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6 febrero 2023

Berta Lorente: “The family business is a life project”

Go Aragón interviews Berta Lorente, CEO of the Zaragoza-based graphic arts company Zaforsa and vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce.

Berta Lorente (Zaragoza, 1968) is CEO of Zaforsa, a family-owned graphic arts company, and vice-president of the Zaragoza Chamber of Commerce. Together with her brother-in-law, Jesús Glaria, she leads a business group that has been in business for 50 years and represents the second generation.

You are vice-president of the Zaragoza Chamber of Commerce and CEO of Zaforsa, how do you combine both facets?

It has been a long learning process, because I have been in the Chamber of Commerce for 20 years now, which is a long time. I joined very young and the responsibilities I had in the family business were not the ones I have at the moment. Throughout the different legislatures and thanks to the confidence of the president Manuel Teruel and, now, of the president Jorge Villaroya, I have been climbing in the same within the corporation. It is done in the best way one can, and it has also caught me with the older children. Obviously my family supports me and I have a team that helps me to free myself at a given moment, as well as in the Chamber of Commerce where they make it easy for me. I believe that we can all do more than what we do in our spheres of influence.

The family business you lead is now in its second generation?

Yes, Jesús -Glaria- and I represent the second generation and at the moment there is a member of the third generation who is in the process of training. We are very hopeful that in the third generation there will be more than one member, more children or nephews will participate in a life project because yes, at the end of the day, the family business is a life project. And we are laying new foundations for the company to continue and progress.

Is it a challenge to take charge of the family legacy?

It is very complicated because family businesses force you to be at the front of the line. And if, on top of that, you have to make sure that the next generation is up to the task, it is difficult. I think it is more difficult now than when my father passed the baton to Jesús and me, because the circumstances of the environment had nothing to do with what we are living now. Life was much ‘slower’, everything was much slower, decision making was much slower, and investments were long-term because machines lasted forever….. Now, when we make investments in machinery, after a year or months they are practically obsolete and the ways of communicating with our customers have also changed a lot. And then there are other circumstances that we are experiencing at the moment. I think that now preparing the next generations is more complicated and more difficult challenges for them.

Inflation, the war in Ukraine, the aftermath of the pandemic… what is the outlook with this scenario?

For us, the 2008 crisis was an open window for new developments and we took advantage of it to innovate a lot within the company. We did quite well. However, the crisis or the quasi-recession that we seem to be starting to have now, we don’t really know which way it is going to go. I think the environment is one of high uncertainty. The war in Ukraine has disrupted all our plans. Specifically, it has affected us a lot in terms of raw material availability and costs. Exorbitant price growth, with more than eleven price increases during the year, which is very difficult to pass on to the customer. In addition, there is a shortage of many raw materials, which has forced us to go back to ‘stocking’ as we did in the 90s.

What initiatives from the public sector could help companies to cope better with this situation?

I am a little critical with the political part, in the sense that they should listen and live a little closer to what society, and specifically, the companies, are living at this moment. In the end, companies, in some way, feel co-responsible for the country’s sustainability. I am talking about companies and workers as well, because companies are made up of people. Political decisions should be aimed at ensuring that companies have the best conditions to compete and survive, and that these conditions are the same throughout the country. More than 80% of the companies in this country are family businesses, which are passed from generation to generation and, therefore, the best conditions must be established so that there is an easy intergenerational transfer, so that the new generations want to get involved and it does not cost them much money to give continuity to the family business. If we all become dependent on the State, the State alone cannot sustain itself. There has to be co-responsibility and listen more to the companies.

What strengths and weaknesses do we have in this territory?

I believe that we Aragonese are very brave and that what we are achieving in recent years is to lose part of the complex that we had been having, thanks to many initiatives that have been given visibility by the public sector, but which have been led by companies. Aragon is the best strategically located autonomous community in Spain and this is giving us a lot of opportunities, not only in logistics. A lot of very interesting projects are being developed, which will help Aragon to become a reference community in a few years, where young people will want to come to study and set up their businesses. I think we have to believe it and we all have to work together so that this life project of the Aragonese people is fulfilled, which, in the end, is to the benefit of Spain.

Do you want to continue in this line of getting rid of complexes?

Yes, I have visited many companies, not only outside Aragon, but also companies in my sector outside Spain, large companies, and when we have visited them, we have found it surprising that our company seemed wonderful, not only because it is well equipped with production equipment, but also with professional teams, since our workers are very involved, we are a dynamic service company and what we have to do is that, to go abroad and to love ourselves. We have more customers outside Aragon than in Aragon and one of my tasks has been to give visibility to our company within our autonomous community. I believe that the Chamber, without a doubt, has helped us in this and I would like to thank it for that.

Are you planning to open new markets?

We work outside Spain very little, we work a little with France and directly with clients in the agri-food sector as well as in the leisure and events sector. We work mainly in Spain. Probably, our internal orientation, which for many years has been focused on the product, is now more oriented towards service and technological service. And now we have projects, which are still too early to comment on, with important clients, multinationals, who also want to count on a company like ours. That is why I say that we should not have any complexes, that there are big companies that are now on the lips of the politicians of the community and that count on companies like ours. We are going to grow in new products linked to companies and I think we are going to work a lot on the technological line.

Speaking of technology, has the world of printing changed a lot in recent years?

Very much so. Traditional printing, analog printing, has fallen and, on the contrary, digital printing has risen. But quality has also fallen, with the disappearance of profiles that no longer exist, such as proofreaders, and now we complain that mistakes are being made. This directly affects the people who make up your team. What is our difference with respect to other companies? We have this service incorporated free of charge for our client. But, of course, that goes against our own muscle.

I am a fan and an advocate of paper, I believe that the history of companies is only transmitted through paper. When we talk about centenary companies, we look for those stories, those catalogs, those calendars, those documents that prove that the company is 100 years old. And those do not appear on a flash drive, on a CD that you can no longer read, on an iCloud that you no longer remember what the password is. And they don’t appear on the cell phone you’ve changed and haven’t backed up. They appear on those vestiges of paper or on that label, if you are in the world of wine, which you treasure because it is from the year 35. You have to act responsibly, you cannot use analog printing that is not necessary, which does not mean that you stop using the support, a support that is also sustainable. But, come on, the trend is towards digital and we have also made a clear commitment to digital.

You have been linked as a company to cultural initiatives, such as the Aragón Negro Festival (FAN) and solidarity initiatives, do you think that the company should also have a social commitment?

We are a tremendously humanist company and with humanism goes ethics. We understand that the company is an extension of the family, we spend more time together those of us who are sharing space than, sometimes, the time we spend with our own families. And that requires internal commitment and ethics. Ethics that we also apply to our clients, who are necessary collaborators. Many of our customers have been the major drivers of investments we have made and of new developments and products. And that means we have to act transparently and responsibly. I believe that ethics is the word that best defines our company. As we are a service company, there are many social organizations that ask for our collaboration. We are not an NGO but, as far as possible, we try to help many of these organizations.

The FAN is a purely cultural commitment, but I would like to highlight our commitment to entrepreneurship. We are an active part of a non-profit association called Generando Futuro in which we help not only young people, but also young and not so young people who launch a business project. For one year, the companies that make up the association provide them with our services free of charge, accompanying them in the process of being and becoming a company. I believe that this is also part of our commitment to the environment. We have been committed to Aspanoa and Atades for many years…

Your sister Belén is a correspondent for TVE in Lisbon, did you imagine when you were little you would reach such high goals?

Belén, specifically, I never imagined that she would be a journalist, because the reality is that she wanted to be a veterinarian and started studying chemistry. But at a certain point, she decided that journalism was her life and she organized the interview on her own, she studied at the University of Navarra (private). In my case, I never thought I was going to be a lawyer, in fact, I am not a lawyer now, I am a businesswoman. I liked architecture, also quite far from what I have become. In the end, life shows you that training is the starting point of a springboard that opens doors, or gives you the possibility of opening doors, and what you have to do is to try it out. Belén is a very brave woman. And I have another sister, Conchita, who works in the family business and is responsible for Human Resources.

What steps do we have to take as a society so that women can decide freely between their professional life and their family life or combine both facets?

Each person makes decisions or directs their vocations. There are women who decide to stay at home and focus on their families, and this option is as licit as the one taken by those who do not want to have children and dedicate themselves to a professional, managerial or political life without family commitments. In the end, these are doors that you open or close as you go through life. What we have to facilitate is that you can open or close those doors. This means that there has to be an egalitarian education, which has to start in families and schools and respect any opinion. We have to start from respect and facilitate things.

What should we do in Aragon so that companies sell more outside the community?

It depends on the sector, but, for example, in the agri-food sector, an important effort is being made together with tourism, so that citizens from outside Aragon come and have positive experiences and can get to know those products or services that are being worked so well by Aragonese companies. Besides, outside Spain, I believe that the umbrella has to be unique, which is the umbrella of Spain. I am super Aragonese, but when you go abroad, they do not know Spain as we know it ourselves. On the other hand, the effort that is being made so that Zaragoza, Huesca and Teruel have logistics platforms and companies from abroad come to set up there, means that the sale and positioning of what we produce in our community improves substantially. I believe that everything that comes from Aragon is very well received, it is perceived as competitive and of high quality.

Outside the chamber

A place to eat…

Out of affection, El Cachirulo. It was the restaurant where I celebrated my wedding and where I celebrated my children’s communion and baptism. But I think that in Aragon there are many places where you can get lost and enjoy yourself, the gastronomy has improved a lot.

A place in Aragon…
Panticosa.

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