Amansio Ortega is the founder of the industrial giant Inditex Group which unites the brands ZARA, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear, Stradivarius, Oysho and Bershka. The CEO, often discussed in global business articles, is now 80. For all his life he has been building the business based on the patterns of family life. The democratic principle of managing allows the employees of the company to speak mind and make decisions within personal responsibility. No one prescribes how to organize the range of products in the store, how much denim, tweed and knitted fabric should be bought. There is no finance managers giving orders in the pursuit of making profit. A great account is made of the opinion of those employees who work with clients directly.
Amansio Ortega has never had a private office. He prefers working next to the employees, watching what is happening in the departments, keeping up with all little things. At any moment the CEO can come to the design department to choose the button for a new jacket. Sometimes Ortega sits behind the sewing machine, clearly enjoying the very process. At work, he is not averse to talking with the needlewomen and asking how they families are doing. He convinces his managers: “You must love the people, know their families, understand their concerns and be next to them. Then the workers will devote themselves to the company.”
Everyone gets his due
Amansio Ortega is an appreciative employer, who generously rewards his workers for loyalty. For the 20th anniversary of the company, he presented the human resources manager a block of Inditex Group shares. As a true Spanish man, Ortega appreciates the atmosphere of family closeness. He keeps his eye so that inefficient workers do not get into the team, even to the positions of a sales assistant. That is why he conducts the job interviews personally at the office in Madrid. When estimating a candidate, Ortega gauges how sociable and enthusiastic he or she is. The candidate is taken if they are motivated and inquisitive. The same principle works with promotion. Taciturn managers who tend to sit out staff conferences are safe from career advancement.
From a sales assistant to a top manager
The overwhelming majority of the company’s managers (90%) had started their careers as sales assistants or from even lower positions, but reached the top. At some point Inditex Group even ceased hiring managers. The company has many positions, which one can attain: manager, deputy manager, coordinator, head cashier, plant manager etc. Thus for example, a former truck driver who delivered the goods to the sales outlets, now heads the department of men’s shirts.
Not “me” but “us”
The head of Zara Woman, Beatrix Padin, tells, that when she was appointed to the position, Ortega did not give any instructions, but once he gave an advice: “Never say: “I don’t like the clothing collection”. You’d better say: “We’ve made a mistake”. Ortega attach a great importance to the principle of sharing responsibility with workers. No talking about personal achievements, only teamwork matters. Thus, the company’s employee feels indispensable, as if he runs his own business and has direct impact on success and failure.
No celebrity designers
The creative department consist of 600 ordinary European designers. Inditex Group does not rely a celebrity in order to avoid risking. If an ordinary designer joins a competitive company, it will not make a disaster. Dior, for example, suffer losses every five or six years after another celebrity designer’s leave.
Making collective decisions
Some years ago the business news reported that Ortega was willing to buy Sephora. Makeup and perfume line was supposed to be launched in ZARA stores. The negotiation was almost finished, but the store managers speak out their protest. To their opinion, the company should not deal with the goods it hardly knows a thing about. Ortega was asked to cancel the decision. The SEO followed the voice of the staff and the deal was closed.