Providing a retrospective, over the course of your business career, what’s been your biggest achievement?
For somebody who started out practically with nothing, such as myself, I may say that my entire life has been made up of conquests. However, perhaps my greatest achievement was in thinking about how the competition worked and how I was going to be working. That for me was a victory.
I began Delta in the 1960s and I thought about how I might make a difference. I had one of the best sellers working with me at the time but he ended up quitting because he wasn’t able to sell a thing. He made me take to the road.
While others would dispatch their coffee from the factory by railway or truck, I would get in a van and deliver it to the door of clients, I’d give credit, make the payment deadlines a bit easier, everything that the competition would not do. And I won over the sympathy of the clients out of proximity. And this proximity is really important to the lives of human beings whatever the profession might be.
From this point onwards, things began happening. As I usually say: “When the others would set off looking for clients, I was already coming back with them”.
I also did not hang around waiting for the supplier to come and sell me the product for me to then go and sell the processed product. Right at that time, I began searching for coffee in the places where it was produced. I had the ambition to want to do things better!
Throughout my life, different opportunities would appear to get on growing and not only thinking about myself. My client began to get treated like a partner and that’s still how it is today.
To me, the client is the one who’s in charge.
In addition to the value of proximity, what else differentiates Delta from its competition and what makes it one of the most reputable of contemporary companies?
This is a sequence that has been ongoing but it does need a great deal of attention. I always tell my grandchildren and my children that you cannot miss a millimetre and always maintain the same level of demand that I have had right from the very outset.
We say that we are leaders but that does not mean anything. We have to struggle in order to continue being able to lead. And that is the added-value that I have, in thinking, in attitude, the way of thinking and the way that I serve those who serve me well, who is the client that buys from me.
This all applies to any situation in the life of anybody. With my staff in the factory, there is no boss-employee relationship, we are friends, it’s not I, it’s we! This is a working culture, a culture of providing service and a culture of knowledge that people feel satisfied with.
Our strength is always to make the client happy. And this proximity that I talk so much about has once again emerged in this pandemic phase that we are going through, what is the path, we knock on the doors of countless clients and ask if they need anything as we are also doing with our own staff. This is doing business!
What do your clients represent to you?
My strength comes from the client. The client, for me, comes before everything else. They are ahead of me, ahead of my staff and I live for this cause. I live in a feeling of thanks but also out of good service. For a client, I shall do everything that is necessary.
We know exactly who is with us; it’s as if family at least that’s perhaps the closest relationship that I can compare with. There are marvellous things between the supplier and the client. A client is more than a friend.
Knowing how, knowing how to laugh with each other, knowing how to be, this is in fact about being in the market.
Do you still have any more dreams to achieve?
Men are normally full of dreams. For example, we recently presented a new project in the area of sustainability, which takes advantage of coffee grinds to produce mushrooms. For the meantime, this is something small but that may become something big and the country needs a lot of things like these.
I’m fairly cautious; I like to be thinking about what I’m in the process of doing and I strongly support the field of sustainability.
I’m always dreaming, about the client, about the market, about everything and dreaming about doing big things. The grandchildren are at a good age, the children also at the right kind of age to get them all dreaming as well.
There are six members of the Nabeiro family connected to the company. What message would you give to the new generations that shall take over the business in the future?
I always say to my own: “We are that which we’ve always been”. When I started, I went through a difficult time but I was ambitious and got through it. And my own also have this ambition of wanting. A natural ambition. They are properly prepared and I know they’re not going to let me down.
You turned 90 this year with this the moment chosen for the launch of the book by José Luís Peixoto “Almoço de Domingo”, a biographic novel in which Rui Nabeiro is the main character and that tells the story of your life. What lessons and advice would you give to somebody who is starting out today?
Whoever is starting always has some difficulties. The best advice that I can give is exactly that which I did: work and believe that we are capable.
In a company, bringing four or five professionals together, competent, we’re able to get anywhere and make a life for everybody.
In the context that we’re currently living in due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to pass on this message and this culture. The desire and the belief in making everything happen.