A father who has never ceased to be by our side.
It’s been ten years since our father departed. But his spirit and his work, his example as an entrepreneur, as a businessman, as a good man and as a father is still so present in our memory and in our hearts, in our work and in our family, that it is as if he had never left; as if he remained by our side, every day; advising us, supporting us, teaching us, encouraging us to keep dreaming, guiding us towards the right path. Ten years later, he is still our father and teacher. For is, this is unquestionably his finest legacy, much more important than the company, much more valuable than corporate or professional success.
His reference, his values are always there, present and fresh. We use them every day, in conferences, in negotiations, in presentations; he inspires and helps us, he gives us strength and confidence. A reference that is not only present for us or our family, but also for the Group. Our decision to place an image of “the Boss” in every factory and in every headquarters, is precisely because the values of the company are embodied there, they are summarized in that figure, in that expression so solid and human at the same time, in that gaze of strength and determination.
His story is that of a man who was not afraid to take risks in order to realize his dreams, who did not retreat before walls that were a priori insurmountable, who did not deviate one iota from his principles and values. The story of a successful businessman, yes; but above all of a worker, which is what Francisco Riberas was all his life, from the age of thirteen to the age of seventy-eight. A tireless, demanding, willing, honest, non-conformist worker. And brave, which is precisely what distinguishes the entrepreneur, his differential value. A self-made man who never stopped fighting, as a worker and as an entrepreneur.
To quote Sir Winston Churchill, whose common sense led him to never surrender to political correctness, “Many look upon the businessman as the wolf to be brought down; others look upon him as the cow to be milked; but very few look upon him as the horse that pulls the cart.” This is, of course, a correct definition and a just vindication of the figure of the businessman, so reviled, so misunderstood. This is exactly how we knew and lived, from a very young age, the figure of our father. A noble and strong horse, pulling a cart loaded with dreams and difficulties, never-ending days and responsibilities, effort and opportunities that he never wasted; or that he created himself. A cart also loaded with success. A deserved success that never went to his head, that did not prevent him from continuing to pull the cart year after year, decade after decade until his definitive retirement, forced by age and health.
He knew how to transmit us the courage and responsibility that this burden implied. He told us that our lives would be lives of effort and total dedication to the company, and he taught us to desire it, to be grateful for it and to bear it. As if he were following Louis Pasteur’s dictum: “Do not spare your children the difficulties of life but teach them to overcome them”. He left us all his business and human knowledge, gave us the tools and showed us the way. He taught us to look up, always forward, without fear, with nopreconceived limits.
nd, above all, he entrusted us with his ethical values; honesty, generosity, humility, effort, merit, non conformity, passion; to think always of others, permanently responsible for those around you, for society, for the planet that we will leave as an inheritance to our children. This is the philosophy that has guided us since we entered the family business and that we have tried to follow as best we could: to be an industrial group that creates value in the long term, with principles based on the legacy that our father passed on to us.
He is no longer with us, but he has left us his values; values that are the basis of Gonvarri/Gestamp corporate culture, of everything we know how to do. We are talking about the value of a job well done, of trust in relation to our clients, of honesty and gratitude; we are talking about responsibility in relation to our people and also to society in general, which is the ultimate reason driving us to give life to this project and this book, the possibility of sharing this valuable legacy with the whole Gonvarri/Gestamp family – a large family that now exceeds forty thousand people – and with all of society, especially with the new generations. They are the future, and it is in our hands to decide what legacy, what values, what lessons we want to leave them.
Paco and Jon Riberas Mera
Difficulties prepare men for extraordinary destinies, British writer C.S. Lewis tells us. And in the case of the founder of Gonvarri, this statement could not be truer. Francisco Riberas Pampliega did not go to university, nor was he able to finish his secondary school studies; he did not speak any foreign languages and did not come from a wealthy family; nor did he have any business experience when he set up his first business, at a time and in an environment that was not exactly conducive to success. What Riberas did have was enormous willpower, an unlimited capacity for dedication – to his work and to others – and an unusual intelligence; and also iron willed values that marked his life and business career throughout his life. Family, generosity, courage, tenacity, humility, honesty, an inexhaustible desire to learn, a passion for his work, and his boundless humanity.
All this made Francisco Riberas an extraordinary and one-of-a-kind businessman, who turned his destiny around and strove to succeed in a world that, a priori, denied him any possibilities. But destiny did not count on Riberas’ stubbornness, illusion and courage; it did not know his creative talent or his infinite spirit of sacrifice. It did not know that his engine was, precisely, his undying nonconformity.
And destiny was finally forced to give in, opening the way for him to the most resounding success. A success worked for day after day, minute after minute, from the time Riberas was a mere 13 years old.
“There is a driving force more powerful than steam, electricity or atomic energy: the will”, an undeniable truth that Albert Einstein himself would have dedicated to Francisco Riberas if he had known him. In a world brimming with opportunities and facilities like the present one – times of globalization, technology and limitless training – it is difficult to understand the context in which Riberas created one of Europe’s largest business groups from scratch.
Because the “nothingness” of the Spanish postwar period is light years away from the “nothing” of today’s Spain. The former was an almost absolute zero. Literally. And now, with the term “entrepreneur” so much in vogue, it is worth remembering that at that time a breed of entrepreneurs existed who would be very difficult to find today. Made of different stuff. Tough. Tenacious. Tireless. Heroes of flesh and blood and sweat. Authentic Quixotes facing, without spear or armor, the giants of misery and a total lack of resources, aid or subsidies. And also, authentic creators, according to the first meaning of the term: “To produce something from nothing”. The perfect definition of a Businessman, with a capital “B”, that term today so unjustly denounced, which is synonymous with being brave, dynamic, committed, honest, hard-working, self-sacrificing…
Riberas was, without a doubt, one of those Quixotes who created companies in the Spanish post-war period. And one of its greatest exponents, taking into account the distance between his starting point and his destination. From one end to the other on the chart. From nothing to the most resounding success.
Francisco Riberas, like Leonardo Da Vinci, was a man of many souls. A restless being, with so many different talents (social, business, cultural, human…); and a personality that was certainly not one dimensional, but rather complex and multifaceted. He had a great capacity to get excited and inspired and to excite and inspire others, which is the essence of leadership. His mind was always open to everything around him, which made up for his poor schooling; he had an undying predisposition to learn. From a very young age, barely a child, he stood up to life and faced it with extraordinary maturity, mettle and courage. And with an unshakeable moral solidity. His deep humanity, his sensitive, cordial and generous character, forged in his environment a prestige without fissures. But he was also appreciated as a tough, solid businessman and fearsome negotiator. He knew how to surround himself with a team created in his image and likeness, of committed, hard-working and loyal men; self-made, like him. And he also knew how to infuse his children, almost from childhood, with the goal – the dream – of giving continuity to his legacy. They, Paco and Jon, took the baton with enthusiasm and responsibility and have taken the business group their father created to the very top, both domestically and internationally. Number one in Spain and one of the first in Europe in the steel processing and automotive component stamping industry; in addition to other activities related to road safety, renewable energies, industry and logistics.
It is not often that one finds businessmen who have forged an empire in such a personal way, having started from such a humble condition (from adversity, which was their school and their spur). A genuine odyssey, on a par with other great Spanish businessmen and creators such as Ramón Areces and Amancio Ortega, whom Francisco Riberas sincerely admired. And yet, he has remained a virtually unknown figure in his own country, despite having proudly taken the Spanish brand to four continents, generated wealth in advanced and developing countries and provided jobs for tens of thousands of people.
The story of Francisco Riberas is an epic one that goes beyond the limits that life or destiny set for him. From the far off post war days of a peripheral neighborhood of Madrid, through years of deprivation and fear, to the years of business success and of the creation of one of the most important companies in the world in its sector. And it is also an invaluable lesson in entrepreneurship that surpasses any prestigious MBA. And yet, the business still maintains its family roots and remains faithful to the business and humanist values of its founder, which have defined it since its birth.
The history of Gonvarri is the story of Francisco Riberas. The story of six decades of hard work without rest, of passion and total dedication; the story of a life without respite, of the traveling of a path paved with renunciations, effort and tenacity, and also of love for his family and his profession. A story of success that has not yet reached its destination, one that continues to enjoy the journey.
Today, the company that Francisco Riberas founded in 1958 has won the respect of steelmakers all over the world. A business giant that nevertheless maintains its roots and its family business spirit. A factor that allows it to continue being a company that is atypical in almost everything: in its timetable, in the way it works, in the training and promotion of its staff, in its deep involvement in CSR, in its business ethics. And, above all, in the values of its founder, which are its most precious legacy.
This foundational legacy left by Francisco Riberas, these ethical and business values that marked Gonvarri’s path from the beginning, are what also inspired the creation of Emotional Driving five years ago. An important project of training, awareness-raising and action that has constantly kept the company’s purpose in mind: Doing well by doing Good. Only by acting well do we manage to do things right; by believing in what we do, acting honestly and coherently. And in the case of Emotional Driving, acting well means only one thing: saving lives. This and no other is the ultimate goal of the program. And, based on the results achieved over these five years, we can proudly say that we are on the right track, but we are aware that we still have a long way to go and many lives to save.
Emotional Driving is another example of Gonvarri’s coherence as a company committed to its employees and to society. A coherent and committed business model based on that goal inspired by the founder -Doing Well by Doing Good-; which is developed in an area very near to us, Road Safety, and through a unique story based on positive motivation (the Emotional Driving program); which seeks to contribute its grain of sand to the Sustainable Development Goals promulgated by the United Nations; and which, with the invaluable collaboration of equally committed associations and companies, reaches all road safety target groups in different ways and in a convincing and effective manner: from Gonvarri’s employees (Our Drivers) to youngsters (Future Drivers), including children, through the awareness of their parents (Motivated Drivers), transport professionals or groups with intellectual disabilities. The entire value chain. And a whole chain of values, linked to each other in concrete actions that have a common focus, people, and a clear priority: to achieve “Goal Zero” (zero fatalities). An attainable goal, but only if we all – companies, professionals, associations, public administrations and civil society – strive in the same direction.
Emotional Driving’s journey began five years ago, during which time we have already traveled a good stretch. And although we still have a long way to go, we have an enormous advantage: an unbeatable starting point, a team of truly motivated and enthusiastic drivers and the constant and undying inspiration of Francisco Riberas’ values and principles.
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