CULTURE CHANGE

Colombia 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

While Organización Equitel is proud of its success, it is even more proud of the change it has created in its company culture.

Juan José Piedrahita
BIOGRAPHY

Juan José Piedrahita studied economy at the University of Lousiana and re-engineering studies at the University of Southwest Louisiana. He was also a participant in the Mobilizing People Program of Liderazgo at the IMD Institute in Lausanne, Switzerland. He is currently the CEO of Organización Equitel, a holding group of seven companies dedicated to providing solutions to different segments of all industries. He is also a member of several boards of directors and has been a mentor of Endeavor since 2011 and a business advisor in Colombia and Latin America for issues related to organizational culture.

In which sectors of the economy do you work?
Equitel is a holding with seven different companies. We are in technology, energy, transportation, and just about every segment. We supply the health sector, mining companies, oil companies, industry, and transportation fleets.

Which activities generate the most activity?
Our main supplier is a multinational energy company with a large presence. We have 80% penetration of Colombia's heavy-duty truck industry. We represent income all over the country, except for the oil business. We are in the genset and engine business, including repair. Our growth so far has been organic; we have managed to multiply by 40 without acquiring companies or bringing in investors. We created a technology company where we created our own platform, which means we can diagnose engines and gensets virtually. We have our own managing center. We monitor around 3,600 engines all over Colombia that we see every 30 seconds. We can diagnose an engine from anywhere, even across borders. However, our main business is to develop people. The second objective is customer productivity. It is why we created a technology company, an energy product company, a fluid administration company for large engines, and our own lubricant plant. We even created our own consulting company to help transform other companies' culture.

Equitel has been a pioneer of innovative workplace culture. How did this start, and how has it transformed your company so far?
The company started in 1959. When I came back from the US, my father wanted me to work with him. I set up some companies and fell in love with this company. After 10 years, we were ready to transform and do something else. I admire my father very much; he was a brilliant and successful entrepreneur. When I asked to go in a new direction and to step aside, he accepted. We wanted to leave behind the company's mindset and enter a new culture. Culture is about company behavior. We started this new process in 1995. It was about having people engaged and happy. You must convert the supply chain of your customers into a value chain through the effort of your company. When trying to sell a product or a service, the first thing one does is tell the client how marvelous the company is, how great the products are, and how amazing the infrastructure is. However, clients are not interested in that. When the language is not just about you, but your customer's customer, and when you are able to visualize, learn, and understand their language and speak it, it is a valuable relationship. Your purpose is the consequence of their purpose.

How have you helped spread this culture to other companies?
At first, it was extremely difficult. To make it clear and create new protocols, we held a goodbye party for the old culture and a welcome party for the new culture. We started strong; our promise was to never give up or stop, be persistent, and never look back. After a while, we managed to organize everything. Now, we can explain the entire culture in a simple way. Universities and institutions started reaching out to us, and I now give 40 talks annually about our culture. I even gave a TED Talk on our culture. Today, we are in the process of transforming 37 companies, which is amazing. To change the world, you have to do it day by day, company by company. Our purpose of changing this country is to be generous and open. We want to create abundance so we can approach clients with more tools and possibilities. We want every company to do well, even our competitors, so we can create abundance. If companies are structuring themselves to give their people a purpose and not simply see them as resources, we can begin to change.