In April 2013,Rudimar Dall’Onder,born in Farroupilha, a small town in Rio Grande do Sul, was presented with the opportunity, and the challenge, of taking the lead at a major shoe manufacturer – almost 53 million pairs of shoes sold in the first trimester that year, including 15 million pairs that were exported to countries like China, one of the world’s largest shoe exporters. The mission would have been challenging to any executive, under any circumstance. But, in his case, the responsibility was even bigger since he had to replace the twin brothers whose last name spoke for itself: Alexandre and Pedro Grendene. President and VP of Grendene at the time, they left the leadership of the business they founded in 1971 to, according to them- selves, complete the professionalization process in the company.From that moment on, the brothers would be chairman and vice-chairman of the board. To replace them,Dall’Onder seemed to be the natural choice, as he was a non-family executive, but a home-grown: until then, almost 35 of its 56 years had been dedicated to the company. The feedback on his ascension to the highest leadership position was very positive,as market analysts considered his nomination would not lead to any major structural changes nor unexpected deci- sions at Grendene.Dall’Onder’s experience was his biggest asset.He started out as an intern,became an IT manager,then Indus- trial and Commercial Director before being appointed CEO.Despite all his experience, he had a big challenge ahead: Grendene was not only a name but it was the spirit integrated into the company’s culture. “My history at Grendene started when I entered College for Engineering in Caxias do Sul/RS”,he explains.One day,on his way home after classes,he ran into Alexandre. They had already met before – they were born in the same city, a small one, with a little more than 20 thousand inhabitants at that time. “I was young and I used to work with my father in the family business when he told me: ‘I’d like you to work with me, estimating costs and determining the price for our products.You can have a flexible schedule’. That is how I started my career at Grendene,collaborating with the company in my free time”, says the executive. The experience gained in the early stages gave him deep knowledge of all the industrial processes and their impact on the commercial area, which is essential to understand and lead the operations of a company currently present in 65 thousand points of sale in Brazil and 20 thousand abroad, with such strong brands like Melissa, Rider and Ipanema.
“I was young and I used to work with my father in the family business when he told me: ‘I’d like you to work with me, estimating costs and determining the price for our products.You can have a flexible schedule’. That is how I started my career at Grendene,collaborating with the company in my free time.”
The company also operates one Melissa showroom in Milan and five concept stores: three Galeria Melissa stores (Sao Paulo, New York and London), one Casa Ipanema store (Rio de Janeiro) and one Ipanema store (Sao Paulo). Grendene also holds other successful brands like Zaxy, Cartago, Grendene Kids and Grendha. Dall’Onder joined the company exactly when Melissa was being created.“Things used to be very hard, much harder”, he recalls. “Developing a new product used to involve much more time and effort. Grendene was beginning its footwear production and everything happened so fast we didn’t have time to plan almost anything. We basically went with the flow.” Soon after he finished his studies in 1981, he became the manager of the data processing center, responsible for the implementation of the new IT depart- ment. He held the same position until 1986,when he was promoted to Industrial Director. In the early 2000s, he took over the commercial area as well, becoming the Industrial and Commercial Director.
Since then, and in the five years Dall’Onder has been CEO, Grendene has maintained its foundation of business strategy, adopted when the company was founded, in Farroupilha/RS, manufactur- ing plastic packaging for wine bottles. And, even in a country that fears the invasion of Chinese products,the company collects victories and robust numbers. The secret? The combination of brand, productivity, design and scale. Large marketing budgets, unique designs and the constant search for productivity go hand-in-hand.
"Grendene intends to keep investing in its brands and in its people so that they understand the market trends and consumer demands, being able to translate them into valuable proposals to meet consumer desires all around the world.”
“Strategic thinking has always been a part of Grendene’s culture and it’s mainly focused on people and how they collaborate and learn together”, says the executive. “And the company’s culture is shared and valued by all sectors.” Everything very well coordinated in order to create democratic fashion responding rapidly to the market’s needs. Over the past three decades, the foot- wear industry has gone through many transformations, primarily motivated by competitiveness,consumer demands,glo- balization of brands and, of course, due to the implementation of new technologies. Fully aware of the changes in the busi- ness environment and all the challenges that need to be overcome, Dall’Onder emphasizes that innovation is the driv- ing force behind all areas of the company. “We are constantly searching for im- provement, based on the attributes that can affect consumer choice. I would say design is the main one, but not the only one. Comfort, anatomy and lightness are also essential. When we translate these needs into our creations, we focus on the innovation that allows us to materialize them.” That is the reason why the company maintains an advanced technology develop- ment center in Europe,which guarantees access to the latest trends in the industry. Having considerable experience and the knowledge required to come up with innovative ideas to remain competitive in the future, the executive evaluates the permanent need for adaptation.“Grendene intends to keep investing in its brands and in its people so that they understand the market trends and consumer demands, being able to translate them into valuable proposals to meet consumer desires all around the world”. There, the sky is (not) the limit.