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7 Questions with Jose-Luis Bretones
7 Questions with Jose-Luis Bretones
Name: Jose-Luis Bretones
Current title: Managing Partner
Current organisation: LINAR Advisors
Jose-Luis was born and raised in Madrid, Spain. He graduated with a MS/BS degree in Industrial Engineering from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (ETSII). He joined AT&T Bell Labs in 1991 and began his career optimizing manufacturing processes. He stayed in the telecommunications industry, progressing through several European roles in the global supply chain and manufacturing operations arena. In 1998, he was appointed as the EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa) Lead to a global supply chain re- engineering team, and relocated to Oklahoma City, OK where Lucent Technologies headquartered its Switching business unit. During this assignment, he earned his MBA degree.
Jose-Luis left Lucent-Bell Labs in 2002 to join McDonald’s APMEA (Asia Pacific Middle East and Africa) and moved to McD’s global headquarters in Chicago, IL. In his first role at McD, Jose-Luis spent most of his time traveling throughout the region for almost six years as the regional lead for Strategic Planning, Program and Project Management. During his tenure, the APMEA region delivered innovative initiatives like 24Hrs (Hong Kong), Delivery (Egypt) and McCafé (Australia). In 2008, he was internally recruited to revitalize the global sourcing strategy for beef and pork (~$4B in annual spend), and to lead the sustainability and animal welfare strategy (for all protein-based products) as Director Global Supply Chain Strategy. In late 2012, Jose-Luis left McDonald’s to join A.M.Castle, a $1B publicly-traded company operating in Industrial Metals, Aerospace and Oil & Gas as EVP Strategic Sourcing Supply Chain and executive Officer.. He was accountable to the Board of Directors and the CEO for redesigning the global supply chain as well as manufacturing and distribution operations.
After leaving A.M.Castle in 2015, Jose-Luis founded a boutique global consulting firm, LINAR Advisors, which he currently leads as Managing Partner.
Jose-Luis is often retained to serve at the Board level, including the following organizations:
- University of Loyola. Business Leadership Hub. Center for Risk Management. (2020-Present) Board of Advisors.
- Griffith Foods. (2019-Present) Independent Director. A family owned global developer and manufacturer of customized food ingredients.
- USEC (US-Spain Executives Community). (2018-Present) Board of directors and Treasurer.
- Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB). (2011-2012) Founding member and director, representing McD and partnering with WWF, Walmart, Cargill among other industry leaders, to drive impactful changes in the way cattle is raised around the world.
- Roycemore School. (2010-2019) Trustee, Vice-Chair, Treasurer and Chair for the Finance Committee. Jose-Luis has earned numerous professional accreditations from the Kellogg School of Management (USA), INSEAD School of Management (France), Goldratt Institute (Spain), and APICS; He has also been recognized, quoted and profiled as a thought leader and supply chain expert in several publications, including:
• Recognized as 2020 Director to Watch by Private Company Director magazine: https://www.privatecompanydirector.com/features/full-bore-fiduciary-boards-private-companies
• Strategic Supply Chain Management: The Five Core Disciplines for Top Performance, 2nd Edition (By Shoshanah Cohen, McGraw-Hill 2013)
• Leadership without Excuses: How to Create Performance and High Accountability (Instead of Just Talking about It) (By Jeff Grimshaw, McGraw-Hill, 2010)
• Vested Outsourcing: five rules that will transform outsourcing. (By Kate Vitasec, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) Jose-Luis currently lives in Evanston, IL with his wife Lisa and their two daughters.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
Creating and maintaining the culture that attracts the kind of people that would fit, grow and feel rewarded.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was one of the founding members. After many years working in much bigger corporations, it was time for me to keep things small and lean. My role as a husband and as a father had been neglected for too long and I was not going to waste more time doing work that was not necessary. SMEs can be extremely demanding, but you feel that every minute is spent in value added tasks. Office politics and bureaucracy are almost zero, let alone never-ending powerpoint presentations to support inefficient decision making...These days I go back to my family knowing the time I was not with them, it was well spent. Plus I am spending a lot more time with them!
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I get up at around 4:30 am and work out. Then I check emails for no more than 30min and manage any potential shift of priorities for the day.
After a quick shower and getting dressed, I wake my daughters up and prepare their breakfast while I prepare mine. We typically eat together in the kitchen before we all part ways to go on with our day.
My mornings are typically filled with meetings and calls. I am a morning person and I prefer to reserve the afternoons to "alone work" like emails, working on projects or simply reading to stay informed and up to date on supply chain trends.
I was born and raised in Spain so having lunch alone in front of a computer is depressing for me. Lunch is my opportunity to spend quality time with colleagues and clients; or simply network and meet new people.
These days I manage to be back home for dinner most days. Thanks to COVID, I rediscovered the multiple benefits of cooking a healthy light dinner: decompress from the day, eat healthy, spend time with your family.
The evenings are typically a time to reflect and read a book while the girls are doing homework and my wife is also relaxing. Going to bed at least one hour after I look at any screen helps me sleep better and recharge.
I try to be in bed no later than 10pm.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Being present, authentic and sharing emotions properly is nothing to be ashamed of. I know, it was about time...wasn't it?
When you think about it, pretending to be somebody we are not, is such a massive waste of time and energy...
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?
Honestly, there is not a single book I would point to. Many of them are excellent sources of ideas and perspective through the eyes of others. I recommend reading as many as you can.
However, I believe my leadership style has developed over the years through experiences. Books help you learn and even prepare, but the actual learning has always been for me through an experience.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
Communication, transparency, feedback and simply spending time with each person.
We can't afford to spend a big budget on training and development so we need to compensate with authentic interactions.
I used to lead big teams across several countries. These days I can connect meaningfully with everybody I work with in less than two weeks.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
COVID turned our lives upside down. Both in the office and at home. Dealing with the crisis and managing not only the impact on the P&L, but most importantly on the psychology of all of us, has been a sequence of rollercoasters like life events that none of us will ever forget. For the first time since I can remember, we were all feeling quite vulnerable, exposed and surprised. Keeping the business running while dealing with all of that was quite an adventure.