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Innovation is not a story

Taken from the virtual newspaper Portafolio: http://www.portafolio.co/opinion/otros-columnistas-1/la-innovacion-no-es-un-cuento-506709

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Entrepreneurs must learn to give their businesses decent burial and not be tied to the past or feelings. That is where, generally, the innovative process arises. In traditional words and as the entrepreneur Jorge Velásquez O’Byrne would say “businesses that were once dairy cows tend to become mangy dogs.”

And Jorge says it with knowledge, since he understood at the time that revalidating his portfolio could lead to success and that only innovation would allow him to overcome the challenges and risks of a changing business such as electrical engineering and telecommunications, focus of Inelco, a company of which he is not only president, but of which he has been a majority partner for 23 years.

Inelco, as a company, originated in 1937, when two young men, one of them uncle of Jorge, created Otero Velásquez Inelco, as an acronym for Electrical Engineers of Colombia, in Bogotá. From that first time, being one of the first companies of contractors and commercialization of electrical products, electrical projects remained such as the El Dorado Airport, the Tequendama Hotel, the Police building, the Avianca tower, etc. By 1949 they decided to set up the operation in Cali and it is this last subsidiary that still remains.

How was Jorge’s move to Inelco? It was 1994, and this administrator and electrical engineer of the Sloan School of Management, the MIT business school was, on behalf of his father, who had 15%, to an extraordinary meeting. The news: the resignation of the general manager and the complex situation that the company was going through, which coincided with the high financial costs in the country and the crisis in the construction sector.

Although Jorge had already been general manager of Inelco at the beginning of the 80s, he again ran for the position of management, but this time on condition that they sell him shares.

After the negotiation, and given the skepticism of the other partners, who did not see the future of the organization, it ended with 85% of the shares (today it has 90%). With savings and a loan from his father, he completed the initial installment, while the balance of the building remained for two-year payment.

A major challenge, no doubt, since it was about assuming the leadership of an intensive care organization. The initial stage was marked by many sacrifices from Jorge and his wife, Luz Marina, who has been his support, his partner and who has worked shoulder to shoulder with him.

The next decision was to make a strategic planning exercise, in which it was diagnosed that telecommunications were booming, while the electricity sector was in a tailspin. Therefore, knowing of an important tender of the Municipal Companies of Cali – EMCALI in the telecommunications area, and taking into account that it involved the SCADA monitoring systems (Supervisory Control and Data Decision), in which he had already worked In his time at Baxter Laboratories as manufacturing manager, he decided to jump into the water.

Obviously, the situation of Inelco and the level of specialization required did not give so that it would only be submitted to the tender, so it chose to look for suppliers from abroad that would handle the issue and act as an integrator of three North American companies that had the required components. . In addition to this arduous management, he had to make financial maneuvers and demonstrate at the public hearing why Inelco and not a strong multinational based in Colombia should keep the project.

Finally, the Colombian company won the tender, and this business constituted its rebirth. Not only were debts released, but new business areas began to be reviewed. Likewise, the network monitoring project was replicated in EPM and TeleCartagena.

Jorge, who had developed his entrepreneurial spirit since his first job as a product manager with the Carvajal Group in Special Export Products and then creating a company, along with his wife, dedicated to accounting issues, began to lead the execution of new projects like those of public lighting.

If there are three divisions: the technical one, the electric one and the commercial unit, the current model, which has a structured wiring unit, the electronic security unit and the energy efficiency and renewable energy unit.

The SCADA telecommunications and project unit disappeared, despite having been a jewel in the crown, because communications became wireless.

Currently working on many projects, such as the replacement of traditional mercury lighting in shopping centers, with LED lighting. Also, they were selected by Innpulsa, after a call, to give life to some intra-enterprises and are working on it.

The interest in self-training, evidenced since one of the first IBM computers was bought in 83 only to slap you and ended up creating an accounting program, as well as knowing how to wait, is critical. “There is no certainty or truth revealed in this business world, but with smell and knowledge you can intuit what is the right moment.”

Undoubtedly, innovation is in beings who lead with their effort, integrity and openness. And Jorge, as a good innovator, does not lock himself in, he does not keep his soul. Today, it is facilitating the incubation of ventures and has fun supporting those who share their innovative spirit. It is encouraged by the superior purpose of creating opportunities for others. Pure inspiration!

Germán A. Mejía A.
bmLab Latam. germanmejia@bmlab.co