Cándido Granés, president of INOXPA, is a businessman who sees opportunities and seizes them. Ahead of his time, he is not afraid of failure or making mistakes. In 1972 Cándido Granés was working as a salesman for Bombas Félez, an old water pump business in Banyoles, when he saw a future in another market and decided to try his luck. He founded Inoxpa, a specialist manufacturer of stainless steel pumps for the food sector. Today the Girona-based company is a leader in the sector and operates in five continents.
The company defines itself as a global business with local roots, committed to service and a love for its country...
30 years ago, when I began the "adventure" of exporting, I couldn't foresee the impact of this decision or how important it would be for the future expansion of Inoxpa: a presence in global markets is vital for today's businesses. In the 1980s, when I took the decision to export, my main idea was to make our products technically better by having them compete with those of foreign manufacturers.
Is international expansion essential?
In 2000, when markets were opened up, the arrival of foreign products in Spain was noticeable and I set myself the challenge that for every pump, valve or piece of equipment that my competitors sold in the Spanish market we should double our sales abroad. Today the idea of dividing the sales division between national and exports sounds strange, as Inoxpa is in the world and we do not distinguish markets by nationality; we are a competitive organisation and strive to have a presence in the five continents, communicating with customers in each country in their own language (over 15 different languages).
Is being small a handicap for innovating or developing an international presence?
No. Every business should do it to the best of its abilities; any company can export if it draws on its strengths, whether it is to Portugal or to Australia.
How did Inoxpa start?
Inoxpa is not the result of a strategic plan, it comes largely from the DNA I inherited from my parents. They had a small printing business and thanks to hours of dedication and hard work managed to bring up a family in the hard years after the Spanish Civil War. They passed on to me the character and determination needed to start a business. There are concepts like risk, universality and constant improvement that reflect a certain way of being and I have attempted to make them part of Inoxpa. The company has only grown thanks to restless determination, experience and a good team of professionals.
What are the greatest problems you have encountered?
The 1993 recession had a profound effect on me and we went through a very difficult period. It taught me that selling, researching and so on were very important but that you always have to have the management of the company under control.
Nowadays there is a lot of talk about doing research, being global etc. but the importance of management is not emphasised and this is fundamental for a business, the company's strategies have to be geared to making a profit. Otherwise, it's difficult for it to have any future.
For you, what's the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
Being able to have dreams, express them in targets and assume the risks involved in facing the unknown. Also, offering new opportunities for those in the Inoxpa Group to undertake training and gain expertise and experience.
Are the characteristics of a successful businessman inborn?
For any activity in life a certain mental profile is needed, so I assume the same is true if you want to be a businessman. Nevertheless, nowadays an entrepreneurial attitude needs to go hand in hand with training in centres specialising in business management.
How has your company adapted to change in an increasingly globalised world?
The markets in this globalised world are not uniform, so you have to adapt products to the way of life in each of the economic areas you want to export to. We are currently looking into setting up operations in four different countries (Egypt, Morocco, Angola and Senegal). The first step we have considered necessary is to contract a sales specialist in each country to visit customers to analyse the most interesting sectors, see what products they make, what machinery they use and, lastly, find out about other questions such as legal matters, areas in which we could set up business, etc. In short, you have to find out what economic environment you are going to operate in.
If an entrepreneur wanted to enter a sector like yours, what factors would they need to take into account to succeed?
Above all, they would need to analyse which is the most suitable market, starting by finding out how the European market accepts their product. I would also recommend them to look for a partner or advisor and someone with specialised knowledge. Then, go for it!
What's the secret behind your company strong results?
Always meeting your commitments.
In your experience as a businessman, what mistakes have you made? Would you recommend future entrepreneurs to avoid them or are they an important part of the learning process you have to go through in order to succeed?
As I said, in the 1993 recession I suffered the consequences of not having paid enough attention to the management of the company.
Having learnt my lesson, I would urge all future entrepreneurs not to neglect this area and to give it their fullest attention.
Even so, a good businessman should not be afraid of failure or making mistakes, provided that it enables them to make amends and move on.
Your SME has received numerous awards, including the SME of the Year award presented by CEPYME. What makes Inoxpa stand out from the crowd? What added value can you bring to an ever more competitive market?
I believe the two main pillars supporting the expansion of the company are innovation, together with the globalisation of markets. In a medium-sized company like Inoxpa, there is not much scope for innovation in general. However, in the emerging markets which represent 50% of our output, we try to improve customers' manufacturing processes, using plants which are suitable for small production volumes. An example would be mini-dairies, producing between 500 and 5,000 litres a day, compared with dairies producing 1 million litres a day in developed markets. In short, we must innovate in line with the needs of each market.
Given the importance of innovation in today's markets, what should the company do in order to innovate?
Developing new equipment and providing support for specialist food processing centres is extremely important, as the techniques for manufacturing equipment necessarily go hand in hand with the technology involved in the processes for manufacturing food products.
What factors do you believe help or hinder the business?
I don't know what support businesses get in other countries but I can give you three good examples of help we have received: In Portugal, a country which has been hit hard by the recession, Inoxpa has a manufacturing centre and a technical department for developing equipment. Three years ago we were granted a loan to develop equipment for the pharmaceutical industry. Under the loan agreement, if we achieved certain employment and export targets, we would be reimbursed 50% of the amount granted, and I can confirm that this has been honoured in full. India, where we have an R&D centre for valves and pumps for the food industry, offers tax credits of 200% on investments in innovation. In the 40 years we have been operating in Spain we have been granted several long-term loans. Since the recession started there have been fewer tax breaks. The economy is improving according to the government and we are sure that this will boost the creation of new research centres and the development of new products by companies.
A crisis teaches us to survive and fight on, making the company stronger
Is there anything which causes particular problems for an SME?
Today's business world is ever more complex in terms of legislation, tax rules, regulations, standards, market research, innovation, etc. This makes managing a business more complicated and its organisational structure more complex, costly and difficult to support. It is therefore vital that business associations set up strong support units with specialised staff that business people can turn to for advice and help. The government and business associations understand this, but we lack structures to coordinate all this assistance so we feel we are properly supported. For example, we discovered that a competitor from a major emerging economy is selling in the Spanish market at the same price as its parent company is selling in its own country. We wondered how this was possible, and talked to two business associations and a chamber of commerce, but the answers we received were vague and inconsistent.
The secret to surviving the recession
We must remember that neither the boom nor the bust will last forever. In times of plenty we should build up our savings and establish a solvent base for the business in preparation for the lean times. Conversely, we should take advantage of the economic slowdown to seek opportunities that give us an advantage over the competition. If planning ahead is the key to survival, clearly we cannot get through these ups and downs just by being optimistic or pessimistic depending on which stage of the cycle we are in.
The pros and cons of surviving a crisis
I believe a crisis teaches us to survive and fight on, making us stronger as individuals and as a company: we must treat what we go through today as experience for the future. The downside is maybe the sense of isolation you have when facing a difficult and uncertain future.
Without innovation, without seeking new markets, is there any future?
We asked ourselves this question in the 1980s and that was when we expanded into the French market and opened a sales office in Perpignan.
Your strategic plan now involves investing in developing countries. Why?
I don't think we have to choose between emerging and developed countries, we need to be operating in both areas. In emerging markets, this means selling equipment for the production of basic foodstuffs and monitoring standards of living there. As these rise, consumers' needs will increase and they will demand more nutritional food products. In developed countries we have to concentrate on specialised equipment and expertise for the high-end cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. We need to focus less on countries and more on major specialist production centres (Paris for high end cosmetics, Switzerland for pharmaceuticals, etc.).
Where should Inoxpa be in five years time?
I am firmly convinced that honest, hard work must be rewarded and this will put us at the forefront in our sector. I am not just talking about the company, this includes all the people working for Inoxpa, who should also benefit in terms of knowledge and wellbeing, as well as financially.
One of Inoxpa's key assets is its human capital. Why is this?
The future of a company doesn't depend on just one person; it depends on all its employees, whose knowledge, commitment and hard work all contribute to the brand.
What would you say to the people who work by your side?
Inoxpa, which started as a personal venture, will prosper if we can inspire everyone who works with us, and if our hard work and commitment to service and ongoing improvement mean that we are recognised in the market as a solid, respectable and reliable brand.
- The key to success in business: Perseverance
- A clear target: Good health
- A favourite place: Banyoles and its lake
- A place to get lost in: India
- Your favourite dish: Bread with tomato and ham.
- To drink: Wine
- Hobbies: INOXPA
- Sports: Globe trotting
- Football team? Barça
- A Film: Out of Africa
- Time to ... think