“I had to change the chip”: he went from being the number 1 of a multinational to selling on the street
“My time in the organization was extremely satisfying, I learned a lot. I started as head of Sales Administration, then I went through different positions until I became the first local delegate director. At that time it was something utopian and unusual that in foreign companies (time of the 90′) the hierarchical positions are led by the locals and I was one of them, it was something unique. I was in charge of four companies, four general managers who reported to me. One of the things that was very important for my professional growth was the constant training provided by the organization. I had two great mentors who taught me and helped me a lot to develop.”
For almost 20 years, Alfonso Bonfiglio had been part of a Belgian construction corporation where he had learned a lot and grown both professionally and personally. The appreciation and respect they had for his performance was so high that in December 1999 he had been awarded as the best CEO of the company. However, in March 2000, he says, the international president of the organization decided to leave the group and from that moment several changes took place. The most important was the closure of several of the factories and, as a consequence, the reduction of personnel. And unexpectedly, he lost his job at the age of 55. “The decision It took me completely by surprise, I felt very bad and frustrated because I had left everything for the company, I felt very disappointed”says Alfonso, from a distance.
Alfonso’s dismissal occurred in the context of a country that was beginning to experience the worst political, economic and social crisis in history, which led to the resignation of President Fernando De La Rúa amid protests, deaths and looting throughout the country. the width of Argentina.
It was not the best time to start looking for work and even more so at 55. Every week companies closed and more people were left on the street. However, as he was totally used to working in a dependent relationship, Alfonso rearranged his CV and started calling his acquaintances to tell them that he was unemployed. “My idea was to continue with the same profile, to continue being the manager of a multinational, but in that context of 2000 and 2001 there was no place for me. My friends advised me to look elsewhere. I am 100% operational, I came from working in a factory, selling, producing, but I also realized that I had set up some companies from scratch for others. So I said to myself: ‘why can’t I do something for myself?’ And I began to see, to evaluate other alternatives to be able to develop”.
It was the worst time to undertake, but it was the only way out he had. There weren’t many options. He had to reinvent himself by force, he had to earn income to continue paying his family’s social work and other expenses.
Beyond the hard blow he had received and in the midst of so much crisis and bad news, Alfonso began to realize that no matter how complicated the situation was, he was facing a new opportunity in his life. He had to be encouraged to sit on the other side of the counter and use his creativity and everything he had learned in the last 20 years to put together something of his own.
Almost by chance, he says, he met Pedro Guida and Ricardo Flores, who had been General Manager and Production Manager, respectively, of a construction material supplier company that, like him, were unemployed. “They came to see me to ask me what I was doing. We started to get together and made the decision to start a company to manufacture construction materials such as putty and elements for the floor. With the little savings we had, we rented a 30-square-meter garage in Villa Adelina (province of Buenos Aires) and in that entrepreneurial adventure we came up with the idea of creating a putty for plaster rock plate, since I came from a company that manufactured gypsum rock plates and had some contacts.”
From the beginning they made the decision that they would sell through distributors, but in order for potential buyers to be interested in the product, they previously asked them as a requirement that it be first tested and approved by their installers. For this reason, Alfonso traveled dozens of kilometers every day to personally offer the putty to future customers. “I did it hundreds of times, I went where I had to go: La Plata, Florida Street, works in Nordelta. He brought them the putty and told them: `Look at this, what do you think? My rings didn’t fall off, I had to change the chip. If it was necessary to take it to the installers, of course I was going to do it”, he affirms.
The objective of Alfonso and his partners was to have the best putty on the market. So it was that they began testing the first formula (X1) with the installers and when they reached formula 22 they got the agreement that it was the best product, the first to be patented.
“Like any entrepreneur, we worked between 8 and 12 hours or more, whatever it took, there were endless days. We met every day at 8 in the morning and defined what we would do: call distributors, visit suppliers or buy raw materials. From the beginning we took it as a very serious job where discipline and perseverance was the secret to be able to move forward”.
Once they got the long-awaited formula, Alfonso says, they began to spread the word about the new product. “We had a wide portfolio of clients from our previous jobs. We contacted the largest supplier and he asked us if he wanted his installer to do the test, so we walked to Florida Street with a 30 kilo bucket. He told us that it was useless to him without having tried it. We went back to the factory and changed the marketing strategy, we modified the packaging that was very homemade and we went. He tried it out and told us what he needed. Although at that time 50% of the putty was imported, little by little we settled in and began to have a small market. Our multinational look allowed us to be able to anticipate and project ourselves”.
In this way, Alfonso and his partners were giving birth to Anclaflex, an Argentine company dedicated to the manufacture of 100% national paints and coatings.
Surely at that time the three entrepreneurs would not have imagined that in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, the company was going to increase its export capacity by a 60% and was about to bill $470 millions. Much less than I was going to have 126 employees.
One of the keys to the success of that adventure that had emerged in the midst of a crisis was the incorporation of Emiliano, Alfonso’s son who was 18 years old at the time. “When we started, he was studying Economic Sciences. At that time he was the only employee who accompanied us in the company. He was growing up and seeing everything day by day. Ricardo explained everything related to the raw material, to production, and I explained everything related to sales and collections. His youth made us see things that we did not observe and with the speed that things change, maybe it was difficult for us to make some decisions. So, his arrival was very important because he put together a young team with another head, that gave the company a breath of fresh air, something that is reflected in what has been happening to us in the last five years,” says his father.
Twenty years have passed since the 2001 disaster and Alfonso says that Everything he achieved with his company far exceeded his expectations and he is convinced that he will surely continue to do better because there are always many things to do.
About to turn 75 and after having reinvented himself when he lost his job in the midst of the crisis, Alfonso wishes to share a message of hope with people who find themselves without work. “You always have to think that things are going to be better, you don’t have to lower your arms. I think that if you don’t let your guard down, you go forward, look for a project, a way out, everything falls into place later. But it’s important not to stand still.”