Interview With Jaime Elizondo, President of the Europe Region

Our new Regional President, Jaime Elizondo, gave an interview about his new role and view of Europe.  ‘CEMEX IS HERE TO ADD VALUE FOR OUR STAKEHOLDERS’.  Here is the full transcript for you.

Q1: Let’s start with the #1 priority for CEMEX which is safety. How do you see aspects of safety in our region and what in your opinion are the key actions to achieve the goal of ‘Zero Accidents’?

“We have made great progress and implemented excellent safety practices in Europe, and we have transferred these practices to other countries with great success. Our priority is to ensure the physical security of our people, our contractors and our neighbours. We must continue the work to achieve our goal of ‘Zero Accidents’ and we must continue the cultural change that began a few years ago and that will enable us to live and work safely. We need to integrate safety issues in all our activities and to learn from and share information about our mistakes, to avoid any similar future incidents. We must learn from our successes and errors.”

Q2: What is your vision for CEMEX and how can we help to make it happen?

“CEMEX is here to generate prosperity and value for our customers, employees and the communities we are present in, and of course, for our investors. If customers see us as a company which helps them to succeed they will prefer our products and services. If our employees see that CEMEX gives them the best chances of personal and professional development, they will be more motivated and committed to the company. If the community in which we operate perceives us as a good neighbour enhancing the area, we will have better allies around us. We need CEMEX to be a profitable company that will sell more, at a better price, and will be efficient and productive, innovative and better every day. In this way, we will regain ‘Investment Grade’ more quickly and we will have the financial structure to enable faster growth.

To increase sales, we need to be closer to our customers every day and to be more ‘Customer Centric’; we have to understand their needs and develop our best offers for them. To be more effective, we need to develop an improvement process that will allow us to modernise our production processes and administration, and that we can share with our colleagues around the world; we have to learn as much as we can, to support and replicate successes, and this will accelerate our results more effectively. We need to be able to take advantage of synergies and the advantages of working as ‘One CEMEX’, because it will allow us to achieve the best position in our industry, in the shortest time.”

Q3: In January you were appointed President of the Europe Region and you visited the countries within the region. What are your impressions after these visits?

“The visits were very positive and I saw many very good practices that we can share with our colleagues within the region and with the entire CEMEX company. At the same time to quickly improve our results, we should be attentive and implement practices that are being developed in other places, both in CEMEX and outside the company. On the other hand, we have a lot of great business opportunities in our region for the next years. Europe is booming and will grow again. We are already seeing this and the continent offers many possibilities. There is great potential for our building solutions in Europe; for example there are very few concrete highways and we should be able to implement our concrete solutions and to convince customers about their benefits. The mass immigration is also an important challenge which we will have to understand. Many young people with families will arrive here, and we need to meet their needs such as housing, education, health, etc.”

Q4: What are CEMEX’s challenges in the Europe Region?

“The first and most important challenge is Zero Accidents. Starting from this, we have to work for our people, our customers and the communities in which we operate. We need to be able to create new opportunities for all in order to work with commitment and focus all our energy on improvement. We need to focus more closely on our customers, and better use Global Networks, sharing practices that have proven to be effective, efficient and profitable, to learn something new every day, and to constantly develop and improve.”

Q5: What are the factors that can have the greatest impact on the future development of CEMEX in Europe?

“There are some overdue issues that are slowly being resolved, such as environmental issues, CO2 and new emerging standards in this area. I believe that Europe was very brave in leading initiatives to ensure that sustainable development and environmental protection have become the global trend. With the participation of all – society, authorities, industry, environmental groups, etc. – the key decisions for the future of the planet were taken. I am certain that it will bring a lot of development opportunities. CEMEX, as well as the entire European industry, has to take its place in this new world. I am sure that there are changes which are a great opportunity for our company.”

Q6: Based on your extensive experience, what ideas and solutions are most interesting to implement in our region?

“Our company has many great ideas from various countries where we are present, but it is not my role to propose or bring new practices from other countries. My goal is to organise processes so that our employees can decide themselves how best practices can be replicated in their workplace. If they will search for best practices, better performance, the best projects or processes and implement them in their activities, everything will go much faster, and the results will be much better. At this point, we have Global Networks, the best tool we have dreamed of, enabling sharing of ideas and the search for excellence in all areas of our business. I want to see this tool used as much as possible.”

Q7: We have experienced organisational changes in our company in recent months. What do you expect from these changes? Do you think they will influence the cooperation and relations between different countries, regions and headquarters?

“The company’s activities correspond to the need for energy transfer, sharing of best practices and cooperation in the framework of one CEMEX. Any changes made will introduce operations and multiply interactions. In all the countries we will operate as one company and we will learn more from each other, and this will allow us to save time, effort and money. Another goal is to ensure that persons transferred to positions in other locations are learning and helping through talking with other countries, in different regions, because we do not want divisions, we want to have only one CEMEX.”

Q8: How do you see Corporate Social Responsibility in CEMEX and what are the future challenges in this regard?

“Corporate Social Responsibility allows many things, but most importantly to continue to exist. If you are not a responsible company, you have no future. If you are a responsible company that is close to the community, customers will prefer your products and will share it, and it will allow you to grow. To survive, we must coexist and generate prosperity for all who surround us. Sometimes we associate the idea of Corporate Social Responsibility with one specific division of the company, but for me, it is a part of all of it, the reason for its existence, because companies should generate social welfare. We all, from every CEMEX business area, should participate in generation of wealth. It is important to make it a part of us, so we must all be aware that our company contributes to development and prosperity.”

Q9: Could you tell us a little about your career path in our company?

“I’ve been involved with the company for 31 years. I started my career in Human Resources (HR), but I am quite restless and I have always moved from one place to another. I worked in Computer Science, Planning and Operations functions.  In Colombia I was head of the Planning Department, and then the President. I also held this position in Panama, Venezuela and Mexico. I was then appointed to the position of President of the Region of South America and the Caribbean, and now I’m in Europe.”

Q10: Ahead of us there’s a year full of challenges and hard work. What are your recommendations to recharge our batteries?

“I think that change is what charges batteries best. Change refreshes, revives and fills us with energy. You can feel that challenges give us energy. It works for me. At the beginning, the changes are difficult and I understand people who do not want them, but please try to embrace change. If the opportunity occurs, I believe, without a doubt, that we should grasp changes. Change motivates us and allows us to learn new things.”