February 6, 2024

Interview with Gonçalo Orvalho: “Productivity depends on having motivated people”

Portuguese people who stand out abroad are helping to find out where business opportunities are and what kind of companies and activities the country can attract. An initiative that brings together Negócios and the Portuguese Diaspora Council.

1- What led you to leave Portugal?

The ambition to become a better professional and open my horizons, both personally and professionally.

I’ve always believed that we learn a lot when we are exposed to different work cultures and different working methods.

Therefore, when I was invited to participate in a program that aimed to identify and shape future directors at Banco Santander, I did not hesitate to accept the challenge.

The program lasted three years and I visited two different countries: I was in Spain and England, and I have currently been outside Portugal for 16 years.

2- What advantages or disadvantages does being Portuguese bring you?

In my experience, there is one thing in which we are unique: the ability to always achieve the desired result, regardless of the conditions. Our ability to ‘get out of trouble’.

This is something I don’t see in other cultures – we have a very positive attitude and an ability to adapt to any change that comes our way.

Additionally, I consider that humility and ability to work are qualities common to most Portuguese people, whatever the area of work, and great advantages.

Along with these factors, on a personal level, we are quite cosmopolitan and, as we are people with mild and respectful customs, we often function as a “bridge” that connects people of different nationalities around us. This is the biggest advantage of being Portuguese.

The only disadvantage I see is linked to our intrinsic humility – sometimes we feel inhibited from being the best. Cristiano Ronaldo in this field is a true teacher and inspirational “we must always think we are the best at what we do”.

3- What obstacles did you have to overcome and how did you do it?

For me, the biggest obstacles were on a personal level – the hardest part was always being away from family and friends, and not having the Lisbon sun.

To overcome this reality, I travel to Portugal frequently and try to stay as close as possible to our culture: I only speak Portuguese at home with my wife and children, we watch Portuguese television, we go to Portuguese restaurants and I follow Sporting religiously.

On a professional level, working with a language that wasn’t my own was also, and still is, sometimes complicated. Particularly the technical part, as I acquired my knowledge at a Portuguese university and started my career in Portugal. To develop at this level, I study a lot and try to read as much as possible to develop my technical English.

4- What do you admire most about the country where you are?

In my opinion, the history and culture of England are fascinating.

On an economic level, it is incredible how this country developed on an island, with a very harsh climate, and is one of the world’s great powers.

I find culture fascinating, in different areas.

For example, I really admire the habits they have in relation to outside life: here, rain or shine, hot or cold, the children are in the parks, people walk and enjoy the beautiful nature that this country offers.

Diversity and inclusion is also an area that I admire: there are people of all nationalities and ethnicities here, and everyone respects each other.

In fact, the respect that people show for each other and the organized way in which they do things is exemplary.

5- What do you most admire about the company or organization where you work?

Above all, the growth dynamics.

It’s incredible to be in an organization like Banco Santander, which grows and changes for the better every year.

And this dynamic is not only reflected in business plans, but also at the level of the people who are part of the Santander family.

The opportunities that are given to people who stand out, regardless of age, sexual orientation, gender identity or nationality, is also unique. It’s actually what makes me stay at the same Bank, year after year.

In England it is common to change jobs every 3 or 4 years, but I never had the desire, because I was always given opportunities for growth and career progression internally.

6- What recommendations would you give to Portugal and its entreprenuers and managers?

To increase productivity, we must have people who are motivated and paid fairly; Therefore, I believe that salaries should be adjusted to reflect the value that each person adds to their employer.

Additionally, good work should also be recognized with increased responsibility and career progression. I have personal knowledge of professionals who graduated in Economics more than 15 years ago and have exactly the same functions today as the day they started working. All professionals need to grow, not feel stagnant, to stay motivated.

We have excellent professionals who have to look for opportunities outside of Portugal to be more valued and to be able to grow professionally. We have excellent young people with incredible academic preparation who are leaving the country to achieve a good standard of living and feel truly valued in their career.

It seems urgent to me that the country takes measures that can help retain talent and increase productivity.

7- In which sectors of the country where you live could Portuguese companies find customers?

In my opinion, Portugal should focus on areas where it already has extremely high-quality products and expand, both in terms of exports and in terms of partnerships.

For example, we have a formidable textile industry! There are already stores here, all of excellent quality, that manufacture everything in Portugal. There is a lot of space in this area to generate partnerships.

Another example that quickly comes to mind is wine. Our wine is far superior to the average wine sold here, but it is difficult to find and is sold at a premium price. This is an area that can easily be explored.

Just like the fruit. In Portugal we know that national fruit is superior to imported fruit. However, here we only see this same imported fruit for sale and it is very difficult to find products of national origin. Another area where it would be easy to find customers.

In terms of businesses that would thrive in the UK, I believe in restoration. Several quality Portuguese restaurants have opened in London and I think we could have more. All the English people (and there are many) that I know who are exposed to Portuguese cuisine love it!

For individual professionals, I believe companies in the service and construction industry would benefit from our professionals. Our training is above average and our ability to do good work and add value would stand out.

8- In which sectors in Portugal could companies from the country where you live want to invest?

Clearly the tourism area is a must! Tourism is undoubtedly the element for which Portugal is best known. Starting in the Algarve, passing through Lisbon and ending in Porto.

At the same time, I think we are far ahead in Renewable Energy, Tech Start-ups and Agriculture / Agribusiness.

We also have many international companies increasingly investing in the services sector in Portugal and this is perhaps the most relevant area to be explored in the future. Our geographic location, infrastructure, linguistic capacity and professional preparation are factors that give us a strong competitive advantage over other countries.

9- What is the competitive advantage of the country you live in that could be replicated in Portugal?

Portugal must evolve towards having a culture that is much more respectful of workers’ personal lives. I know there is still a way to go in this direction, but I also know Portuguese businesspeople who are changing the ‘chip’.

In England, there is greater freedom for workers. My teams organize their working hours, as long as they deliver the requested results, and I can guarantee that they do so year after year in an exceptional way. Everywhere, people need to be held accountable for their tasks. Each person must seek professional pride, deliver the best.

I can give my example. I’m never home after 7:30 pm (if I’m not traveling), as I insist on having dinner with my family. This means that my entire day is extremely organized and methodical. Nobody questions my hours and before I was 30, I was already Managing Director (MD).

10- Are you thinking of returning to Portugal? Why?

Yes, not only I think about it as I’m certain I will return.

I think we are a country with a phenomenal quality of life for anyone who has the financial capacity. I would love to finish my career in Portugal.

I would like, for example, for my children to work in Portugal, where we learn a lot and where we are encouraged to be super-creative, flexible and fearless as professionals.

It was a fabulous “school” I had when I worked in Portugal and I think it would now have value as a “teacher” for young professionals, for example.

In any case, if not professionally, my retirement will certainly be spent in Praia Verde area, in Algarve!

Read the original article here.