“Be Laser-Focused From The Start On Building A Great Culture” 5 Leadership Lessons from Alex Robbio, Co-founder Belatrix Software
Your company culture is what will make your company great (or sink). Businesses go bust because they accept a poor culture — just look at what happened with Enron or the troubles Uber is currently going through. As the saying goes, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, and it’s absolutely true. When you become CEO, this must be your top priority — have zero tolerance towards politics, or any kind of toxic or unethical behavior. Work hard to build a strong culture emphasizing professionalism, learning, and striving to achieve excellence.
I had the pleasure to interview Alex Robbio, President and Co-founder, Belatrix Software. Alex has played a pivotal role in transforming Belatrix from a small Argentinean IT Services firm to a specialist global innovation firm enjoying year over year, double digit growth. In his capacity as President, Alex drives the firm’s strategic planning efforts. Traveling frequently, Alex meets regularly with Belatrix’s clients which include not only Fortune level established firms, but also mid-stage fast growth firms. Alex also represents Belatrix at international industry events and other key industry organizations. Prior to Belatrix, Alex held several high-ranking positions at important software companies both in Argentina and the US. Alex earned a bachelor of science in psychology with honors from National University of San Luis, San Luis, Argentina. He later obtained a graduate certificate in business management from the National Technological University (UTN), in Mendoza, Argentina. He then completed the Kellogg Management Program, at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, in Chicago.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up in a small-town in Argentina, called Mendoza. It’s a beautiful city located at the foothills of the Andes. But while the city is well-known for producing delicious Malbec wines, thirty years ago there were few other opportunities. It was also a tough time economically in the country.
After struggling for a while working in sales with an old car that kept breaking down, one day my wife (without telling me), bought tickets to the USA. From there we took any job we could find, such as stacking shelves in a supermarket. Finally, I found a job working in technology, and my boss at the time was struggling to find people. I saw an opportunity here, so I connected with my father and brother back in Mendoza, and suggested that with our connections in Argentina, we could help him find technology experts there. And that was the start of Belatrix! In the following years we’ve become one of the fastest growing technology services companies in Latin America.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
We have always been fully bootstrapped as we never took any outside investments, nor were we able to obtain financing, so we had to get creative. In fact, we jokingly say that we invented the BYOD (bring your own device) movement, because as we didn’t have funds to purchase the first computers. We only hired people that would be willing to bring their own PCs. What’s funny is that back then no-one had laptops so they would actually bring desktop computers. We ended up inventing a solution to make them “portable” by attaching a fixed door knob to them!
How does your company help people?
We help our customers create incredible digital experiences. While Belatrix is a software company that plays in the outsourcing space, we do so with a different model, one which we call “digital innovation on demand”. This means we help companies, ranging from cool Silicon Valley start-ups to large household names, create great digital products quickly and at a competitive cost. Ultimately organizations look to us to help them create powerful digital experiences for their customers.
Our delivery centers are in Latin America and we are located in the same or similar time zone as our clients. This means we can communicate in real-time. This combined with interesting cultural characteristics, allow for rich collaboration with our customers and their end users, ultimately allowing them to go to market sooner, with better digital products and at lower costs.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
For me, being successful means having a positive impact on society. Our biggest achievement has been providing new opportunities to people from low resource or disadvantaged communities in Latin America. By providing them with the opportunity to develop themselves professionally we’re able to help them make real changes to their and their families’ lives. It’s incredible seeing people who, when they joined us, had never taken a flight before or had never left their home country, now working with some of the largest and most prestigious companies in the world.
Our people have also started charities as well as launched relationships with existing ones, which are then supported by our employees as well as the company. One of the most successful is a scholarship for children in need, in partnership with FONBEC (http://www.fonbec.org.ar/)
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.
- Be laser-focused from the start on building a great culture. Your company culture is what will make your company great (or sink). Businesses go bust because they accept a poor culture — just look at what happened with Enron or the troubles Uber is currently going through. As the saying goes, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, and it’s absolutely true. When you become CEO, this must be your top priority — have zero tolerance towards politics, or any kind of toxic or unethical behavior. Work hard to build a strong culture emphasizing professionalism, learning, and striving to achieve excellence.
- It’s rewarding, but also exhausting, particularly when you’re getting started. Building a business and achieving success is incredibly rewarding. Seeing the impact that you can make on people’s lives makes it worthwhile. But it’s also both mentally and physically exhausting. In my job I travel extensively, which is both a great opportunity to meet fascinating people, but also means long periods of time away from my family.
- It sounds cliché, but look to turn your weakness into a strength. For example, we started the company in a small town in Argentina and while there were highly-educated people due to good universities, they had limited experiences. That spurred us to create and invest significantly into a comprehensive training and development program. Today this training program and our investment in our people, has become one of our key differentiators to our competition.
- Don’t expect to become the next Steve Jobs. While we all want to build the next Facebook or Apple, in reality the vast majority of successful, profitable businesses, won’t achieve the same level of astronomic success. I like to look at these companies to learn from them and how they make decisions, but don’t judge my performance against them.
- Make sure you find good partners and develop a strong management team. For too long my co-founders and I were the sole decision makers in the company. When we started to grow quickly, we soon found ourselves exhausted by the daily grind, and this meant we weren’t spending enough time thinking about and planning for the future. It’s extremely important to hire good people and build a strong team around you. We should also never forget that non-business partners also have a significant impact on the business — I am referring to spouses, children and close family members. It’s important to keep them excited about the vision and the potential of the venture, because without their support it’s hard to sustain the sacrifices that building a business from scratch demands.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.
As a citizen, I would love to have a one on one, unscripted, no cameras and unrecorded conversation with President Trump. I have such a hard time understanding some of the things he does and says, that I’d really like to understand his frame of mind and be able to separate what is an act, what is really intentional, and what might be a misunderstanding.