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July 08, 2017

AUTHOR: Corporate Rebels (www.corporate-rebels.com)

We created our Bucket List to show that there are organizations out there that have found a solution to boring and uninspiring workplaces. For one-and-a-half years we have visited such organizations and learned from their extraordinary stories. But still, every now and then, unknown stories pop-up and continue to amaze us. This happened to us again last week, when we visited Bilbao (Spain). In Bilbao, we learned how Koldo Saratxaga, the former CEO of the Basque luxury coach manufacturer Irizar, saved the organization from near bankruptcy and turned it into one of the world’s most renowned luxury coach manufacturers. It’s a brilliant and informative story about a true workplace pioneer.

 

From near bankruptcy to double-digit growth

When Koldo joined Irizar in 1991 the company was in deep crisis. Before Koldo became CEO, Irizar’s leadership had changed twice within one year time and employee morale had hit rock bottom. Additionally, Irizar was on the verge of bankruptcy. The future and survival of the company was in serious danger. Koldo: “Sales were tiny, losses were enormous, and the image was at rock bottom.” He knew it was time for a radical change. And a radical change he made. For the 14 years (1991 – 2005) Koldo was in charge, Irizar’s transformation and development has been spectacular (which is why it was also published as a Harvard Business School case-study). We met with Koldo during our visit to Bilbao. 

 By implementing a system focused on people, strong customer loyalty, and a radically empowered workforce, Koldo managed to provide Irizar with a 23.9% annual growth over 14 years. Over time, revenues grew from €24 million to €310 million during his tenure. The organizational growth was impressive with Irizar opening new production plants in different countries like China (1995), Morocco (1997), Brazil (1998), Mexico (1999), India (2001) and South-Africa (2002). They managed to ramp up the production of coaches from 226 to 1600 coaches a year. Not only by increasing production capacity but also by reducing the production time from 38 days to 14 days. The million dollar question is how Koldo achieved such spectecular growth.

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We created our Bucket List to show that there are organizations out there that have found a solution to boring and uninspiring workplaces. For one-and-a-half years we have visited such organizations and learned from their extraordinary stories. But still, every now and then, unknown stories pop-up and continue to amaze us. This happened to us again last week, when we visited Bilbao (Spain). In Bilbao, we learned how Koldo Saratxaga, the former CEO of the Basque luxury coach manufacturer Irizar, saved the organization from near bankruptcy and turned it into one of the world’s most renowned luxury coach manufacturers. It’s a brilliant and informative story about a true workplace pioneer.