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7 Questions with EDUARDO LÓPEZ ROBAYO
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7 Questions with EDUARDO LÓPEZ ROBAYO
Name: EDUARDO LÓPEZ ROBAYO
Current title: CEO 6 Chairman
Current organisation: SERTECPET
With more than 30 years of experience, engineer Eduardo López has served in various positions in both the public and private sectors. As a representative of the President of the Republic, he led the Executive Board of Petroecuador, where he managed to implement an efficient rating system for companies applying for tenders. He also represented the Executive Power at the Fund for Stabilization, Social and Productive Investment and Public Debt Reduction (Feirep, in Spanish), which was in charge of renegotiating the foreign debt. As Minister of Energy and Mines, in 2004, he stood out for designing a State Policy on energy issues. He implemented a management strategy with a 2 to 1 reserve-production relation, with a 25-year-term vision in which oil production would double, allowing a significant growth of the country's GDP. Moreover, he incentivized the participation of the national industry as a strategy to achieve technological self-sufficiency and turn the country into a high added value exporter. In the private sector he has founded several companies including SERTECPET oil, mining, and energy industry which is present in several continents.
Among the most outstanding awards during these 30 years are: The 2020 “Dr. Vicente Rocafuerte” Business Merit Award, granted by the National Assembly, acknowledging his contribution to the socio-economic, productive, and technological development of the country. In 2007, the illustrious Cantonal Council of Ambato granted him the "Joaquín Lalama" award, for his contribution to the business organization, encouraging and promoting the growth of leading entrepreneurs. In 2008, Casa Montalvo awarded him the "Orden de Montalvo" as a recognition for his outstanding services to the national culture and, especially, to Montalvo's cause. The Confederation of Journalists of Ecuador has granted him the Eloy Alfaro – Símbolo de Libertad Award, in addition to the Libertarian Necklace, acknowledging the career of Eng. López as a business leader.
He is currently the Director of the Advisory Board of Alliance for Integrity, a global, multi-stakeholder anti-corruption initiative promoted by the business sector and the Government of Germany. In addition, he is an Advisor for the Association for Management Progress (APD, in Spanish) in Spain, for making significant decisions on business and social productive development.
He is a statesman, a businessman with a broad vision, and expert in business management and oil negotiation. A visionary citizen, who believes in the progress of countries on the basis of their resources and industrial capabilities, productive chains, and human talent based on knowledge and on the importance of technological disruption.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
As the strategist of a company that was born in Ecuador more than thirty years ago, and that thanks to constant work and excellence, has successfully positioned its brand in several countries of the world, I believe the greatest challenge I've faced in this very demanding sector is pursuing quality and added value through innovation and technological development; and, of course, consolidating our Own Integrated Management System. We challenged ourselves in 1990 by building a world-class industry, backed by international certifications, standards and patents, and becoming one of the few companies in the world to have such a robust quality, safety and environment system and to obtain international recognition due to our good practices.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
The truth is that I had a great role model: my grandfather. He taught me to find significant challenges in my life, he always told me, “my son, aim for the sun so that you can, at least, reach the moon.” Certainly enough, this got me thinking of growing up and leaving a legacy, of searching for something beyond normal; thus, together with my older brother -an exceptional role model, a great scientist and developer of products and tools- who was already working in the oil sector, we challenged ourselves by creating an exemplary industry which was different and highly innovative, at a time when everything was imported, and where people did not believe in the capabilities of Ecuadorians. I remember together we even decided to get mortgages on our houses to take the company forward, because along all those years, it has never been easy to show what we were and are capable of. Little by little doors began to open when we knocked on them. First, abroad, where they believed in us and afterwards, we were given an opportunity in our country. Nowadays, my brother Byron is the leader of the technology area, my brother Paulo leads the operations department and I am in charge of the leadership and strategy of the entire group. Without any doubt, getting training and education in Strategy, Management and Leadership has allowed me to legitimize my position.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
To be honest, the life I lead is complicated, when someone asks me "What do you do?" I always answer: "I sell!" That's what I have done since the beginnings of the company to date. I move around the world selling not only SERTECPET but Ecuador’s technological capabilities, because I carry with me the flag of my country and I've taken it to Asia, the Middle East, America, among others. Because of the pandemic I've had to limit many of my trips, but, before it hit, I was in Ecuador one day and in the United States on the next day. Then, I used to travel for a few days to the United Arab Emirates and, suddenly, overnight, I was in England... I've never stopped. These days, my tours are virtual. One moment I am in Peru later, I'm in Spain and so on and so forth. Sometimes, I do not even keep track of time. I just see my surroundings getting darker, but I continue looking for ways to generate work opportunities for hundreds of families who depend on a salary, for entire communities where we foster employment.
It hasn't been easy. My days are not easy, but, after 30 years, I have the great satisfaction of being able to leave a legacy as an industry in Ecuador and the world.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I really believe that the biggest and most recent lesson I have learned from this pandemic is the great need of the world to turn to digital transformation, to be resilient and to focus on health care, while continuing its operations. It has been extremely challenging to strengthen biosafety care and to have our collaborators continue to work long shifts, in a time when their priority is their lives and their families'. Speaking of leadership, we've had to look for new ways to continue providing services of excellence despite the fact that the world is paralyzed. We can't stop, we must continue working more passionately than ever before, for the sake of our country, hand-in-hand with a disruptive strategy in terms of the way in which we relate. Thus, by means of a solid internal culture and a transparent communication with all the stakeholders, we have been able to face the current challenges and will certainly be ready to face the future ones as well.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The Golden Circle, written by Simon Sinek. This book analyzes in a very descriptive and pragmatic way the business concept by answering the questions why?, how?, and what?. Moreover, it digs deeper into the perception of human beings, and how we all have the ability to awaken our innate capacities and fulfill dreams. Success is guaranteed for those who find the rationale of their purposes since vision is needed to fulfill our goals. There are no limits, it is a matter of attitude, people and companies must seek sustainability.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
First, by sharing personal values within the organizational culture, vision, mission and principles at all levels. Second, by empowering area leaders from all operational and administrative departments for them to reach the organizational objectives leveraged in a robust culture. And third, by recognizing and legitimizing the achievements of each of the leaders and their teams in each area.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
One of the best anecdotes so far has been getting to negotiations with economically powerful groups, with large companies with a wide trajectory, or with multinational companies recognized worldwide. Being able to get there and negotiate as equals with a competitive and comparative advantage that has allowed us to contribute to projects, adding value to them and being respected by such companies, despite the fact that we are smaller. They have always valued our know-how, good practices, and faithful compliance with international standards. We are small but we are a strategic partner for any company in any country.