Jesús Mª del Rio, ULMA Packaging Expatriate in Germany — ULMA Begira

Ulma Packaging

Jesús Mª del Rio, ULMA Packaging Expatriate in Germany

During that time ULMA Packaging had a commercial affiliate in Germany, but the German market was the one that resisted the most, on one hand, because the demands of the German market were very high and on the other, because the highest competitor of ULMA Packaging in both market share and technology was precisely a German company. That same year Jesus Mª del Rio moved with his family to Illertissen, a town near ULM in the south of Germany, and there initiated his passionate professional adventure.
Jesús Mª del Rio, ULMA Packaging Expatriate in Germany
Nov 29, 2012

“In 2006 we managed to create in Germany a small group with experience and we launched an R&D centre that later became part of the commercial activity and allowed us to be closer to the technological levels of the competitors.  

I had then worked six years in ULMA as Area Manager in several Eastern European countries including Germany.  Although there is always contact form new positions, things are seen differently and from a very operational point of view.  Nevertheless, there are other factors, even cultural ones that are not understood.  On the other hand, in the Packaging business, service is a very important factor and one that does not end with the sale. Each machine, each client, even with the same product, is a world of its own and therefore one has to be very close with the client.  I have always believed that managing things would be much easier and more efficient when you really know them and you directly live them, notwithstanding the country where you are, and that way share this with the Matrix.  Both of these needs coincided in the strategic reflections we made and practical form one day to the other we were then immerse in the development of this project that meant expatriation for me.

It did not take much to convince my wife Ane, in spite of her having to leave her position and take on something completely new for her.  She had studied in Germany, so it was no surprise for her.  I recall, as if it were yesterday, telling her by email, to which she positively responded, between misbelieve and emotion.  Evidently, after that, we had to mediate on it... But all in all, on August 8, 2007 and without looking back we packed our suitcases and started a new life.  Our children, Gaizka and Jone, that were not yet 4 and 5, were of the ideal age. A year earlier or a year later and we would not have even considered it.  In just over 4 months in Germany they did not know whether to speak Spanish, Euskera or German.  They had about the same level in each.  Of course, they never mixed them.  The capacity of children never stops surprising us.

All-in-all, it is a very positive experience and if we went back in time, nowadays, I have no doubt that I would do it all over again.

We live at Illertissen, a town near ULM in the south of Germany and in the state of Baviera, of approximately 15,000 inhabitants, although nobody would say that.  Life in a town in Euskadi, even much smaller, is not comparable at all with life here. But in Germany we live well, education and health services work well and there is a lot of safety.  In other words, it is a good country.  Different to other destinations, we do not have to live in golden cages, the differences are not so large and there are not any paradise beaches, deserts or other peculiarities that other destinations offer.  We try to live like the locals and visit and get to know German culture as much as possible. Now, after 5 years, we are more integrated, although at first it was difficult.  Sometimes more difficult than one can even think, because there are emotional factors that are out of one’s control and difficulties and barriers that take time to overcome.

Form a professional point of view I have always had very strong support from Oñati and that helps.  One has to remember that although we manage small teams the casuistic and the problems arise in the same measure as in a large company and the resources to manage them are reduced.  Perhaps this is the most difficult part we have to experience.  Problems at a distance and in another culture are even more difficult.  All-in-all, it is a very positive experience and if we went back in time, nowadays, I have no doubt that I would do it all over again, although it is an experience that I would never do twice.  Form a personal point of view, I think it is an unrepeatable experience and that is what means”.