It was not spoken, but written in invisible ink, that sooner or later Carla Lobo would make true her dream of being the manager of the family company, R.Lobo. In 1998, the company only exported 40% of its turnover. Ten years later, in 2008, that percentage rose to 70%. This year is well over 90%
t was an idea stuck in her head since she was a child – to become the manager of a company. “I’ve never thought of myself doing anything else”, confesses Carla Lobo, 44 years old, 23 in the textile business, an adventure entirely lived at R. Lobo, the Guimarães-based company that specialises in circular jerseys, which her father, former commercial director of a factory in Felgueiras, founded in 1991.
She did not need to deviate much from the path previously set. Just a few adjustments, in response to the unforeseeable situations that come plentiful in life, but of never too big an importance for her, a prepared woman, usually equipped with a plan B – and it would not be out of character to have a plan C, just in case.
As her entry to FEP – Economy School of the University of Porto – failed by just a few decimal points (at the end of a path that went through the schools João Meira, Martins Sarmento and Francisco de Holanda), she activated her plan B and studied Public Administration at the University of Minho.
She was 23 when, at the end of the degree, she received her first paycheck, as an auxiliary teacher in the Management Accounting course, and initiated an academic career – which passed by Católica before finally landing at the Instituto Politécnico do Cávado do Ave –, interrupted last year while she was already Assistant Teacher. “It was too much – the classes, my daughters, the factory…” she explains.
But at first, when textiles were less demanding and she did not have in her hands all the responsibilities of the company, Carla managed multitasking, in a staggering end of the century when besides teaching, she made her debut as an intern at R. Lobo, started a family and still found the time to complete her Masters and progress in her academic career.
“I’m very efficient at managing time. And very focused in all that is quantitative and economical – ratios and numbers”, says the manager, staring at herself in the mirror.
It was not spoken, but written in invisible ink, implied between father and daughter (the only one, for that matter) that sooner or later she would achieve at R. Lobo her dream of becoming the manager of the company. It was inevitable. “I don’t regret a thing. With all things considered, you just adjust the plan”, she recalls.
“I started – very patiently, since working with your father is never easy 🙂 – to learn the several areas of business. First the purchases, then the commercial part, and finally the financial, which is what lures me the most. I’ve adapted well, I like what I do”, she guarantees.
1996 was the year she started her internship at R. Lobo. Focusing on the numbers, as she does, it is not hard to realise that she has been working in textiles for 23 years, or in other words, more than half of her life. “I’ve learned a lot: but I still have a whole lot more to learn”, she cautions.
2003 was the year that, for health reasons, her father had to step down – and she suddenly had to adjust to this bump in life and undertake the leadership of a small company that was gearing up to face the storm triggered by China’s admission to the WTO.
The investment on exports and the constant rise in the value chain were the guns that she used to stay afloat. In 1998, R. Lobo exported 40% of its business volume. Ten years after, in 2008, that percentage had gone up to 70%. This year it stands well above 90%.
“To focus on exports was the right decision. We have reinforced the commercial team and we are now attending the big international trade fairs, looking for new customers. We would no longer be here if it weren’t for that decision”, mentions Carla, adding that the Textile and Clothing Industry has changed a lot in the past 22 years: “If the sector hadn’t evolved the way it did, we would have no more textiles companies over here. We would have been swept away”.
“When I started, our work was incomparably less demanding. There was time to produce. Now it’s very stressful. We need to be much more focused. There’s no room for mistakes, and if the clients feel that we are no longer trustworthy, they will leave”, concludes Carla Lobo, a manager that insists in running her time efficiently – because she knows that time is the only capital of the people whose fortune is their intelligence.
Family Married to a mechanical engineer (they met at University), they have two children, Leonor, 16, who likes Biology, and Clara, 12 Education Graduate in Public Administration (U. Minho), Master in Management Accounting and it’s a specialist in Accounting and Auditing Home Apartment near the City Park, in Guimarães Car BMW 350 van Laptop Asus (“I rarely use it”) Cell phone iPhone 6 Hobbies “The basic: having fun with the family, having dinner out with friends” Holidays Last year they went to Aix-en-Provence, south of France Golden rule “To always have a plan B (and when I don’t, I get angry…)”