Return"They always remember your name and company at meetings” - An Interview with Montana Colors Managing Director Olga Fuertes
Throughout this month we have prioritized female participation in the content published on our blogs and social networks. We figured that there would be no better way to conclude #mtnwomensmonth than by publishing a conversation with Olga Fuertes, the Managing Director of Montana Colors. In this interview, we’ll get to know a little more about the work involved in one of the highest positions at the company, her career so far and her personal evaluations of issues like gender equality in the workplace.
What does an average day at work involve for you?
Currently and as a result of the pandemic, my days are pretty similar.
I love getting up very early and going for a run. It's my way of getting energized to start the day. I arrive at the office around 8:30 - 9:00 am and I take an hour to prepare for the meetings of the day, answer the most urgent emafls and ask for help for the matters that need it.
I usually have about five meetings a day touching on a wide variety of topics; for instance, coordination of our new subsidiaries, meetings with clients, team evaluation meetings, and keeping on top of the Montana Shops.
I usually end the day focused on the topics that require the most concentration, when the office and the phone have calmed down. I love having these more reflective moments when the day winds down.
Although my work and responsibilities have not changed, the way I do it has. A year ago I was constantly traveling to be with teams and clients. I did practically the same job but in person, face to face. The pandemic has brought some positive developments. We can promote many more projects at the same time, during the same day I can work with Australia, Chile, Madrid and Seville.
We are more effective now, but I miss traveling and dealing with issues in person. The human side is very important and the distance makes it difficult.
Could you describe the responsibilities of a Managing Director?
I’d like to compare myself to a conductor of an orchestra. My responsibility is to choose good musicians, motivate them and involve them in the performance, creating a climate of trust that allows us to communicate easily and, most importantly, create an environment of enjoyment and make sure that everyone understands their role. If we have a good time, everything turns out much better!
Even though I don't mind wearing a suit on the day of the performance, I love putting on my overalls and doing the dirty work. When it’s showtime I'm usually the one who ends up sweating the most! Basically, I love the action ☺.
How has your career at the company progressed?
I started at Montana Colors in 2005, right after finishing my degree. In the beginning, I had time to spend time in almost all the departments of the company. I spent a lot of time in the Montana Shop Barcelona - Born and in distribution. I spent time in accounting and finance, I went to all the trade fairs. I learned a lot and was able get involved in many projects, we were a small team and the work was more transversal. After a year and a half I went to work at Wurth, a German multinational specialized in the sales of material for industry, DIY and decoration, and I developed a project to open self-service stores. I learnt a lot from that time. Through sales training at an international company with many subsidiaries, I was able to work with the German team on various projects. And in 2008, after almost three years, I returned to Montana as the commercial director for Spain and Portugal. I was able to build a great team that allowed us to attract lots of new clients and open new markets. I remember that we had a turnover of €3 million that year. This year, if everything goes well, we will be close to €10m, in the Iberian Peninsula alone. Very exciting!
I was in that position until 2015, when I passed the baton to Marc Dalmases and they promoted me to the role that I carry out to this day.
Before your arrival at Montana Colors, what was your working life like?
I’d only worked summers at Banco Sabadell as an intern to save up for a trip with friends. During the last year of my degree, I worked at a consultancy to get some work experience.
What did you think that you could bring to a company like Montana Colors?
Montana is color, passion, creativity. I realized that if I applied my knowledge and management skills to the service of this creative force, we could build something great together.
I love the business world. I’m happy when I’m examining and analyzing, trying new strategies, listening and talking to people. At Montana I’ve always felt like a fish in water. Jordi Rubio has always given me the space and the confidence to be able to enjoy the role.
What are the most significant improvements you’ve seen at your time here?
Over the past few years, we’ve improved and changed lots of things. We’ve invested a lot in our production plants, we’ve opened new markets with our own structure, and opened more flagship stores. There are lots of projects that we’ve delivered together.
Now we have a much more solid structure that allows us to speak face-to-face to an increasingly demanding market. Let's say we've reinforced the structure it to make it bigger and more efficient.
Is there anything you like about the company that hasn’t changed in all this time?
Although there are more than 200 workers, we are still a small family. We all know each other and we know our role at the company.
Sometimes I might get a name wrong, but it’s not because I don’t remember, it’s because the name of that person doesn’t match their face ☺.
Have you experienced any sexism whilst working as the Managing Director?
The truth is that our sector is especially masculine. There are very few managerial positions held by women. Regardless of the sector, today it is still rare to see a woman in charge of a company. We still have a long way to go, although we have made progress over the years. Changes come with education, and the foundations are laid in the home.
On more than one occasion, during one of my trips, I’ve been asked if my children were well, who was looking after them whilst I was away or how I could cope with the guilt of spending time away from them on a work trip. Obviously the answer is easy and anyone who knows my children knows that they are very normal kids who are cared for perfectly. What’s more, they are proud of the work that their mother does.
The point is that this question or comment would never have been made to a man, because of gender stereotypes. Now, these situations are opportunities to communicate another vision of things.
That said, the truth is that in 99.9% of the situations I have felt respected and valued. And if you look on the bright side, they almost always remember your name and company because there are two women in each meeting at the most.
Besides that you don't have to queue to go to the bathroom ☺.
Have you ever used MTN products?
Yes of course! Although I don’t paint graffiti, I’ve used our products to paint things at home or in my parents' garden. I’ve painted some garden chairs, varnished a hobby horse for my children, I’ve painted a fence. I’m not bad at it, although I need more practice!
What would you think if someone tagged the door of your house?
It’s happened to me before and obviously after 12 years at Montana Colors, I looked at it differently. What matters most to me is that the paint is made by Montana Colors!
If only tags were the biggest problems in life…
You don't paint graffiti, but have you ever been tempted?
I often travel with people who paint and I like asking them about it, and sometimes I even go along with them. I have good eyesight and blend in well, so I can be a good spotter depending on the circumstances.ShareMarch 23, 2021