a future that will resolve everything, delays and postpones the taking of difficult decisions, necessary for the sustainability of business.

In addition, from that double perspective, it is clear that ULMA Group is better off at the end of 2013 than it was at the end of 2012 and much better than what it was at the beginning of this crisis that started in 2008. The truth is that we are still affected due to our exposure to markets with problems that we have suffered due to the cash crisis that has bought with it an important devaluation in the currencies of countries where we have important interests like Brazil, Peru or South Africa, among others, that we continue suffering the restriction of credit, etc. However, on the positive side we have to say that we are still reducing our exposure to economies with less expectation of growth, that we continue increasing our exports by nearly 7% over the previous year, foreseeabley exceeding 500 million and much more than the 323 million of 2009, that we continue to improve our competitiveness, reflected in the increase of added value in the majority of businesses that at Group level we have achieved financial balance with an important reduction of our debt, etc.

Behind this improvement of the structural situation of ULMA there has been an important amount of work at Business level to increase the competitiveness either with painful but necessary measures, or with investments for the future aimed at developing new lines and markets for our businesses, which has been combined at Group level with a policy of financial support between businesses and of solidarity between collectives that has been fundamental for the business that nowadays are suffering the most and therefore could need more time to become adapted to the new reality.

We should not leave this correct route. Therefore, we approach the Management Plan for 2014 being realistic, knowing in which context we are moving, but at the same time being ambitious and positive in the response we want to give so that at this time next year we can say that ULMA Group on the whole and its businesses individually have continued improving their positions.

This is a long-distance race where it is important that we all work together with rigor, energy, flexibility and mutual support. At change level and that of the situations we are living, we are being obliged to make a serious reflection of the operational dynamics and structures in the cooperative world. This reflection reaches everyone and therefore also ULMA Group and in the measure that we know how to transform change into opportunity is the key to future success.

I would like to take this moment to wish you all happy festivities and we hope that 2014 will exceed all our expectations.