Recognized for his pursuit of efficiency and excellence in the management of the private sector and the public sector, the competitiveness of companies and the development of the country, Jorge Gerdau Johannpeter points to reputation as a key part of any business activity. The businessman, one of the controlling shareholders of Gerdau, the largest steel producer in Brazil, with operations in nine countries, and a history spanning 122 years, has a lot of history to tell.
At the age of 86, an attentive eye, agile thinking and vivacity keep energy in everything he does. Get excited about projects Competitive Brazil Movement (MBC), in which he is president of the Superior Council, achievements in equestrianism and with the program that raised the Hospital Moinhos de Vento, from Porto Alegre, to one of the best in the country. In everything there is reputation, purpose and values, themes of this conversation with the Reputation Feed, which also dealt with the prospects for Brazil.
“Reputation is built with all stakeholders”, he reinforces.
Below are highlights of this exclusive interview:
What is the relevance of reputation and how should it be treated in organizations?
In any type of business activity, reputation is a key element. With a good reputation, you can win the trust of the customer, the supplier and, in our case, that we operate in the capital market, the shareholders. Concomitantly with building a reputation, the company's characteristics and values must be externalized so that investors, customers, suppliers and, above all, employees identify with the company's reputation and vision.
What are the key factors for building reputation and having a successful history?
When you have clarity of purpose, it is easy for the entire organization to act or move within that vision. For example, in order to give absolute priority to the customer, it's no use saying, the customer has to feel it. Likewise, in the capital market. Shareholders must clearly know what we do, what our values are, what our ethics are, what our social relations are like, how we conduct ourselves with the government, with our customers and, above all, with our team. When you have clear purposes, you can work naturally. You can't work without transparency.
“I am the fourth generation of the company. I went through the 100 years of the company; Today we are over 120 years old. We were able to introduce the family's personal and behavioral values into the company.”
Could you list some elements of reputation that were important to your personal success or to leverage business?
The main value that we have in the company comes from the behavioral philosophy of Mr. Curt and Mrs. Helda (George's parents). I am the fourth generation of the company. I went through the 100 years of the company; Today we are over 120 years old. We were able to introduce the family's personal and behavioral values into the company. The company is almost like a big family. When you are what you practice, when you practice the values in your personal life, you are able to practice freely within the company and make it almost like a natural behavior in the organization.
What were the great learnings in this line of practicing what is said?
You have to guide this behavior towards each of the publics with which you relate. We have interesting passages to tell. During the celebrations of 100 years, a customer, 24 years ago, told me that he never had anything to complain about the products. And when you hear that from a customer, it gives you enormous satisfaction. It is the result of the concern to do well. Another. An executive had completed 35 years at the company and was about to retire. His speech touched me a lot. 'I've been here for 35 years and I've never had a conflict in terms of ethics and values between what I think and what the company thinks,' he said.
It is noteworthy that, in a trajectory like yours, which included Gerdau's expansion around the world and the leadership of major business movements in the country, you cite two elementary cases in business management: the relationship with the customer and the relationship with the employee . Is this supposed to serve as a teaching?
It is stakeholder policy. You must learn in the company to clearly define how you want this stakeholder to see your company, see you, the relationship with them. Regarding shareholders, I communicate clearly. With customers, how is it? I have a very simple sentence: the customer pays for the party. The entire attitude towards good service and customer satisfaction is decisive for the survival of the company. We are doing nothing more than trying to do well what gives the company survival. The issue with employees is broader and more complex. It's a 24-hour, lifetime relationship. It has to do with career, training and the chances of the person to develop with the company. This team spirit is important in the organization. My doorman's attitude, how he receives people, how he behaves in this condition, is a mirror of what the organization is. You arrive at a reception and already see if this person is integrated into the company or not. It's a behavioral philosophy. When you get examples like we got from our dad, Mr. Curt, it embeds in the company.
How does reputation contribute to this process?
Reputation is built in the company's relationship with all stakeholders.
And how should the issue be addressed by shareholders and board members?
The main members of the board normally have careers, not in all organizations, but in Gerdau, yes, and, in this case, they follow the same path. When I want to analyze a company, I look at the board members and ask a question: how many board members know the organization's core business? If you don't have half of the board members, or at least a third of the board members, who have the life of the company and its philosophy in their veins, you're going to have a hard time having a board that really thinks about a strategy corresponding to the needs of the company . The board brings external competences, but the success of a company is in the index of knowledge of the core business of this organization.
These first months of the year have been cloudy in Brazil. Does this scenario bring risks to the image and reputation of companies?
In German, there is a word that defines my ability to comment on this question: uberfragt, which means I am over questioned, this is beyond my ability to answer. I learned in a way not to despair about things that happen. Brazil is so big, so generous, so tolerant, that all difficulties, one way or another, the country overcomes and solves. We have already been through everything that is revolution and political processes. The country, in one way or another, continues to walk and advance. The country, as a whole, has to look for the best solutions to solve the problems, working on the understanding of the benchmark, see who are the best to look for the best solutions. This has been lacking.
“Considering the relationships with the different stakeholders, you have to analyze whether your reputation, in relation to what you practice and what you seek, is sufficiently informed. Because there's no point in making everything perfect and nobody knowing."
Finally, how much can reputation contribute to companies having successful results?
Reputation care must be doubled. The company that seeks consolidated positions in the market has to act correctly and make this public. This making public has to be very subtle and very well conducted, because there is a tendency to create an image above what it is or is not. Therefore, professional support is needed. Considering the relationships with the different stakeholders, you have to analyze whether your reputation, in relation to what you practice and what you seek, is sufficiently informed. Because it's also no use to do everything perfect and nobody knows. Reputation has to be worked on and it has to have a basis to justify it.
Christianne Schmitt is editor of the Reputation Feed