Luis Riu: “management with My Sister Carmen is Based on Trust”date_range 24 September, 2019 question_answer 14 Comments
Running RIU is a family affair. For more than 20 years, my sister Carmen and I have shared ultimate responsibility for the company that our parents and grandparents founded in 1953. I am often asked what it’s like to direct a company with my sister. It’s a common assumption, from the outside, that there must be tensions and rivalry between siblings.
But that’s not our case. We have divided up the functions in such a way that each of us focuses on doing what we like the most and we have achieved a balance that lets us make decisions with impressive agility. I think the secret is total trust, and the fact that we complement each other, rather than substituting each other. Today, Carmen and I want to talk about how we organise ourselves.
1. First Key of the Team Carmen + Luis Riu: Trust
There’s an anecdote that I think illustrates this very well. In 1991, when I moved to Punta Cana to lead our first international project, I had to make a five-hour journey to get to the embassy in the capital, to sign some documents we needed. Just one administrative task and I’d lose a whole day.
One day, I had had enough. I was in Barcelona, so I went into a notary’s office and made a power of attorney in Carmen’s name so that she could sign anything we needed on my behalf. Carmen explains that “the power of attorney was so extensive that, every time I showed it, the lawyers were taken aback and they would start debating whether I could file for divorce from Luis Riu’swife in his name.” When I came back from Punta Cana, she made an identical one for me.
“The jurists were debating whether I could ask for a divorce in the name of Luis Riu with his power of attorney ” jokes Carmen.
2. Second Key: A Balanced Distribution of Tasks
Add to this trust the fact that, as often is the case among siblings, we have totally different personalities and tastes. By applying these differences to our work, we can organise ourselves and complement each other very well.
- I take care of Expansion, Constructions, Operations and Marketing.
- While Carmen leads Legal, Finance, Systems and Corporate Social Responsibility.
I’m more about taking action, and Carmen is the rearguard, as she describes it. “Yes, my areas are more repetitive, more systematic, more rigid, but that’s what I like. Luis is much more creative,” says Carmen.
To be honest, I am not keen on Carmen’s areas. Mine are much more enjoyable.
“Sure, you create things from scratch and seeing a finished project is a bit like seeing your baby for the first time. It’s satisfying. But personally, I like it when the books are balanced,” says Carmen, with a laugh. “CSR is different and I have to work very hard to plan and design our action plan.”
3. Third Key of the Carmen + Luis Riu Tandem: Mutual Admiration
It’s interesting that, whenever we talk about the traits we admire the most in each other, we always focus on what we think we are lacking.
- What I admire about Carmen is her humanity, her people skills and her broad interest in the world. She is a great conversationalist and she plays a big role in any meeting, no matter who else is there.
- “In Luis, I admire his creativity, his determination, his intelligence and his ability to motivate others. He is all about action,” says Carmen.
Of course, there are also things we don’t like about one another. Carmen and I share a wall because our offices are adjacent and she says I talk too loud. “And if Ramón Arroyo comes, you should hear them. On occasion, I have run to his office, thinking they were having a huge row and they were just chatting normally.” As for me, it annoys me when she doesn’t reply to my emails, as I tend to fire them off quickly.
“My brother talks too loud. With Ramón Arroyo sometimes it seems that they are having a fight, when in reality they are chatting peacefully”, explains Carmen.
4. Our secret: we both move within the philosophy of ‘word and deed’.
One very noticeable feature of our management style is our ability to make decisions very quickly.
The other day, at the launch of the Riu Plaza España, Carmen said that we made the decision to run the hotel in five minutes and the decision to buy the building took a bit longer… 15 minutes! That’s no exaggeration, it’s the truth. It’s enough for us to talk to each other, perhaps quickly consult our closest collaborators and it’s done, dit i fet as they say in Mallorca. Despite the fact that I spend half of my time travelling and I haven’t got a mobile phone!
Perhaps part of why we are so in tune is the way we were brought up. We were never compared to each other, we have never competed against each other and we both avoided public attention. We are discreet and we like to focus on work.
All that helps to build a good relationship. But there is a part of the model that we have chosen to change. We grew up in the hotel: at lunch our family discussed work and at dinner it was customer satisfaction forms. In our respective families, we enjoy our meals and our time together talking about life and how our days have been. There’s a time to talk about work and the company, but at home, it’s forbidden.
Fdo. Luis Riu