Internships of the best manager on the planet

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Year after year, the Harvard Business Review magazine publishes its ranking of the best performing CEOs worldwide. In its last publication of 2018, the list “surprisingly” presented Pablo Isla at number 1, current President of the Inditex textile group, a Spanish multinational that operates 12,000 stores on five continents under the main brands of Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear, Bershka, among others. Pablo, only 56 years old and after having worked as vice president for 7 years, was appointed president of the company from 2011 to date.

Inditex’s business model has been to try to understand what the client wants and through the creativity of its commercial and design team and an integrated manufacturing structure and highly efficient logistics, to be able to offer its clients what they want.

In a recent interview with Spanish television, Pablo, who is not used to giving many interviews, of a modest and discreet nature, pointed out what he considers to be his best practices that have allowed him to lead Inditex over the years to a capitalization of $95,000 million euros and with a presence in more than 200 countries:

  1. Anticipate to respond effectively to changes that arise in the industry. It may sound trite, but for a company that bases its essence on fashion and that can have up to 26 adjustments per year in its manufacturing line, it is extremely important to prospect and anticipate trends in the textile sector.
  2. Promote a culture based on its values, which are entrepreneurial spirit, humility, innovation, teamwork, diversity and respect for differences. People of up to 150 nationalities work in its distribution centers and stores and almost 80% are women, promoting a diverse, enriching and inclusive work process.
  3. Invest everything that is required to guarantee the future growth of the business, be it for a store opening, a distribution center, new designs or in technology. The priority is to ensure the growth rate without neglecting profitability, production controls or quality standards. They work hard to find nearby suppliers to keep inventory low and quickly adapt to trends to send new garments to their stores.
  4. Do without traditional advertising betting heavily on the digital world, online sales and social networks. Zara has become a heavy-hitting social media influencer with 1,000,000 and 6,000,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram respectively. Zara’s online sales alone represented 45% of Inditex’s total sales last year.
  5. Commitment and social responsibility. Inditex has been looking for all its garments to be eco-efficient, using 40% less water and 20% less energy, with biodegradable materials, as well as strict compliance with the law in each of the countries in which the company has operations.
  6. The most important capital for Inditex is its people. Its Human Resources department looks for diverse talent, committed to the company, with a high level of accountability -who are accountable for their actions-, with a strong drive and who never falls into complacency, but always maintains the stimulus to continue improving and in constant development.

The successful career of Pablo Isla is interesting, a lawyer by profession who, as an orchestra conductor -as he calls himself-, has led to multiplying the value of Inditex, and through sharing these good practices allows us to understand the lessons of life required to try to succeed in the turbulent world of business.

Eng. Hector Sotomayor, M.A. advisor specialized in investment and advertising projects, as well as a professor at the Tec de Monterrey in the Department of Engineering and Sciences. Email:

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