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7 Questions on Leadership with Alejandro Martinez

Name: Alejandro Martinez

Title: CEO US & Canada

Organisation: SDG Group

As a Partner at SDG Group, CEO for the US & Canada, and Head of the Global Clients Organization, Alejandro Martinez is a strategic leader with a proven track record of building and executing large-scale Data & Analytics programs for global and regional clients across various business areas.

With a keen eye for innovation and a knack for challenging the status quo, he has led the creation and implementation of new strategies to optimize data analysis and maximize business value.

Since joining the company in 2009, Alejandro has created an agile organization that is equipped to manage customer demands with proximity and agility, while also driving SDG Group's growth and success. He has spearheaded new units and teams that enhance the company's value proposition for clients and bolster its market positioning.

Alejandro's contributions have not gone unnoticed, and he has been recognized as one of the Top 50 Global Healthcare Consultants by The Consulting Report, as well as a Visionary Leader in the Data & Analytics field by Analytics Insight. He is also a member of the Forbes Business Council, an invitation-only organization for successful business leaders and entrepreneurs.

In addition to his work at SDG Group, Alejandro shares his expertise and insights as a strategy management lecturer and speaker at industry events.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Alejandro's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

As a leader, I have found that one of the most challenging aspects is loneliness and having less input to make decisions. The more up you are the more alone you will find yourself.

However, I use our company values as a guide and work with the team to make team decisions when possible. Always a team decision is more powerful than an individual but there are sometimes when decisions need to be made right away.

The other part that is difficult as a leader is that sometimes we need to make tough decisions that have an impact on our teams but always thinking on the greater good of the people and the company.

Challenging aspects include striking a balance between innovation and stability, managing talent effectively, making strategic decisions amidst uncertainty and adapting to rapid changes.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My journey to becoming a leader has been a lifelong pursuit driven by a passion for leadership. It began in school and college where I actively engaged in student government, sports, and various organizations, honing essential leadership skills.

Transitioning into the corporate world, I started from the bottom and steadily got new challenges and roles, gaining practical experience, and understanding the dynamics of organizations.

In SDG Group, a pivotal moment arrived when I decided to look for business opportunities outside Spain and my assigned territory in the middle of the financial crisis, showcasing my leadership potential.

This achievement marked a turning point in my career, boosting my confidence and earning me respect. Throughout my journey, I maintained a commitment to continuous learning, attending leadership programs, seeking mentorship, and reading extensively.

If I must summarize in few words, I think to be a leader someone needs to “take the bull by the horns”, being proactive and taking ownership, be assertive and collaborative, manage and nurture networks, keep the hard work, learn every day, and challenge the status quo.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

My daily routine is flexible, adapting to whether I'm at home or traveling, although post-COVID, my travel frequency has reduced from weekly to monthly. Traveling is a personal and professional passion of mine, offering unique perspectives and enriching experiences despite its trade-offs.

Effective day-to-day structure is crucial. Balancing work and life is like a perpetual Yin and Yang; it's not about a 50/50 split but maintaining equilibrium for productivity. Some days lean more toward work, while others require more attention to personal life.

My day typically commences around 6:00 AM. I kickstart it by reviewing emails from teams and customers in different time zones, mentally preparing for the day ahead. Mornings are sacred for quality time with my family.

We share breakfast and discuss our plans for the day, considering it the most important meal of the day. I then take my kids to school, cherishing moments of interaction and play before dropping them off.

As a leader, a significant part of my day centers on strategic planning. This involves defining our company's direction, evaluating the progress of strategic initiatives, and making high-level decisions.

I strategically schedule meetings to minimize disruptions to deep work, including discussions with the executive team and customers. Whenever possible, I prioritize face-to-face meetings with customers. We maintain a flat organizational structure, ensuring accessibility to everyone within the company.

Now Lunch isn’t what it used to be; but I still use a 30-minute break to connect with the team, new consultants, and customers. It's a moment to recharge, network, and nurture essential relationships, crucial in consulting and organizational dynamics.

During the afternoon, I allocate a focused, uninterrupted block of time. This is when I tackle strategic planning, review financial reports, and engage in tasks demanding deep concentration.

In the evening, around 5:30 to 6:00 PM, I return home or visit my kids if they have sports activities. We reconvene for dinner, sharing our day's experiences and bonding as a family.

Before winding down, I review my calendar and create a to-do list for the next day, ensuring a clear plan for a productive start. To promote a restful night's sleep, I unwind with reading or watching a movie or TV show.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

I'm committed to continuous learning, seeking insights daily from my team, clients, competitors, and evolving behaviors. My passion for travel stems from its ability to thrust me outside my comfort zone, where learning thrives.

A recent lesson has reinforced the paramount importance of collaboration with other organizations to elevate the customer experience and deliver added value. Such collaborations foster an environment of open innovation, propelling our services and products to stay ahead.

Failing to collaborate can render tasks daunting, sometimes insurmountable. In competition, we're not merely pitted against individual organizations but an alliance of companies working collectively.

On the flip side, I've witnessed exceptional products transform. Companies that once collaborated during their inception have turned into competitors, aiming to encompass the entire value proposition. This underscores the dynamic nature of partnerships and competition in today's business landscape.

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?

I have two books that have impacted me in different times in my life and coincidentally both were written by Jack Trout. The first one is “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” which I read when I was at college and the second one is “Trout on strategy” which I read when I started working in the consulting industry.

"The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing" provided me with a framework for understanding consumer behavior, market dynamics, and the principles of effective marketing. By applying these laws, I was able to make more informed decisions and achieve a competitive advantage against bigger companies.

On the other side, "Trout on Strategy" provided me with practical insights and strategies to navigate the complexities of business strategies, helping me develop more effective and competitive strategies for my organization.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Always keep learning and never stop listening to feedback. It is easy for leaders to say they know everything, but it's essential to acknowledge that our society, individuals, and organizations undergo constant transformation. What was once considered standard can swiftly become obsolete.

Furthermore, some individuals believe that frequently changing jobs is the only path to career advancement and salary increases. However, this approach can potentially hinder one's long-term career trajectory. There are no shortcuts in life, and eventually, one must demonstrate the skills and capabilities commensurate with their salary.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

Sometimes power changes people and makes people behave in different ways. Power comes with the responsibility to manage it, lead, and guide an organization. I am not a person that believes in titles but rather more in roles, adapting to a company's specific moment and situation.

Effective leadership demands a situational approach. Leading a small, nimble team differs significantly from steering a larger corporation. Each context needs a unique set of leadership qualities and skills.

I recall a pivotal challenge when we launched our US operations. We needed to review a Data & Analytics implementation struggling with performance issues. The solution was clear: a fully engaged team dedicated to one week of intensive review and analysis.

In this instance, I chose to immerse myself in the technical aspects, working alongside the consultants. Simultaneously, our managers and partners assumed crucial positions in engaging stakeholders and positioning themselves in the account. This experience not only enhanced our visibility but also solidified our partnerships and project collaborations.

Interestingly, the customer remained unaware of my role until a year later when I took the stage at an event. This highlights the significance of leadership driven by roles and responsibilities, not titles, in achieving success and making a lasting impact.

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