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A good strategy is not enough for solving complex subjects; it is essential to perform using a method and organisation. To find a solution for economic, social, technical or market problems, we must act recognising all the factors and also being aware that, by moving an element, others connected to the first one will also be moved. As an example, it’s similar to looking for the solution to the Rubik cube. We must follow a method to complete it, otherwise when we move a line we could affect the part already completed, making it more difficult or even impossible to resolve.

In the same way, a musical piece can start perfectly with a single instrument if the chosen soloist plays an instrumental solo supremely. However the result would not be as desired by playing only one note of an instrument, and note after note on different instruments, certainly creating a horrendous musical anarchy. Even if we start with a single instrument we should do it gradually, in harmony and well-tuned following the score that will allow us to offer an organised and structured concert.

Likewise, with regards to social and economical problems, people try to solve all the factors of the matter with small adjustments according to the urgency or the most aggressive demand. These kinds of actions cause confusion making the initial situation worse instead of improving the results.

To obtain good symphonic strategy we should, first of all, identify all the acting parameters and secondly understand the final aim to establish a suitable method in order of priority that will allow us to achieve an optimum result. With the adopted decisions we should always add and take away the minimum because they could damage some other factors which may be of interest to recover later on.

Therefore the agents involved in the development of the symphonic strategy should have a wide global vision and spatial management, to imagine and preview both the consequences and the projections derived from the established methodology.

We can only prevent collateral damages and obtain the best results by following a methodology in the decisions of the planned strategy together with the participating agents of a global vision. With this action we will ensure the accomplishment of a symphonic strategy.

Based on this theory, our firm, TORRENTS RESEARCH has developed what we call a “symphonic matrix”, a management tool whose purpose is to obtain the best final results within complex development processes and in the resolution of business and governmental strategies.

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Catalonia is my country.  Situated in the South of Europe, in the NE of the Iberian Peninsula it covers 32.000 SqKms. It has the same population as Switzerland, 7,5 million inhabitants and more than other members of the European Union, (Denmark 5.5, Finland 5.37, Norway 4.9 and Ireland 4.5.)

At the end of the first millennium with the help of Carlomagno in driving out the Muslins invaders, the Franks converted the Catalan counties, the pre-Catalonia, into an independent territory. In the 13th century the first European Parliament, the Catalan Courts, was constituted.

Confederated with the Crown of Aragon (who some years later joined Castille), it maintained its Institutions until 1714 when it lost them with their surrender in the War of the Spanish Succession. Some time before Catalonia has been split, losing the county of Roussillon and part of the County of Cerdanya to the French Crown.

Since 1714 Catalonia has been submitted to the neutralizing will of the Spanish Government who have tried with repeated attempts to suppress the language, and annul its history and traditions. Throughout history the Spanish government has suppress for long periods the Catalan Institutions. Also from 1714 Catalonia has been economically and culturally plundered; it has suffered a continual degrading fiscal treatment and many of its historical documents are kept locked away in Salamanca and other Spanish archives.

During the last campaign for voting the Autonomous Catalan Statute, approved by the Catalan and the Spanish Parliaments, boycotting of Catalan products occurred in many Spanish regions. Catalans and Institutions of Catalonia were publicly insulted.  Although the Autonomous Catalan Statute was approved by the Spanish Parliament, the “Partido Popular” comprised of many descendants of Franco supporters, immediately appealed against it. Finally the conservative majority of the Constitutional Court cut down the Catalan Statute leaving Catalonia ruined with new abusive tax plunders.

Catalonia has tried unsuccessfully to point out all these discriminations to the Spanish Government.  The last attempt was a proposal of a  more reasonably balanced Fiscal Contract but the president of the Spanish Government refused to consider it. Last September 11th the Catalan people came out into the streets to claim for independence in one voice: “Catalunya, un nou Estat d’Europa” (Catalonia, a new European State)

The president of Catalonia, an intelligent politician, good communicator and polyglot, has been educated in various universities, he has listen to the people and offered to lead the project in spite of the problems this difficult task could cause him.     Artur Mas possesses one of the essential skills necessary to every leader; an identity based on well-founded values and concepts. He is a clear leader who can guide Catalonia to its aim;  to what the people demand.

However,  destroyers of this leadership have immediately appeared, the would-be leaders, those who work for their own private interest, those who are in the Spanish Government and want to destroy an uncomfortable leadership from inside and outside Catalonia. Spain wants Catalan leaders to be at their service, weak-willed men and women dominated by the State to carry out their possessive and centralize wish. All this to exploit the Catalans to exhaustion.

With this in mind they have started to insult and discredit the leader, accusing him of being Messianic, a visionary or other stupidities when his only aim is to calmly serve the people’s just demands.  We Catalans must protect the champion of a just cause claimed by the people.  We must bring to light the dark intentions of those who wish that the abuse and control over all the people should last, a people with its own culture, language a history who have worked for centuries to obtain what it deserves and who sees how it is rejected, deceived and humiliated day after day.

Catalonia deserves that these humiliations be recognized and definitely should be not only a State of Europe but also a country in the world.

JT. 05-11-2012.

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In a famous route of the USA there is a petrol station that has survived different periods throughout the years according to the economic changes of circunstances  of the country; some of these were splendid but others were marked by the crisis.

More than 50 year ago Tom McPherson, a descendant of Scottish emigrants, decided to open a hot dog stand.  The beginnings were tough because there was already a small restaurant nearby and the truck drivers preferred their meals with plenty of French fries and onion rings. But gradually Tom started to have some clients who took the opportunity to have a faster meal so they could take the road to work right away.

As Tom also offered  some drinks and coffee he thought that by opening his stand some more hours the business results would improve . Therefore he took on his friend’s son, John, a young farmer of the village to cover the hours he wasn’t able to work because of  family responsibilities.

John had an innate ability of making business and proposed  Tom buying a practical little stove for frying potatoes and onions. Tom accepted the proposal in order to be pleasant to John rather than  believing in his expectations.

The success took even John by surprise. He suggested to Tom to start a restaurant next to the stall. Tom asked for a credit, they built it and  set it up in a short time.  A few months later the old restaurant also located  in the petrol station area started to lose its customers so the owner offered Tom the possibility of buying it. After consulting with John, Tom purchased the establishment and added it to his stand.

The new restaurant was the sum of the two establishments and became popular on the route. Dishes were excellent and assorted since John’s new wife was an expert cook and was in charge of the kitchen while John ran the whole business. Neon signs announcing the restaurant were installed and the success was absolute.

Tom was proud of the growth of his business and praised John for his excellent work, therefore he proposed  him to join the company with a minority share that John immediately accepted.

In the meantime Tom’s children were studying at the university, thanks to the restaurants. But they weren’t used to going round the establishments since they were not interested in them because  they lacked glamour.  They only occasionally went to eat some hot dogs  to justify the allowance they received for being Tom’s children.

With the obtained profits John suggested to Tom to open some more restaurants in other petrol stations on the road.  So gradually they opened new restaurants, they built an industrial kitchen, where John’s wife cooked in her traditional spirit, as well as a small sausage factory to supply all the establishments. Some special vans distributed the freshly cooked dishes twice per day.  Each restaurant had its own section with the traditional hot dogs and the chain of restaurants became very popular all over the country.

As  time went by, Tom fell sick and died after appointing his son Perry as his heir. Perry at that moment was working as a consultant in an investment company. Although the profits of the company had been very elevated during several years, at that time the country was in the grips of financial crisis and the cash flow of the chain fell down a 50%.

Despite the fact that his father often used to talk to Perry about the business, he didn’t  really know the internal history of the company or the development of the business. To obtain an independent opinion about everything Perry called two friends who were advisors in order to ask them to draw up a diagnosis.

The advisors lived and worked in the centre Boston, they hadn’t eaten a hot dog for many years and they didn’t have any experience in this field.  The first step they took was aimed at applying the ABC costing systems to know the profitability of each establishment in the chain, as well as the effective profit margin of each culinary variety in order to reduce the menu.  They wanted to concentrate the efforts on the dishes with most  margin of profit and to close those restaurants bringing less returns. That way, and against John’s point of view, Perry started to give instructions to the financial manager and to the production manager  to suppress some specialities on the menu and to order the closure of some restaurants as well.

As a result of the closure of the establishments and the decreased  production of some dishes, the chain started to lose some customers, the turnover went down and the structural costs rose so that the benefits also went  decreased. John discussed the strategic mistake with Perry who, advised by the advisors, by the financial manager and by the production manager, who aspired to hold John’s position, decided finally to dismiss John. However Perry also bought John’s minority share in order to freely decide what to do in the future.

The restaurants’ chain  quickly lost its splendour. They were forced to close the sausage factory as well as the industrial kitchen. In the end the whole business went bankrupt without Perry knowing what had happened.

In the meantime John bought one of the restaurants Perry closed, he started again from scratch and, thanks to a credit, he bought the bankrupt chain. He installed neon signs at his restaurants, started the production of the same traditional meals and consolidated the business obtaining success and a big professional recognition.

John’s children are finishing their studies at Harvard University although during the holiday and at weekends John has them busy working  the hard way up in life; one is cooking hot dogs and frying French fries and the other one is distributing the food to all the restaurants wearing the customary uniform.

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The global economic crisis, caused by economic power and its unscrupulous managers, has left us a legacy of unknown scenarios where we will need to learn to do business differently. With innovation  and great vision of the future.

Our companies are being reorganized differently. They are like newborn stars being discovered in a Universe where the universal law of gravitation and the parameters of the expansive-creative evolution phase of the Universe have been changed. Our companies are today like new galaxies in the search of new balances in this global world.

It is clear that after this crisis, the landscape has drastically changed. Therefore, those who are running a company must be aware of this new scenario and of the new formulas in place to be able to survive and to conquer success and  – why not –  gain a new company excellence.

Imagine what would happen if one day you wake up and discover that you must drive a future car. This hypothetical future car needs to be driven in – of course –  virtual highways and respecting a totally new code of traffic signals.

Needless to say that it will be useless to try to drive this future car using the same habits that we are using today. No way!. Most probably, we will not be able to understand its controls, it will be hard to start-up the engine and drive it through these virtual and imaginary highways.

Many companies still do not see these sudden changes. Others are just feeling that the changes are there but cannot clearly see them. Therefore, those companies that do not have a clear picture of these changes will have difficulties to drive this imaginary future car in these also imaginary highways.

This crisis has temporarily left obsolete and old-fashioned to many businessmen, managers, entrepreneurs and even high school business teachers. All of them need to catch up, refresh and update themselves to drive their companies, their managers, their students and collaborators to a common goal and consequently gain common successes and achievements.

CEO’s and Board of Directors that find their place in this new global order and that are capable of managing their organization, will have to devote their efforts to explain day after day to their people the new methods how to achieve success in this new difficult and competitive environment.

To allow western companies recover from this crisis, is fundamental to find new commercial and marketing concepts – to end unfair monopolistic practices in the distribution that destroy thousands of employments  in Europe and in the USA today -  but also adding value to the industrial products by protecting seriously their industrial propriety and rights.

The management within companies needs to change: requires dynamism and a global vision of the business. The decisions need to be taken quickly but with reliable analysis and using few but trusty parameters. A quick and rigorous improvisation will be crucial for the success.

We must devote time to a good control and ensure correct data collection, but we will need to stop using thousands of hours to the parametric analysis of different ratios, information only good to those analysts and financial advisers that live from the mismatches of those businessmen that act globally and want to excel and make things happen. Those companies that find a balance in this new environment and turn the bow towards success, will arrive to a successful final destination.

Those who cannot sail in unknown seas and keep listening advices from patrons of old ships, can quickly lose their ships, no matter how many seas they have sailed.

Is the moment of challenge, commitment and vision for the future that is already the present.

Josep Torrents,

April 14th, 2010

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The gap between Universities and companies exists for decades and the search for a constructive dialogue between them has always been quite poor. Each of them has always defended their own interests: those of universities are based on the knowledge they teach – a knowledge that is sometimes overestimated – and those of companies are based in adapting themselves everyday in rapidly changing markets, without recompense and conscious that their activities involves a great deal of economical and social responsibility.

It is crystal clear that while Vice-Chancellors, Professors and Lecturers in Universities – valued for their titles and knowledge – represent the wisdom, the theory and the unmistakable forecasts, businesswomen and businessmen are not well regarded by society, and even by those institutions that rule Universities. Then, it is clear that these reasons and others of a more material nature, make difficult the approach of companies to universities to profit of their knowledge.

 

And what are these “more material nature” reasons I mean? Simply, that universities do not solve efficiently and on time the needs that companies have, and on the other hand companies think that universities cannot be good partners and that the cost of transfering the knowledge is too high.

Companies must be ready to face fierce and rapidly changing global markets and consequently need to move at a high cruising speed. On the contrary, universities move in a slow tempo that keeps them away from a global environment full of new technologies and knowledge that demand immediate updating in different areas.

In my opinion, although universities and companies in Spain do have lower rates of competitiveness compared with other countries, universities should think about approaching the companies with a serious and clear compromise to offer them collaboration to improve competitiveness. It is true that universities do not know well the needs of the companies – and seems to me that sometimes these universities ignore the values of these companies – but it is also true that companies do not know too the services that universities can offer them.

Needless to say that if universities would be measured by their financial profits, then they would be focused to gain competitiveness in a global market, and consequently would approach companies in a much more valuable way.

Companies will definitively profit of the knowledge within the university only when universities really listen to the needs of the companies.

As as summary, I think the problem relies in a lack of trust in the high-valued possibilities that a team work between universities and companies can have. To make it happen, companies must value the knowledge and services universities can offer them, and universities should adapt to today’s needs of companies. Both must think about it and start doing it because we do have a high social responsibility and it is, at the end of the day, for the benefit of our country.

Josep Torrents

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Last week I attended a lecture in Sant Cugat Tribuna – a platform for raising business profiles through periodic discussions and lectures addressed to top executives and businessmen and women from all sectors – of the professor Mr. Leopoldo Abadía. Although I have visited many times his blog and intensively read his opinions about the economic crisis and the “subprime” loans, I was still surprised – and even more – I was perplexed and restless after listening to his vision on this so-called financial crisis.

Mr. Leopoldo’s explanations are so simple and easy to understand that it is hard to believe that what he was explaining happened in our present-day society. This has mocked those who rule important financial institutions as they all had been highly swindled.

I still remember a Spanish movie from the 50′s , “The Cheaters”, where Toni Leblanc and Antonio Ozores wisely cheat a silly but miser who accepts to pay less money for the value of a bunch of small papers resembling bank notes. At the end, the two wise guys leave with the money and the avaricious man remains with a bunch of paper notes.

In industrial companies, and I guess also in all others, when we do receive from our suppliers components or goods, we do a quality control by sampling or also using different criteria. This is to maintain or improve the quality of our products and also to maintain the prestige of our company and brands. No matter if we are using certified quality controls or we are outsourcing the quality control in origin: when the products arrive in our facilities, we must double check and do another quality control.

Those banks who accepted a bunch of papers resembling bank notes did not make any quality control. But, what was worst is that they used the money of their customers in exchange of a bunch of small papers. They were cheated, and they acted with big irresponsibility and greed using the money of their customers, customers that trusted in them.

Seems that today some small banks (the big ones are only worried on how to make up the bad results and move them to their annual profit and losses) are trying to know what relies beneath each bunch of small papers they have, and have sadly encountered that what they have is nothing else but “nothing” and that there was no property in exchange to the money they loaned to individuals and companies that had not a healthy financial situation.

Now it is time then to ask where the money from investors is, and if there is a property behind a bunch of only small papers. If this is true, then we must call it as The Big Cheat, and find out who had the malicious idea. If the banks have lost the money of their customers, if honourable investors have lost their money, therefore in which lost arch this money had been sent?.

Who has the Lost Arch? Or, where do you think it is located? That is the question.

Josep Torrents. 26.10.2008

Dedicated to all those Quality Control Managers: do not expect certain qualities and do please make your task even better. And also this is a dedication to Operation Managers, begging them to make sure that what is in their inventories has an updated value.

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The structural financial problems in today’s global world oblige us to shrink the potentiality of many markets worldwide. The sales in many sectors decrease, customers that do not pay their invoices are dramatically increasing, and we all must make much more efforts to do profitable and high-quality sales.

Now it is time for good salesmen. We can recognize them as they are real professional, with high selling skills, and with an attitude that makes them improve everyday. In fact, salesmen that will certainly achieve their goals and budgets. On the contrary, there is another type of salesmen, those who when the economy is in good health, survive and achieve their budgets. However, despite they are good professionals, they cannot perform well in bad periods like nowadays: it is only then when some weaknesses in them arise.

It is also now time for good Commercial Managers and Sales Managers. All must be good salesmen. Although not all good salesmen can also become good Commercial Managers, a Commercial Manager must be a good salesman, understand the difficulties of the moment, take the right decisions and make his or her team lead them.

Next year will be an important year for the professional career of many of those who have sales responsibilities. Their attitude, responsibility, compromise and work capacity, will be decisive for their future. Only if they use all these above mentioned qualities, they will be efficient and succeed. But above all, this will become a success for themselves and also for the company they work for.

It is their great opportunity.

Josep Torrents.

24.10.2008

Dedicated to my sales teams and to myself. I will do my utmost to let them accomplish their budgets.

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Shanghai 2008

Shanghai 2008

About two years ago, I wrote to several politicians, business leaders and Economic analysts to share with them my worries about the evolution of certain parameters of capital flows, and about certain ratios of several sector debts, that in my limited vision of that moment, I could not understand, but they seemed already alarming to me.Only two of them answered to me: the first one, a good friend of mine, replied saying that my pessimistic point of view of the future to come was not correct because, although he agreed in some of my opinions, the results forecasted by me were absolutely impossible to happen. He said that if my predictions were true, there would be a major crisis, much higher of what the economic authorities from the countries involved would ever permit. The second, a funny guy who writes editorials in a famous economical newspaper, replied me with a drawing and three laughs “ha, ha, ha” in big letters written with a thick pen.

The truth is that I thought that my points of view and my theories maybe were too catastrophic, and that I should devote Sunday mornings to play golf instead of thinking about writing worrying letters. In fact, the “ha, ha, ha”, upset me and the drawing showed clearly to me his opinion about my eschatological letter.

In August 2007, after a difficult July from a business point of view, and worried because of my responsibility as president of AMEC – a non-profit-making business association of companies in Catalonia promoting exports and its internationalisation – I felt the urge of writing another letter, in which I wanted to make the readers think about different opinions about the society, the university and about companies that deeply worried me. In my letter – written in a style to avoid again being considered catastrophist – I was already speaking about what was then the beginning of the present-day crisis.

I sent this letter to some political and business leaders, and as well, to the media, who published some of my opinions, but who did not understand all the important message concerning the difficulties that would soon come for the companies, the economy and the country.

In AMEC we were expecting more replies than those we got, the majority of them curiously from the political parties in the opposition – who later used some of these opinions of the letter in the Parliament – and few from the different political parties who are now in the government, who thought that my opinions were basically discrepancies to the way they rule the country instead of seeing it as an analysis of the global situation and a clear lack of vision for many years.

I also had to give further explanations in some Minister’s offices and to express my worries, pointing out that my opinions were not intended to be read as an hostile fatwa.

For some years I have been denouncing to the most important authorities of the country as well as openly in different media and forums, the harmful treatment that the spanish Ministry of Finance has given to those companies that made efforts in research and innovation. Many companies have decided to stop investing in research and innovation and others have drastically reduced its investments to avoid the constant persecution of the inspectors and sub-inspectors of the spanish Ministry of Finance that presumably want to get their annual bonuses. Those companies that had a fine, and those companies that have been denied a compensation after investing an important amount of money in research and innovation should be officially compensated and recognized.

It is difficult for a country to improve with a Ministry of Innovation that encourages companies to investigate, and at the same time a Ministry of Finance that does not believe in it, and comes with big and sharp scissors and uses them with those companies that believe that research and innovation are the only ways to guarantee a better future to companies and to the country.

In April 2008, I sent a letter to the president of the European Central Bank, Mr. Jean Claude Trichet, in which I expressed him my worries for the lack of competitiveness for European companies due to the big gap between the USD and Euro, and also the high interest rates in the Euro Zone, both issues putting in big difficulties to European companies to develop their expansion plans. On the other hand, US companies were then very competitive, and could offer in many international markets better prices, obviously thanks to lower interest rates in US. We all know that the competitiveness of American companies is higher than that of European companies, specially with regards to many other reasons different from the interest rates or a strong or weak US Dollar.

In my letter to Mr. Trichet I did point out some solutions to change the interest rates and restore the economy of European companies, that were already losing many business possibilities in many markets not only because of an advantageous American offer but also because of a strong and competitive offer from Chinese and Asia-Pacific companies. His reply was kind and polite, but in his comments was clear that the European Central Bank was then only worried by inflation and that other issues did not matter at all. Now, when we are living in an already industrial crisis – although unbelievable – he did not change their point of views.

Weeks before the presidential elections in Spain – as I was aware of what was to come – I did express loud and crystal-clear in the AMEC-Export magazine that a candidate to become Prime Minister in a country should not offer money coming from a surplus from the taxes that individuals and companies did pay. The candidate won, did give the money from this surplus and today the country is suffering this decision.

When this candidate become Prime Minister, I had the chance to ask him in a meeting organized by the Círculo de Economía in Barcelona if the government would increase the VAT, and I insisted in knowing how much the increase would be and when would it happen.

He replied that there would not be an increase of the VAT. I still think he was wrong, and I am quite sure that before the end of 2008, he will have to decide when and how much he will have to raise this tax, in order to be able to meet the many compromises of his government and as a partial solution to the crisis he finally admitted that exists.

At the end of July 2008, and in the middle of the crisis, I did send a letter to the Spanish Prime Minister to remind him that all individuals as well as the companies in Spain must pay the taxes on time. If we do not pay them on time we must pay important fines. On the other hand, in July 2008 the Ministry of Finance still had not returned to the company I work for the VAT rebates on exports since January 2008. This long delay was seriously affecting our investments and daily plans. Luckily, in early August this issue was solved.

I am quite sure that others like me have experienced similar situations. And I am also convinced that they have also expressed to governments and institutions their worries and the answers that had received were empty, as if the issues that worry companies and individuals were not of their concern.

Frankly speaking, I must say that the present-day crisis is not only due to Wall Street speculators, the subprime culture of “everybody is invited to the party” and to their partners in the US and Europe, but specially to a profound lack of leadership of governments and the society.

Well, in fact, a lack of leadership of individuals that are serious and honest in their daily work, that give trust to others to make of this world of ours a more balanced and responsible, socially speaking.

With this type of persons leading important institutions worldwide, in governments and in companies, there would be no place for speculators in Wall Street and bad politicians in governments.

That is why we should use what we studied in school, colleges and universities every day in our jobs and always bearing in mind that our main professional aim should always contain a veneer of honesty. This would permit us that our generations to come could live in a world in which their economic and political institutions had honest and capable leaders.

Leaders that could guarantee a better future.

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