Q&A  | 

Javier Relats: The importance of having a mentor at every professional level

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As an innovation programme that combines scientific and entrepreneurial talent for the digital transformation of society, The Collider bases much of its excellence on the collaboration of mentors from different sectors. These experts advise teams to ensure the commercial viability and suitability of their entrepreneurship initiatives within the market. One of these mentors is Javier Relats Alberdi, a senior executive with more than 20 years of experience in the digital transformation of teams and in international markets. We met with him to hear about his participation in The Collider's mentoring programme.

Could you describe your role as The Collider's business growth and technology mentor?

We accompany and sometimes lead the team based on The Collider methodology, which focuses on achieving weekly objectives. And from a more qualitative perspective, we also motivate and encourage the team. In other words, we ensure that the team’s level of quality and their pace and intensity of work is maintained.

How did you join The Collider's mentoring team?

My professional prestige in positions of high responsibility led me to find out about The Collider. More specifically, I heard about it through a professor I had at IESE Business School, as well as through Oscar Sala. He considered my profile to be an ideal fit for a programme mentor as it is related to business models and team management.

How has your career evolved since your beginnings in sales management at Casio?

It has always been clear to me that I wanted to lead, both because of my profile as an entrepreneur and because of my innate ability to combine a strategic and operational vision. And to work up to that position, you have to undertake different responsibilities and achievements – that’s how you gather the experience needed to inspire teams.

I’m passionate about business and I’m passionate about the consumer. This is something I knew from my early days at Casio and during my experiences in human resources with Randstad, as well as in investment banking with Merrill Lynch. In 2007 I started my own venture by creating Aïta, the first accessories company in Spain, with 60 points of sale. I then sold it in 2014. After a few weeks, I joined the general management team and the Executive Board of TOUS Jewelry in order to lead the international company and its digital transformation.

At TOUS you led digitalisation projects using agile methodologies and design thinking, with an omnichannel customer focus. Could you tell us about this process?

Within TOUS’ strategic plan, a roadmap for the company’s digitalisation was set. This required the Board of Directors and the TOUS family to both agree on the need to digitise and what this process meant. From there, we applied the roadmap to the entire value chain, from R&D to the purchasing department, through to the operations and logistics departments, or corporate services: finance, human resources and training.

During this process I applied two tools: Agile and Design Thinking. For the customer, even more so than with omnichannel, this approach takes them to the centre of the activity to give them the best service through any channel or product. It’s not so much about working across all the channels, but about putting the customer at the centre so that they decide when they want to buy the product, where they want to receive it and how they want to return it, if necessary.

Technology is a common thread throughout your career. How have you leveraged new technologies to drive growth in the organisations you've worked in?

Technology is a tool that helps optimise operations. The focus is always business-customer-people. Technology promotes the scalability of many processes, and allows resources to be allocated more efficiently.

Based on your experience as a mentor at Mobile World Capital, what difficulties do start-ups face?

The Collider has the great advantage of having an extraordinary methodology and team, whose fluidity and resilience enable the quick solution of any difficulty or challenge.

Working with scientific teams and managers whose professional experiences are so diverse is a great challenge. You have to align them in a very short time to obtain an optimal product/market fit, and all this while maintaining the demand and pace, as well as human closeness.

What advice can you offer to start-ups?

As an owner of one start-up and an investor in others, I believe the most important things are both active listening and the team’s commitment to execute the ideas with excellence. Accurate and rigorous execution is as important as strategy and business model.

Do you think the pandemic also offers opportunities for new organisations?

Yes, without doubt. It has accelerated a way of working based on greater autonomy and trust, which allows teams to perform their tasks how, when and where they want, in a more free, responsible and committed way.

What’s the importance of technology transfer for start-ups?

It offers many opportunities. Connection and collaboration between institutions, corporations and start-ups is important. This must take place in an aligned way that’s oriented towards businesses and a more supportive, sustainable society that follows the SDGs. We must take advantage of the breeding ground of scientific teams in Barcelona, for example, which can develop technologies to create businesses that generate jobs.

What has been the most difficult or rewarding lesson you've learned in your career?

The most rewarding thing is the professional growth of your team. When we created Aïta, the concept of a start-up didn’t exist, but we worked with a vision that made us grow. Some of the professionals on that team are leading managers today.

What has been your most rewarding experience at The Collider?

On the one hand, the best thing has been the team and the fellow mentors of The Collider. And on the other, working on the development of different start-ups and their validation in the industry and in the market has been incredibly rewarding.

What professional advice would you have liked to receive when you started?

I think it’s important to have mentors/advisors from the very beginning of a business idea or start-up.  You have to know how to choose this person well, because they can bring practical wisdom, reduce risks in decision-making and provide greater strategic vision.