Three years ago, Andrés Sendagorta and Ignacio Fuente, a pair of business consultants who had been searching for a small company in Spain to lead, took the reins at Frenkit, which specializes in the manufacture and distribution of brake components for passenger cars and light vehicles.
In this latest TBR Leadership Spotlight, the Co-CEOs discuss why they went from the consulting side to the management side of business; what they plan for Frenkit in the future and their management style
What is your current role and area of responsibility?
(Andrés) Ignacio and I are currently Co-CEO’s of Frenkit. We arrived at Frenkit three years ago, with no previous experience in aftermarket. We had stable and promising careers in multi-national consulting and banking firms, but we dreamed of piloting a little company in our country Spain. After two years searching for that company, we found Frenkit. The founder had no clear succession plan and was willing to retire, so it was the perfect match.
We divide our roles the following way: Ignacio takes care of the operational and financial areas and I am responsible for new business development, sales and marketing.
How would you describe your work/leadership style and why has it worked so well for you?
(Andrés) I tend to trust and delegate. It has been an enormous challenge to jump into this sector at the speed that it is moving. We entered in the company with a humble approach. We listened to all the team and asked many questions. Now thanks to that exercise we have a clear path and a direction. Frenkit is a young company, with young employees. We treat employees the way we like ourselves to be treated. We don’t like to micro-manage We like to have smart and hard-working people, it’s not normally the case, but if we had to choose between both of them we prefer hard working. One last factor we really appreciate is the eagerness to learn, it’s crucial due to the changing environment we live in.
What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?
(Ignacio) In this past three years we have focused on transforming and modernizing the internal and external processes of the company. Specifically, we have invested a lot of time structuring and organizing the vast amount of information and data the company had. We invested a great amount of time in the conversion of our catalog into Aces and Pies and we have hired a highly talented team based in the U.S. Now is time to push our product and select the correct channels. Outside the U.S. our biggest challenge is to engage and connect with the end user of our product.
What do you look for when evaluating top talent?
(Ignacio) We look for people with young and fresh spirit. People that question the way things work and individuals able to multitask. We believe that each employee needs to embrace the project of the company as its own project. In Frenkit we have the “trial and error” philosophy.
What is the best career advice you have been given?
(Andrés) It’s a very good question, I have in my mind a career advice I was given 10 years ago referring to the professional space: “learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.” I personally understand it as try always to move forward out of your comfort zone and enjoy it.
What can you tell us about your company and the markets you serve?
(Andrés) We are based in Pamplona, northern Spain. We are a small company with 35 employees, but we have a multinational spirit as we export more than 95 percent of our sales to over 60 countries. We are super specialized in brake repair kits, mainly caliper and drum, with more than 10,000 references and more than 700,000 applications for EU and U.S.A. We also have a wide range of references for master and slave cylinder. We mainly sell to wholesalers and retailers, and we are a key supplier for top reman caliper companies in Europe. We are very excited to continue our growth in existing and new markets.
What are the toughest challenges facing your organization now, in the near term and the long term?
(Ignacio) One advantage of having a well-established niche product is that we normally work with top one or two wholesaler in each country, so we have exposure to the top players in the aftermarket industry in various markets. Thanks to that, we can anticipate structural changes in the industry. The aftermarket automotive industry is undergoing a deep transformation and we are aware that technology and data will play a very important role in the coming years. We try to get ready for that to have a leading role within the aftermarket.
What sets your company apart from your competitors?
(Ignacio) That question should be answered by our clients… We know they value our quality and our straightforward, close, and problem-solving approach. Reman companies value availability and have daily contact with our technical team. Distributors, value the quality of service (fast delivery with 95 percent service rate) and post-sale services: technical support in eight languages, our policy to answer any question in 24 hours, training program for the workshops…
What are the best opportunities for the company?
(Andrés) Our great opportunity for our company is to expand our operations in the American continent. We have invested many hours of development, now it is time to hit the market. In the medium run we see a clear opportunity in a changing environment, like I said before technology and data will be key, we will be prepared.
Tell us something that most people might not know about you or your organization.
(Andrés) One thing I’m most proud is that we collaborate with three local not-for-profit organizations. We have more than 10,000 references in our catalog. Such a huge range make automatization of assembling the kits very difficult. 75 percent of our kits are assembled by more than 90 disabled people working in those not for profits. They highly value having a stable job. Frenkit is a company with the clear goal of giving the workshop all the tools to repair any brake, but we do it trying to excel with all the stakeholders: employees, distributors, suppliers.