Few companies are encouraged to co-CEO or two in a boxthat is, having two leaders. It was conceived by IBM, seeking a double work agenda with the same level of priority. It was also applied by Microsoft and Cognisant technologies.
Since January of this year, the Cordoba Apex, which offers BPO services contact center, was noted in this group, but with an innovation: a man and a woman. Patricio Ríos Carranza and Denise Henry, both are CEO.
How did they get on Apex?
–Patricio Ríos Carranza (PRC): In 1992 I graduated as a public accountant at the Catholic University of Córdoba (UCC) and, as I had done an internship at Telecom, they called me from Buenos Aires. In 1995 I went to Personal, where I was 10 years, until I managed to manage the commercial and customer service areas. In 2005, while on vacation, my brother informed me that Apex was looking for a general manager and contacted me Humberto Sahade, one of its founders.
– Did you plan to return to Córdoba?
–No, but I liked the project. So from 2005 to the present I was in charge of the company, except for two years in which Apex was controlled by another group.
-How was that?
–Apex was headed by Sahade and Marcelo Cid. The year after joining, they sold the firm to the American Sykes and I became general manager for Argentina and Spain. In mid-2009 I went to ACS, also from the United States, which had bought Multivoice to handle all the operations in South America, except Brazil.
“Why did you go back to Apex?”
–I like companies with owners. They are more agile, flexible and less bureaucratic. Between late 2010 and early 2011, Sykes decided to leave the country because Argentina had lost competitiveness and the contact center It had become a business for the local market, something that did not interest them. Sahade and Cid repurchased the company and I returned as CEO and minority partner. So until last December, when we decided to share the CEO role.
“Denise, were you in charge from the beginning too?”
–Denise Henry (DH): No, on the contrary. I entered very young, I am a degree translator and, as Apex exported services to the United States, it was the best place to practice managing English. There I discovered my vocation.
-How was that?
–I started an internal career, first as a telephone consultant, supervisor, boss, manager and I even made implementations in the Philippines for Yahoo! When Sykes arrived, I left to professionalize. I studied my MBA at the Icda of the UCC. I took courses at Harvard and Columbia universities and the executive program at Singularity University.
–And when did you come back?
–When Sahade and Cid bought back the company. There I returned as COO, in charge of the operation and customer satisfaction, reporting to Patricio until December (2019).
– Whose idea was it to share the CEO role?
– (PRC): It came out of practice, it was not an idea that came out overnight. It happened naturally because it happened in practice. In 2011 I entered with the plan to develop the company in Latin America and Denise as COO. As he gained confidence and showed his abilities, we naturally began to divide the areas. In the last year and a half or two, we have worked side by side.
– (DH): It formally started in January (last) because it was a good time to mark the importance of the digital agenda. Apex has always stood out for being a pioneer in innovation. It is not only about looking for new products, but also new ways of relating to collaborators. That is my task.
–How is the decision making?
– (PRC): We used to discuss everything and solve it together, but each one took care of their issues. This scheme was to give more regional boost to the company. In 2010, Apex had three thousand people, eight clients and we operated only in Argentina with a single service. Today we are more than six thousand, we serve more than 40 clients, we operate in six countries and we have various services.
–Not everyone is encouraged by this co-CEO because in some cases it works and in others it does not.
–There are key factors for this to work. One is to feel that what is important is the project and not personal achievement. Another is to have complementary capacities, so that each one is dedicated to his subjects. The third is trust; I respect Denise’s decision and she does the same. And, finally, to have the same vision of where we are going and how we do it. These factors eliminate many discussions.
– (DH): This model needs leaders to have worked together for a long time, with a lot of synergy and a level of trust and respect.
–Is there an intention to respond to gender equality?
– (PRC): The man and woman thing was by chance. It was the result of capabilities and skills (talents) of each. We are different and complementary; she is more explosive, I am calmer; she is more attentive to the operation, I, to the numbers; She handles 10 songs at once, I focus on one.
– (DH): Both in collaborators and in management We have 50 to 60 percent female staff, but we never set a quota; We look for people by abilities, skills, contribution and not by gender.
“After quarantine, 40% of people will continue to work at home, because it is efficient and generates a good experience”
–In which countries do they operate?
– (PRC): In Argentina there is 70 percent of the operation. We are also in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Honduras. Bogotá is the last landing with three to four clients. The objective is to be among the three to four most important operators in Latin America. Furthermore, we are the only independent BPO, because the rest belong to international groups.
–Are all clients from the region?
–We serve large service companies. In each country where we operate, we sell to the local market. We do not export.
–Because today it is not profitable.
–The prices in Argentina are higher than in the region. Apex was born as an export company. The problem is the unpredictability of the peso: at moments in its history the country is cheap and at another it is expensive, making exporting difficult to sustain over time.
–Is it a good time to export today?
Yes, but maybe not in two years. 70 percent of our clients are over 10 years old, but some reach 15. With the variations that the weight has, it is difficult to build a long-term relationship, because it is difficult to set a price.
–What changed from what was initially the “call center”?
-The call centers they became contact centers, after BPO (outsourcing of services) and today they are called BPO Nex Gen, which provide comprehensive solutions so that companies can manage their relationship with the client, whatever the way they communicate.
– (DH): We go to a mix of technological services. For example, we have our bot (virtual robot) Alfred, who works for 15 clients and will reach 18 in July.
–They are becoming a technology company.
-Yes. For example, we launched Apex Insider, which analyzes the total transactions between our clients and their users, including studying the voice, to establish patterns of conduct in the complaints or the problems they have. It was the result of an alliance with Google. We also launched Apex Way, a partner management platform, which in turn helps them manage themselves.
–Did the pandemic deepen the digital world?
– (PRC): Yes, from both sides: from our operators and from customers. This Apex Way platform allows us to interact with our employees, even without physical presence. And with clients too, because they need to communicate in any way possible, they are looking for increasingly automated solutions.
– What was the result of Apex with teleworking?
– (PRC): So far it was good. 10 years ago we had been talking about teleworking and we had no one with this regime.
– (DH): With the pandemic, in four days we had 90 percent working from home in the six countries, regardless of whether or not quarantine was implemented, because the processes were ready.
–Will they continue with the “home office” in the post-pandemic?
–This period broke all paradigms. It seemed impossible to do what we have been achieving for three months. We are going towards a mixed scheme because in the combination is the most efficient balance point for organizations and for the collaborator. Not all organizations or all people are made for home office.
– (PRC): First you have to see what regulation will be like. In Chile it has already been regulated. Still, telecommuting is here to stay.
–Does telework reduce costs for the company?
–It depends on how the norm and regulations come out, as well as how the offices we have can be used, because while the pandemic lasts there will be limitations in the use of the building due to the need for distance.
“Today it is convenient to export, but perhaps not in two years. Due to the variations in the weight, it is difficult to give a price abroad ”.
– (DH): 40 percent of people will continue to work from home because it is efficient, convenient and generates a good experience for them.
–This challenges organizations.
–The most important thing is that employees take responsibility for self-leadership and for having a more active role. Furthermore, the organization must find mechanisms to generate teamwork and corporate culture. Apex invests in empowering the embedded employee in the organization’s culture. Our traditional marathon was a cultural pillar. Well, this year we are going to do a digital marathon, with which we will collect calories to donate to solidarity projects of our leaders. The coaching and training.
–What plans does Apex have for the future?
–Today the consumer’s life is increasingly relevant for brands, which pay more attention to the experiences of their consumers. This puts companies like Apex on the small table of our clients because we simplify their interaction with consumers. In fact, between April and June we doubled the number of digital clients. And we can offer the collaborator a flexible model, which allows us to acquire the best talents.
– (PRC): Commercially, the plan is to grow in Colombia and Argentina. We are considering making acquisitions outside the country to accelerate progress. The second semester will be difficult, but in every crisis there are opportunities.
Attentive to the operation, also to the family and reading
His responsibility is the operation and the clients.
Name. Denise Henry (37)
Married with. Paolo.
Sons. Gael (9), Ben (7), Lupe and Paz (4).
Likes. Being with family, reading historical novels. Quarantined, cook and watch a good series for streaming.
Business. Apex America (Centro de Interacción Multimedia SA).
Employees. More than six thousand.
Customers. More than 40 global companies in Latin America in the financial, telecommunications, mass consumption, credit card and healthcare sectors.
Attentive to the numbers and the sport
He is in charge of accounting aspects.
Name. Patricio Ríos Carranza (49).
Married to. Carolina.
Sons. Patricio (22) and Agustín (20).
Likes. Soccer, jogging and cinema.
Business. Apex America (Centro de Interacción Multimedia SA).
Offices. In Córdoba, Rosario and Resistencia (Argentina); in São Paulo (Brazil); in Santiago and Talca (Chile); in Asunción (Paraguay); in San Pedro Sula (Honduras), and in Bogotá (Colombia).
Products and services. User experience management. Traditional BPO services. Digital products such as Way (employee management platform); Speech Analytics (platform with more than three million conversations processed), and Alfred, a bot Cognitive (virtual robot) specialized in customer service that works for 15 clients in three countries.
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