Interview with Don Lorenzo Servitje

lorenzo_servitje-1I had the great honor of interviewing the founder of Grupo Bimbo, Don Lorenzo Servitje. At 87 his mind is alive with ideas. His ability to express himself I found almost poetic.

Two things stood out in the interview: one, a deep appreciation for strong values and,  a fundamental understanding of the importance of past relationships on the future.

(The assumption is that those willing to learn from the past will have more complex thought process.  It may be that is that brain connections are influenced by family connections. That is the greater the connections between people, the greater the behavioral flexibility.  Flexible people are also less likely to be blinded by emotional reactions. Some have suggested that understanding your families past, without judgment, is likely to reduce one’s level of anxiety.)

Talk about complexity, his company was established in Mexico City in 1945 and over time, Grupo Bimbo, has become one of the three largest bakeries in the world in terms of production and sales volume.  They supply over one million points of sales in eighteen different countries, requiring them to deliver products daily to an outlet or a factory. The distant equivalent to traveling around the globe about 46 times a day. The company is committed to high productivity and responsible community projects such as reforestation. They reported sales of $5.9 billion dollars in 2006.  They have 76 plants and operate three trading agencies. (As an exercise think of what it would require of you to see and lead successfully in a system of this complexity.)

As I understand it, Don Lorenzo Servitje also helped found the society for entrepreneurs, USEM.  USEM organizes web seminars, distant learning and various kinds of meetings bringing new ideas to business people. It was through this organization and its director, Francisco Gonzalez, that I was invited to interview Don Lorenzo Servitje.

My first question was: How did your family encourage him to be a leader?

Don Lorenzo Servitje said that he was not sure if his family thought he would be a good leader but that his mother had a very high opinion of him. Her ideas were based on some facts, as he was usually second or third in his class in school.  He noted, that “I was not afraid to talk with people and I was able to perform well. My mother was my main interest as my father died when I was 18.”

I asked Don Lorenzo Servitje, “Are you the oldest son in your family?”  He noted that, “I had an older brother but he died when I was four years old and then I became the oldest son. I also had a sister who was three years younger and two younger brothers. One was ten years younger and the other eleven years younger.  They were like sons to me, in a way.  Years later, one of them said I was like his father. The death of my father in 1936 forced me to go ahead.  My mother and I had worked in the pastry shop with my father.  Now, it was up to us to support the family. We were in the pastry business for nine years.  I saved money.  Then together with a friend, and a cousin, we formed the industrial business of Bimbo.”

I was interested in how much he had learned by running a small business, the pastry shop with his father. I told him that my son-in-law, Michael Mauboussin, (More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places) had explained business dynamics to me back in 1991. Michael helped me understand my family business by talking about how to capitalize and run a small lemonade stand. For example, I had never considered that a business had to continue to earn over the cost of capital for things the business owned clear and free, like the land the stand was on.  Nor had I put enough energy into the ways one had to save to keep the stand looking good and to expand dynamically.

I asked Don Lorenzo Servitje if he had a vision of the future when he made the decision to invest in Bimbo. He said that he and his colleagues had developed experience between 1940 and 1945 supplying companies throughout South America.  That experience, coupled with people who trusted him and planned with him, was the launching pad for the industrial baking business, Bimbo.  He explained: “We took our savings and borrowed an equal amount of money to make this happen.  It has grown over the years.  During this period my mother remained as an owner of the company.  Then she remarried at the age of 63.”

Don Lorenzo Servitje continued: “I was 26 when I married. We had eight children. There were six girls in a row and then two sons. The youngest son is an original thinker.  He has a special gift for business. He went to Stanford and was the first in his class. He is far better than I am.”

I told him that we all hope that our children will do better than we do. If our children do better perhaps we have done something right.  In essence part of collecting family stories is to encourage other people to do well by understanding how real people have become successful leaders and overcome hardships. It is encouraging for others to know that successful individuals have overcome difficulties like the early loss of a father.

We talked a bit about how the early loss of a father is a common theme in American politics today. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama grew up without their fathers’ influence. It would seem that both men want to be better fathers, both in their families and for their country.

(In my book I highlight that some of us are leaders by default we had to rise up and lead when difficult things happen. Others are natural leaders who rise up without trauma or serious losses.  One way is not necessarily superior to another. I developed The Mindful Compass to point out that leaders are those who have a vision and are willing to act with knowledge, even if they have to act alone. Leaders have the courage to overcome challenges. If they are mindful of their impact on others and can also enable others to become leaders then they are mature leaders.)

I noted that Don Lorenzo Servitje also seems to have become the father for his siblings, family and company and perhaps for the people of Mexico.

Don Lorenzo Servitje then said, “I am too old.  I am 89. I lost my wife six years ago. Carmen was 80. She left me without advice.”

I said “Perhaps that is a gift.  It could be.  Suppose she told you to marry again?” I said. And he replied:  “I am faithful. She was a very wise woman and a very sweet woman.  I have suffered many times because of the business. But I was a workaholic. She held everything together.  She was a very typical housewife. She loved to be at home with the children. She was the queen of the house. I had no problems with the children or the home. She was a very responsible woman and I suffer in her absence.”

I was not sure that his wife Carmen would like it if he were suffering.  I was sure I did not want him to suffer any more than necessary so I said, “I would like it if her memory made you happy.”  He thought for a moment and said “Her loss is a very sweet pain.”

I asked him what he would say to the young people in Mexico that they might carry in their hearts as important principles.   He said:  “One, keep your faith, be good Christians.

Two, work hard and be wary of distractions and a frivolous life.   Three, learning is important.  I love to read lots of books.  My life has been study and work.  I am a very plain man.”

I noted that perhaps a simple man can see the simple truth.

Don Lorenzo Servitje said, “I see what I think is right and I keep on going.”

“Were your parent’s family religious?” I asked.

“My mother’s family was more religious than my father’s family.  I know my extended family. I have pictures and stories as I researched my family back to 1770. They were mostly working in the fields.  They were peasants.”

“What made you do family research?” I asked.

“I was traveling to Spain often. My family was from Spain and as a hobby I looked for the origins of my family in the records of the Churches. I learned many curious things about the family.”

I noted that in my years as a family therapist I had found that healthier and stronger people just automatically were more interested in family history and knew more about their family roots. These people are often more accepting of different kinds of people as they see all the variations possible in four or five generations in a family.

Don Lorenzo Servitje said “I talked with my children about their ancestors. Also I took my children to Spain to see where the ancestors lived. I also showed them where I lived when I was a young boy.”

It is not easy to go visit the homes of your very distant relatives. I told him about my visit to Ireland and how I had felt uneasy in a town where several generations ago the family I am related to had a fight between the older and younger brother. When I was in the town of the younger brother’s family I became ill. When I was in the older brother’s home town I was fine.  Was I sensitive to a fight that occurred over a hundred and fifty years ago?  Perhaps by going back to these two places I was more able to accept my own sensitivities.  It takes time to understand and respect the difficulties people have lived with over the generations.

Then Don Lorenzo Servitje showed me some photos from his family research.

“Here you can see a picture in 1976, and then seventeen years later the same group of children has grown up. This is the place I was born in 1924. This is the house of my father.  This is the wedding invitation of my mother. My brother was very handsome. Here is a picture of my brother and me and here is one of myself and my sister in the house where we grew up. Here is a picture 50 years later.

My sister died before my wife. My other brother died after my father. Yes, I lost two brothers and my sister, the youngest one died two years ago. Such is life.

Here is a picture of my wife when we were young. One of my granddaughters is a painter. Here you see a picture of a grandchild and then you can see into the past and there is my wife.”  I said, “Your granddaughter is an artist who paints dramatically the connections between people.  Some might say its all in the genes.”  I did not have time to elaborate on this thought but I did think she must understand the family emotional process at a deep level where the past is folded into the future. The past does not determine the future but it influences and reminds us of our connections to others.

My interview with Servitje concluded when he had to leave for a meeting.

I said, “Yes, people still need you. I appreciate so much the time for this interview and meeting you in your home. I think this interview will demonstrate the importance of family for a life well lived.”

Don Lorenzo Servitje’s Mindful Compass Points

(1)  The ability to define a vision: Don Lorenzo Servitje allows us to see how his vision for a larger company arose out of his experiences with his family’s smaller pastry business.  It was not that he started with this vision.  It happened as part of his personal growth with others.  When he had an opportunity to expand into the industrial arena he had also built a trustworthy team which he kept with him over the years.

The early death of his brother and then his father were pivotal events. They are high stress events for everyone.  Most difficult for families is dealing with and adapting to the loss of the primary wage earner. It is a threat for most families. Many people have found their lives torn asunder following the loss of a father.  The fact that his family could keep going and did so well testifies to the resiliency in the larger family system.  In his case the loss may have forced him to make responsible decisions at an early age. His decisions to work in the family pastry shop were made as much to support his family as they were to build his career.

Obvious Don Lorenzo Servitje became the leader of his family, and business yet he gives a great deal of credit for success to his mother, his other business partners and to his son in the next generation. His wife was in the middle of it all and was a very wise woman who was his responsible partner in life.  Although he misses her mightily he keeps contributing to society in many unknown ways. It seems in his nature to play down the work he does and to build up others.

Caring about others is a very deep value that also resonates with his religious values.  Therefore we hear consistent values which are being converted into actions. There is little interest in finding love and approval but more in getting any job done well.

Don Lorenzo Servitje is a leader with instinct. He seems to know just what the best action to take is, and then he just does it. His common sense attitudes lead him to spend time and energy investigating the past generations of family members.  This is an unusual action for a person to take in our society.  It is the sign of a leader who can look way beyond the short term. Here is a leader who knows that if something is important then he must find the way to do and have fun in the process.  He discovers his family roots and shares this knowledge with his children, taking them to Spain to see where past generations of the family lived and walking in their footsteps.

It is easy to see how he can inspire others in his work settings and also in his family. He seems to deeply enjoy his work.  He also gives his Christian religion a great deal of credit for all he does and hopes that future generations will also keep true to these time tested values.

Mature leaders look beyond charisma to find sustaining principles and values promoting courage and steadfastness in their lives. Don Lorenzo Servitje leads by example.

(2) The resistance to change in self and in any system: Overcoming obstacles is not something that Don Lorenzo Servitje focused on. We know that he overcame the early loss of his father without bitterness or longing. His attitude of just doing what needs to be done, despite the difficulty, gives us a glimpse of man who chooses to do his work without focusing on the difficulties. He seems to be a contented man who is at ease with himself and with all kinds of other people.  Any obstacles are overcome without making them into a big deal. I could see this in his ability to change his attitude about the loss of his wife. He was able to focus on her positive qualities and to let go of the sadness saying, “Her loss is a very sweet pain.”

(3)The ability to connect and use systems knowledge: Few people have shown the ability to build a successful family and business network as complex as that of Don Lorenzo Servitje.  *(I wondered how much his business ability was influenced by his ability to deeply understand his multigenerational family.)

Apparently from an early age Don Lorenzo Servitje was able to perform and be at ease with people. He recognized the importance of his family relationships on his ability to function well.  He was clear that his mother’s ability to see him in a positive light was significant for him. There is no way of knowing exactly what enabled him to understand the importance of the family history.

We can call it intuition or common sense to understand that the past has an impact on the future.  Many people indulge in short term thinking about the family believing that only this generation is important.  People move away from those they consider difficult people or hard to reach family members.  In the business world this tendency to cut off from the problem people in the family could convert to a tendency to walk away from difficult decisions, or to refuse to deal with difficult people, or with difficult jobs.

(4)The ability to be separate: Although Don Lorenzo Servitje did not talk about the usefulness of being alone to think, plan and take time to reflect on deeper values, obviously he has done so.  Nothing tests people’s ability to stand alone more than loss. Even if one overcomes the sadness due to loss once, it does not mean that people will be able to do so in the future.

There are many reasons people find to carry on after the loss of a spouse.  With eight children, many grandchildren and great grandchildren, the love and fun of his family life is displayed thought his home.  Clearly the quality of the relationships surrounding him is a major factor in his well functioning life. Another factor is that he loves his work and other projects.

Don Lorenzo Servitje has lived to see many of his closes family members die and has found the needed reasons be a resource to the remaining family members. Some people might have become more sensitive to loss with age.  But here is a man who has the ability, the resiliency to deal gracefully with loss.

Those who have been able to deal with the loss of loved ones have had to learn to stand alone.  Although some may call this an assumption, I suggest that the ability to stand alone is increased when one has dealt well with the death of a loved one.

Don Lorenzo Servitje has had to deal with the death of family members from the time he was a young man, obviously he has done so in many ways which have transformed the losses into reasons for carrying on and honoring those who have gone before.

Understanding and Misunderstanding Your Family


My next interview with, Mario Buzzolini, a telecommunications leader in Mexico, continues the tradition of learning for self and allowing others to listen and apply these stories to their own experiences. 

I was again struck with how long it takes for people to understand about the pressure on people in their own family and how useful this kind of understanding is in a seeing how deeply our values are rooted. 

What are the forces that encourage leaders to take risks and in which thoughtful actions are rooted?

In the book, Leadership Can be Taught, Sharon Daloz Parks takes readers into the classroom of Harvard leadership maven, Ronald Heifetz.  Heifetz uses the students’ own experiences in solving problems people face in the workplace.  He defines leadership as the capacity to mobilize people to respond to challenges and suggests that the bottom line for leaders is the capacity to foster collective.

Ronald Heifetz notes the key factor that makes or breaks leaders notes is, the quality of one’s capacity to be fully present, comprehend what is happening, hold steady in the field of action and make choices about when and how to intervene from within the social group. 

The case study method is an inductive way of analyzing concepts that may apply across multiple contexts. John Dewey and other educators have argued that adults learn best from their experiences. I think this interview follow in this tradition.



Mario Buzzolini –

MB -We have been in the business of producing telecom equipment for 12 years now.


AMS- What made you decide to be an entrepreneur? 


MB- I studied computer systems at the university then went to work for IBM for a year. I wanted to have my own business, like my father and my grandmother. 

Both of them learned to stand alone to accomplish things.


It is amazing when you realize that 50% of the population of Mexico lives in poverty.

This is one of the main reasons I thought that the telecom business would be useful to the Mexican people because it would bring communication methods to the distant parts of Mexico. This is one way to alter the future for the poor people in Mexico.



AMS – And so first you went to work for a big company?


MB –Yes, I wanted to do it more like my father and grandmother had.  But I knew I had to learn how the others had done it since I had no money, no contacts.  So I started learning from others. At first I wondered how companies could be so efficient being so big. You had to ask the manager of your manager and so on before anything could be done. But it was here that I started making contacts and seeing what part of the industry I wanted to work in.  I knew that a big company was not for me in the long run.  I found my interest was in telecommunications and decided to start a small company to make the equipment. 


AMS- You started a small company like a CISCO?


MB- Well, yes in away, my company is a telecom company. First, I wanted to create a different kind of company. I wanted to have the people who worked there be as passionate about what we did as I was.  I tried to create a culture of loyalty and put the emphasis on making a big investment in the customer.  I wanted the best people, people who wanted to be successful by doing a great job. We all have to have a passion for our work.  



AMS – I think you are the first person to tell me that their grandmother influenced them.

Are there are two people in your family who are good examples of leaders who did something very unusual?


MB- My father and grandmother were each wonderful examples of a leader who could learn from others.


My grandparents were political refugees during the Italian civil war. My grandfather had poor health.  There were 6 children to take care of, so my grandmother, who had come from Barcelona, was a housewife with no occupation, had to go to work.  She decided to sell life insurance door to door.  She and her sons built one of the largest insurance brokerage agencies in Mexico. 


My grandmother was a very strong and unusual woman. She worked until she was very old.  When her time was over she stopped working, went to the hospital and died.


AMS – I would like to be like that too.



AMS – I am not sure what you might know about how your grandfather influenced his wife?  Often the husbands and wives teach each other about business.  We see that in the Clintons’ run for the presidency in the United States now.


MB – I am not sure how but probably they did influence each other.


AMS- How many siblings did your grandparents have?


MB -. My mother was the 4th, and the first girl. There were three sons and three daughters.


AMS – Did you grow up close to your grandmother? 


MB – Yes, I am the first grandson and so I was close to my grandmother. 


AMS – You were the favorite but I imagine you got some pressure with the love.


MB – Yes, pressure to do well.


AMS – Tell me about your mom and your grandmother’s relationship.


MB – I could not tell who my grandmother’s favorite was.  They all seem to love and have respect for each other.


AMS – Did the youngest have the best position?


MB – He now is running the biggest insurance brokerage business in Mexico.


AMS –That is interesting a reversal of what one might expect.   Often the oldest would be a traditionalist and continue to work in the family business.  But you, an oldest, branched out into a new business, while the youngest in the generation above you, stayed in the family business. 


MB – To me the most important thing is that you love what you do.


AMS – Yes, and it was partially your family which had that values enabling choice. 

Therefore that gave you the freedom to do what you wanted to do.


How do you think your father influenced you?



MB – My father was a builder, an architect. He had his own business. He started it before he finished the university. With the exception of 2 or 3 years, he didn’t work for anyone else.  My father did try to get me to work for him, and I did for a brief period of time.   I decided that this was not my real passion.


One of my brother’s is a designer and the other one is in the illustration business.


AMS – Your family seems to value diversity. That is another marker for a higher level of maturity.


MB – I am sure my father wished I would work for him but then he gave me a lot of support. Perhaps in the beginning it was hard for him.


AMS – This is another marker for a leader. One who is willing to take a risk, (break into new territory) and stand alone to go in his or her direction.


MB – In the beginning it was very hard. We started from nothing and once in a while I would think perhaps I should go back and work with my father.


AMS – How long did it take for you to know you were successful.


MB – By the end of the first year we had good contracts and things started to take off very fast. The telecom business is something new in Mexico.  Just to start in the networks and telecommunication business we had a big, open market and not much competition.  We were in the right place at the right time.  Telecom is a very complicated business and things change very fast.  You have to say on top of things.


AMS – Are you married now?


MB – No, I am still single.


AMS – Do you think you made a decision to postpone marriage because your business needed you?


MB – Possibly.


AMS – Bill Gates had that problem too. Eventually he found the right person and I am sure you will too.  Do you have sisters?


MB – No, only brothers.


AMS – Do you find it easier to work with men rather than woman?


MB – No I like to work with woman. I focus on what they know. 


AMS – My first husband had no sisters and found that woman were mysterious.


MB – In Mexico we are very paternalistic and many men do not like to work with woman.


AMS – Women working has created a tremendous upheaval in society. Today woman have far fewer children. This is a very different era from that of our grandparents. 

Being a leader means you also have to adapt well to changes in society. 

What do you consider to be the biggest problem facing Mexico today?


MB – The biggest problem in Mexico is the inequality in wealth. Over 50% of people in Mexico live in poverty.  The richest man in the world lives and works in Mexico.


AMS – What would you say to Carlos Slim if you could have a conversation with him?

I wonder about this because I think that there are two main ways that people change.

One, is the influence one person has on another. Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are good examples of how people influence one another. 


The other is, you change the rules and that changes society in some unknown ways.


MB – I think you have to change the rules and that will change the people.


I know Carlos Slim and Bill Gates are very generous. They are very good business people but it’s not enough.  We have to change the rules.  They are not mercenaries but it’s not enough. Clearly, we have to change the rules.


AMS – One example happened in Ireland. They had high unemployment and low savings rates.  So they decided to give people 20% on their money if they would keep it in the bank for five years. 60% of people decided to do it. This altered how the people behaved and now they have low unemployment and an increase in intellectual capital.


I have also wondered how come Mexico is not growing like China.  The Chinese changed the rules.


MB – Yes, they have a capitalistic economy and a communist government.


AMS- What rules are you going to change?


MB – I don’t know how to promote the redistribution of wealth.  It is very complicated but you have to alter the whole system, its rules and how it’s organized in order to make it possible for people to do better. 


It will take more time to know what the best solution will be.  But I do think we can sell new ideas and make new rules. People have to know what to do in their own space.  People have to think global and act global.


AMS- How has your family experience enabled you to think this way?


MB –My grandfather came from Italy to look for a fortune and he thought he was coming to America/Mexico.  He may have been confused about which country he was coming to but he made a success. My grandmother came from Barcelona. They all had to leave and find a new way after the war.


AMS – So you do not want to wait for a dictator to force changes in society? Sometimes people have to wait for the society to collapse before change can occur.  But you do not seem to want to wait for a new Mussolini to arise.


Do you know much about your great grandparents?


MB –No, because of the war many records were lost. After the war I didn’t know about my family in Italy and Spain.


AMS – Do you think because some of your family and their stories were lost, you have

a greater desire to make better family stories for the future?


MB – Yes, I have a great interest in understanding my family.


AMS – You also seem to have a great interest in problem solving. 


I was also wondering about your thinking about being strategic in building your business.  How do you deal with people in your company and your customers?  Do you think about how to deal with people, or do you just do it at a gut level.


MD-   We have a joke in our office.  It is more important to know who than to know how.


Relationships are basic in your business. Your contacts are with humans and you have to have good relationships with other humans you are working with.


AMS – I will throw you a trick question. What do you do about people who are tricky and may be seeking power and money and are trying to fool people?


MB- I do not like those people.


AMS – I have heard that nice guys do not get ahead but you do not believe that?


MB- Our philosophy is to take care of people very well.  Our strategy is to have good relationships with others. It is an important part of our business. Our plan is to cultivate trustworthy relationship with our customers. You can not do that without good people working in your business.


AMS – How do you tell if people are having a good relationship with others?


MB- We have rules inside the company to make sure people are doing well by their customers.


AMS – You are looking for people who understand your philosophy.


MB- We hire good people.  The people who don’t believe in the importance of being in good relationships with other people leave.


AMS – Also you seem to set up an environment for leadership. You empower others to be leaders.


MB- I think you have to be a visionary, set up a philosophy and rules and work as a team. Then success will follow.


AMS – Did you play sports? And do you think sports helps people to learn how a team functions?


MB- Yes, I played soccer for 5 or 6 years and now I do extreme sports. I have a go cart and I like sky diving. 


AMS – I am interested in what else, besides your family, may have influenced your leadership style?  What books do you read?


MB- I read novels and mysteries. My favorites are The Art of War
by Sun Tzu
and The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli


AMS – If only George Bush had read this book. As I recall it he said “only invade a country if you want to live there.”


MB- I also like books on Mexican history. I just read one on the civil war in Spain. It helped me understand my grandfather. I began to understand more of what he had been through. Before that I thought he was neurotic.


AMS – That’s a great example of one way to compensate when your family has lost its stories of the past.  Some people would just write off the family members who are difficult. It is not at all easy to take the time to understand the history that shaped the person who is hard to deal with.


MB- I had an opportunity to meet many of my cousins this week, and told them about the book.  They bought the book and also say now they see he was not neurotic. 


AMS – Even though the person has died, your relationship with them can change as you know more about them and the situation they were in. People are forced into difficult situations that then alters their life.  It’s not just their personality.


I had a similar situation with my father being misunderstood in the family.  It took me a long time to stand up for my Dad in my family. His brother, my uncle, was mad at my father who drank after the war and just focused on that as his legacy.  I talked to my uncle about my father, and his mission in the war.  He was an intelligence officer, flying a B29 over Japan and planning the fire bombing of the civilian population.  This time in the service may have kept his children from becoming Japanese, but it cost him in terms of his personal life.  I said to my uncle, my dad went to war for you. You had flat feet, so you could not go to war. My uncle saw me differently after that.  I did not just go along with the way he saw my father and I used factual knowledge to alter the way the family saw him.


Knowledge can change families but it has to lived out in someone will take actions with others in the family. 


MB- I am very curious about what you are doing. I can see how your family and your background influenced your situation today and tomorrow.


I never stopped to think about this and this is a very good opportunity.


I really like this exercise to understand your own situation at strategic times. You are you because of your circumstances. 

AMS – I see our time is up. Thank you very much.

Now you are my brother.


MB- And you are my sister. 

Mario Buzzolini Mindful Compass Points


(1)  The ability to define a vision:   Mario Buzzolini has found his passion in the telecom industry.  His vision satisfied two deep needs. One is to help the people of Mexico. His business makes it possible for poor people to have access to modern technology.  Two, he tell us he wants to do it more like my father and grandmother had done.

They were independent people.


His vision was to have his own business and he was willing to pay the price to learn from others successful people.  Spending time being an apprentice seems to be a part of a formula for anyone who hopes to become an expert.  One of his big questions that formed a backbone principle for him was to wonder: how could companies be so efficient being so big?  You have to ask the manager of your manager and so on before anything can be done.


Another theme we have heard from others is that there is not much ego involvement here as he notes, I was in the right place at the right time.


As an oldest and the oldest grandson he had many opportunities to take care of his younger siblings but I did not have time to ask the question if these experiences were instrumental in his being focused on talking care of his customers and his employees.


As with other people I have interviewed there were serious challenges that had to be overcome. His grandparents were caught up in the Spanish Civil war and immigrated as they saw more hope in a new land.  Often families who escape from difficult circumstances have strong reason to care for others. He has a business mind and found a business reason to care about others, the customer first. 

In understanding how to motivate others and build a successful business, he puts himself as an important part of how his business will function. Dr. Bowen use to say it this way: “If I see a problem then I know I am somehow apart of it and a part of the solution.”


Although Mario Buzzolini has a vision of how his country could change he doesn’t know which rules to change.  He believes  that people at the local level might know more about what to do to improve their lives. 


(2) The resistance to change in self and in any system:  The main story of resistance to change was the self doubt that he had about starting his business in the first year.  At times he thought perhaps he should go back and work for his father.   But he stood firm and found his original ideas were planted in firm ground.   Now he has a  substantial business. 


The second example concerned his relationship with his grandfather.  I am not sure if his grandfather was alive when Mario Buzzolini  read a book that shed more light on who his grandfather was.  Mario Buzzolini had thought of his grandfather as a neurotic man but after reading and understanding the social forces his grandfather was up against,  he saw him in a new light.  He was then able to tell others in the family, who also may have had a negative impression about their grandfather. Many were able to reorganize the relationship with their grandfather, even if it was only in their minds.


Altering relationships based on factual knowledge and standing up to old negative ways of thinking about others usually is difficult to do. Emotional systems can be very stuck in “blaming” others for all of the so called problems.  His family seems to be able to move beyond the blaming dynamic and to see how systems operate. 


By overcoming resistance Mario Buzzolini continues to be able to build his business and strengthen family and alliance within his work force.



(3)The ability to connect and use systems knowledge: At the end of the interview Mario Buzzolini remarks on how this interview has been a very good exercise. I am very curious about what you are doing. I can see how your family and your background influenced your situation today and tomorrow. I never stopped to think about this and this is a very good opportunity. I really like this exercise to understand your own situation at strategic times. You are you because of your circumstances. 


It is not that easy for people to see how talking about family history and their values impacting on your life leads to system thinking, but he makes the leap easily.


Some of this may be due to his reading of history which often gives people a fundamental understanding of the many factors in social and economic change. It may also be that due to his large and complex family he can synthesize information well.  But all of this is speculation as to why  he has the ability to use and understand system ideas.


(4)The ability to be separate:  If anyone is to start their own business it seems obvious that the individual will need to strengthen the ability to think for self.  Mario Buzzolini had the central insight that a successful business would have to be people centered.  His ability to pick good people and to enable them to understand his philosophy is evidence of how well he understands this process in his relationship with others.  He also is interested in considering the deep emotional nature of problems for the people of Mexico.

All of this has to be work that one does in his or her head before attempting to communicate it to others.


Considering actions need to be taken now so that the future will be better, is the kind of work that is high risk and has no promise of reward.  Perhaps this is one more reason to participate in extreme sports.  They are a physical way to warm up for the mental challenges one encounters in the risk and rewards of thinking systems. Once again Mario is alone and making an effort to anticipate and prepare well for the future. 



Mario Buzzolini, director comercial de Grupo Lanw@re Telecomunicaciones

The Spanish Civil War was a major conflict in Spain that started after an attempted coup d’état committed by parts of the army against the government of the Second Spanish Republic. The Civil War devastated Spain from July 17, 1936 to April 1, 1939, ending with the victory of the rebels and the founding of a dictatorship led by the Nationalist General Francisco Franco. The supporters of the Republic, or Republicans (republicanos), gained the support of the Soviet Union and Mexico, while the followers of the Rebellion, nacionales (literally, “nationals” but rendered in the English bibliography as “nationalists”), received the support of the major European Axis powers of Italy and Germany and neighbouring Portugal.

Atrocities were committed on both sides during the war.[27] The use of terrorism against civilians foreshadowed World War II. At least 50,000 people were executed during the civil war.[28][29] In his recent, updated history of the Spanish Civil War, Antony Beevor “reckons Franco’s ensuing ‘white terror‘ claimed 200,000 lives.