Sue Stockdale talks to Colombian entrepreneur Manuela Gil, majority owner of Vivaldi Ingenieria Hospitalaria, about how she transformed the family business by building a company driven by purpose. She talks openly about how she overcame her fear of losing control, why you need to listen to your heart, and how engaging clients and employees in conversations about purpose brings about unexpected outcomes.
Manuela is married with two children and moved back to Colombia having worked and studied in Germany for several years. She balances her roles of mother, entrepreneur, and CFO of the business, with making time to invest in her own development. Manuela’s driving force is “be a lighthouse of inspiration, hope and empowerment by walking and showing new and outstanding paths’.
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‘I had a feeling I could give more and have a positive impact on society’.
‘I would never change going into a family business. If you find yourself there, I think it’s a beautiful path’.
‘Colombia doesn’t produce medical devices, so we import the devices, and distribute them. It’s more than just selling; we find the solutions that clients can use in order to care for life or save lives’.
‘I started to recognize that one of my biggest points of work in life is in trust’.
‘When I feel fear, I express this fear in wanting to control so wanting to put everything in place, to plan and secure everything.’
‘Starting to work on myself was giving me a better understanding of balancing life.’
‘We want to bring this harmony and this balance to our customers.’
‘I realised my driving force, or my purpose had not been connected with the purpose of the business’.
‘Our central point in our customer experience is inspired transformation’.
This series is supported by Squadcast –the remote recording platform which empowers podcasters by capturing high-quality audio and video conversations. Find out more at https://squadcast.fm
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Sound Editor: Matias de Ezcurra (he/him)
Producer: Sue Stockdale (she/her)
Manuela Gil transcription
[00:00:00] Sue: Hi, I’m Sue Stockdale and welcome to episode 73 of the access to inspiration podcast. The show where you can gain inspiration from people who may be unlike. We hope their stories and insights enable you to transcend your day to day challenges and reflect on what you are capable of achieving. Today. I’m talking to Manuela Gil, majority owner of Vivaldi, a company based in Colombia. She explains to me what happened when she went back from working in Germany, back to Colombia to take over the family business and transformed it by engaging the team, her clients and herself in the process of focusing on purpose. Now, if you want to read this as well as listen to it, you can do that by hopping over to our website, access to inspiration.org, and you’ll find transcriptions for this episode and all our other episodes there as well. Welcome to the podcast. Manuela Gil. It’s great to speak to you today. I think you’re in Colombia is that correct?
[00:01:14] Manuela: Yes, that’s correct Sue thank you very much. I’m very happy to be here now.
[00:01:18] Sue: Colombia has it always been your home or were you born and brought up elsewhere?
[00:01:22] Manuela: I was born here in Medellin, Colombia and I lived in Germany for eight years.
[00:01:28] Sue: And in terms of going back to Colombia what took you back there from Germany?
[00:01:33] Manuela: It was always my dream to go abroad, to learn another languages and also to experience another cultures. And I went to Germany and I really like it a lot. I got married with a German guy. I have my first daughter there and I started to work as well there as a process engineer. But when I finished my studies at university. I always dreamed to go back to Colombia so I feel that I have got a lot from life and a lot of beautiful things. And then my feeling was I want to go back to Colombia to give back everything what I have received. It was very good. I was in a very good situation, but I had the feeling that I could give more to co build the society or to have a positive impact in the society. And in Germany with my job, I was feeling that it was not the place for that. And that’s why I was looking to come to Colombia again.
[00:02:30] Sue: So what business did you go into?
[00:02:33] Manuela: my family. They have been working in the health sector since my grand grandfather. So my grand grandfather was a very important doctor in my city. During that time, all the family were inside that and my father had started a business in 2001 with medical devices. And then he said to me, and to my husband come with me and work with me and I want to invite you. And also when I was at [00:03:00] university, I was dreaming to have my own business. And then he was saying, come to me and then he invited us.
[00:03:06] Sue: Was it more difficult perhaps than being employed by another company?
[00:03:10] Manuela: Yeah. this is a difficult question. It’s difficult to compare. In a way, of course it’s easy to be an employee, I believe in a way, because there are a lot of things that you don’t have to worry about when you have your own company. But now that I see my path already, since 2013, when I came back to Colombia to work with my father, I think it’s a beautiful way. And I would never change going into a family business. If you find yourself there, I think it is a beautiful path.
[00:03:43] Sue: What does the business do? You mentioned medical devices. Tell me more about what it involves.
[00:03:48] Manuela: So we are in the healthcare industry in Colombia and also we are starting to be international or more like regional in Latin America. And what we do is we have conversations with our clients or with our customers to find their necessities regarding solutions in biomedical technology or medical devices. And then we solve these solutions. So we bring the solutions to them regarding medical devices in Colombia we don’t produce medical devices. So we import the devices and we distribute. But more than just selling, we find the solutions that they really can use in order to care for life or save lives.
[00:04:31] Sue: So how would that play out in, in real life, so to speak?
[00:04:35] Manuela: Okay. So let’s talk about automatic defibrillators. I think this is the name in English, in countries like Germany or USA or in Europe is already very advanced, but this started in Colombia only few years ago. What we do is that we import the devices, the EADs from Germany or from Korea. This is where we have our suppliers. And then what we do is we do a solution out of it. So we study the customer. So let’s say a mall or, or an airport. And then we study and we see where you should put this EAD in order, when you have a heart attack that they can act immediately.
And then the time that you have to cover is going to be less than three minutes. And then we study the customer and we say, okay, we should put them in this location or in this location. And then after. We put them in a case and also with all the signage that the people can find this device. And then we do training and then afterwards we do maintenance and then we offer this solution that a customer, they can buy the solution and then every year we go to them and do maintenance or training, or also what we do is we do like a renting. And then we take care of it. This is one example.
[00:05:57] Sue: it’s more of a broad [00:06:00] solution that you’re able to provide rather than the airport or the mall going to the original equipment manufacturer. You’re able to add an advantage by looking at a solution in a different way.
[00:06:11] Manuela: Yes. And for example, last week I was talking with one of our customers. This is the Metro of Medellin. And then he was saying, for me, it’s totally difficult just to buy the device. If I just only buy the device, this is going to be very difficult for me to manage everything because I have to take care of all the emergency or security of the Metro. I need a provider that is really solving for me everything. So I just needed that. You just put it to me and then that you solve it for me. So we want to make it easier, simple for our customers.
[00:06:46] Sue: What is your role in the business?
[00:06:48] Manuela: This was one of the points that changed. Let’s say after the lowest point after my, like the challenges in almost 10 years, and I have now two roles, I have one role inside, very like a manager as a CFO and more in controlling financing administration. And I have the role as entrepreneur. So I have these two roles and it’s very interesting.
[00:07:17] Sue: they’re quite different in some ways.
[00:07:19] Manuela: Yes. Yes.
[00:07:20] Sue: Seeing the financial logical administrative activity sounds that it’s playing to perhaps one part of your brain and the entrepreneurial, maybe creative risk taker, perhaps
[00:07:33] Manuela: yes.
[00:07:33] Sue: Is got a different perspective. Would that be a fair thing to say?
[00:07:37] Manuela: Yes. It’s very different perspective because in the financial or administrative is very rational is let’s say very. the energy is very masculine you have to plan and you have to be very focused in your plan and also is inside the company. And when you work as entrepreneur, it is more creative. It’s more fluently. The energy that you play there is more feminine and your product is the company. So inside the company, your product is what you do for your customers. But outside as entrepreneur, what you are creating, there is a company or a business, and this is your product
[00:08:18] Sue: because you’ve got two roles. I’m wondering if there’s one, you enjoy more than the other.
[00:08:25] Manuela: this. Okay. So when I enjoy more. The entrepreneur, but I have to be very focused in the trust. Trusting in life because you have to be really in the flow and, and to feel and to experience. And in the other role, I also enjoy it. I believe is more simple for me. And it’s easier for me. The operative role is easier for me to do it, but this is because, uh, the masculine energy is very is very high in me. And the other energy, I [00:09:00] am bringing it more in balance. So it’s also very high by am bringing both more in balance so it’s very interesting.
[00:09:08] Sue: you’re the first guest in one of our podcasts that’s talked about feminine and masculine energies. I’m wondering, how did you even become aware of these energies in the first place?
[00:09:19] Manuela: Well, this has been really a journey to become aware of that. Since I got my first kid I have been working a lot in myself. So getting to know me, this is already is going to be 10 years in one month. I think the journey it has been inside me, really getting to know what are my emotions? Why do I feel how I feel? Why do I react? How I react working in my daily habits with energy, for work, and also for my family. And then in this journey, I started to recognize that one of my biggest points of work in life is in trust. So very easily I get fear. And this is one of the discoveries I have done during this journey. And this fear, I express this fear in wanting to control. So wanting to put everything in place to plan, to make plans, to say, okay, I’m going to do this tomorrow. And later on, I’m going to do this. And in this way, I tried to secure everything. And then just recognizing this fear and looking or seeing how I’m trying to control the fear. Then I discovered that I was controlling and I was planning and that it was easy for me to achieve goals and to achieve what I wanted to achieve. And from the holistic point of view, I discovered that this is mainly from the masculine energy, not the fear, but the planning and the structure and the methodology, and that it was more difficult for me to flow with the life and the day by day and just being in the present. And then also this journey, I discovered this was more feminine energy and then in this way, I got aware of this.
[00:11:07] Sue: I noticed that you said you began to work on your own inner adventure when you’d had your first child. And I’m wondering if it was becoming a parent, was that a trigger for doing this inner work?
[00:11:18] Manuela: It was, I think it was a trigger when I got my first child, I was in Germany, so I got one year maternity leave and then I found myself in Germany in a winter without my family, all my friends were at work and my husband was working all day. And I was with a little baby and all this person that is wanting to plan every second of her life found herself in the nothing. Just being in the moment that you have to be just to just take care of a child, what is beautiful, but it was really a challenge for me to let go all these plans and all the structure or the methodology. And then [00:12:00]it was really like a trigger for myself to say, no, I need to, to work in myself.
[00:12:05] Sue: Once you realized that for yourself and you began to work on yourself and then you moved back into Colombia to work on the family business. How did your thinking and your approach then shape what you’ve been doing inside the business?
[00:12:21] Manuela: Well, at the beginning, when I started in the business, I started really from basic things. So I started and my father, he was needing someone that works in the administrative and finances. So he was just teaching me every single step. It was at that time, a very small business. So we were, my husband came with me and he started to work also with us. And we were with him seven people probably. So it was very small and also was very important to be with my daughter. And to have some time for working and to organize my time and be with my daughter. And I think this starting to work in myself, it was giving me a better understanding of balancing the life. So it’s fine to be at work. It’s fine to be with my daughter and I, I need to balance. And then when my second child came it became stronger, the need to work in myself. And also after my second child was born three years after, my father, he left the operations of the company. He’s still working with us in a way, but he left the company, the, all the operations, and then it really became a challenge.
[00:13:36] Sue: So, how did you overcome that challenge?
[00:13:38] Manuela: Yes, I think it was very interesting. The habits that I was developing, so doing a sports regularly, meditating, having a person with whom I could talk and doing mental coaching, I call it like this and these habits were very, very important for me . And also I was doing a diary every day. These were very important for me to overcome the challenges that came when my father left. And I was having two children, one with six years and the other one with four,
[00:14:11] Sue: I get this picture of trying to balance. Your life as a mother, two young children, a business where your father then steps out from the operational area. I’m also imagining your aspirations, perhaps for growth for the company and all of this to manage with these habits that you’ve been developing. This discipline to have the work life balance. It sounds to me like those were some of the things that have helped you to move through these challenges. And beyond.
[00:14:41] Manuela: Yes, that’s true.
[00:14:42] Sue: Also, just I’m curious, I see that your company’s name is Vivaldi. Is that the reason you describe it? You describe it as composing harmonious solutions with biomedical technology. I’m wondering if that relates back to this being in balance and in harmony.
[00:14:58] Manuela: Yes. And [00:15:00] it’s a very interesting story. So when my father step away we had the end of 2018 and 2000 nineteens were very difficult years for the company. And in 2020, I was really wondering, okay, what are we going to do? Do we go back to Germany?
Are we closing? What do we do? And then I think I went to Egypt to a trip of woman entrepreneurs. And I believe during this trip, I crossed the fear of staying without nothing and going back to Germany and closing everything. And when I crossed that fear, everything has started to change. Let’s say I crossed the fear inside myself and I thought, okay, it doesn’t matter what happened. It’s fine. It’s a situation from what I’m going to learn for my life. But really, it’s very easy to say it in words, and also to think it, but really going through that with your emotions and all what you are is the difficult part . And when I went through that everything has started to change. And then we started to think, okay, why do we do what we do? What is behind that? What do we want really to add to our community and to our customers. And then at that time, I started also to think, I believe that my company has a very strong soul and I don’t want that the company is depending from a person or from some people. Then we started to go through all those questions and with a group of people that work on that they helped us.
And we found this name for Vivaldi. So before the name was in Ingenerios Hospitalaria and this was the name with my father, founded the company. And then we realize during all these questions that actually we want to live in harmony and we want to bring this harmony and this balance to also to our customers. And at that moment we found that name for the company, Vivaldi. Because first Vivaldi is a name of a musician, a very famous one, and we are very near to music. My husband is a musician, so we found that this name is very nice from also our background. Also it brings the harmony and the balance that we want to bring. And also from the name, Viva is very near to vida in Spanish and we found this name can really bring us what we are.
[00:17:31] Sue: How have your customers responded to the story behind the new company.
[00:17:36] Manuela: It’s very interesting. We started the process in 2020, in 2021 at the beginning, we found the name and we started the process of showing the new name and also presenting it by the end of 20 21. And since then I have been having a lot of conversations from my entrepreneur role with the customers, presenting the [00:18:00] philosophy and the name, and also having very intense conversations. So really going in the why, why they are doing what they are doing. And these conversations are wonderful because you start really to get to know why your customers are doing what they are doing, which needs they really are having. And which problems are they facing to take care for lives or to save lives? And this is the name. So presenting the name. They really like it. They are responding in a great way. And just more behind that or beyond that, having the conversations is giving you connection with the customers.
[00:18:40] Sue: So understanding the, the bigger purpose for your customers and them understanding your bigger purpose is leading to more meaningful conversations. And I imagine more business for you as.
[00:18:52] Manuela: Yes, and it’s incredible. So I’m having these conversations and I’m going to them and I am not expecting to do anything with business. I’m just telling them, you know what I want to get to know you better to serve you better. Let me present our new name and what is behind that. And in order to serve you more, I want to make you some questions. I don’t want to do anything with business. And they look at you like what okay. And then I start to do the questions and they are so happy to share. And at the end they always say, okay, I didn’t expect this conversation. Sometimes they say, okay, you only have half an hour for you. And at the end they give you, I don’t know, one hour and a half on two hours. And all the opportunities are coming at the end and you have a pool of opportunities, but I’m not going with that expectation.
[00:19:43] Sue: When you connect with the person, that human being level, you really get to know them and the organization at a much deeper level. So I suppose that makes good business sense.
[00:19:53] Manuela: Yes, it is like that.
[00:19:55] Sue: I know that you mentioned at the outset that you moved back to Colombia because you felt you would have a greater impact on the community society at large. How do you measure that?
[00:20:04] Manuela: This is still something for me to solve at the beginning, I was very focused only in employees. And this was because I was not really connected with the sense of the business. So my driving force or my purpose was not connected with the purpose of the business. And then for me, the bigger impact, it was only giving employment. And also this was one of the things that when we got the difficult time, when my father left was one of the things that changed completely, because I realized at that time that I was giving employment as a mother, and this was terrible. So you cannot do that. That’s why I also stepped out from general manager because this is something in my personality that I have to work on it. So I was not the perfect person to [00:21:00] be the general manager of my company. And then after overcoming these challenges, then I found this last three years it was like the journey of finding how my purpose is connected really to the purpose of my company. And I already found it, which is great. And I know that we have impact in the community with the solutions that we give. For example, in emergency, I was just telling you, because this is a big impact. If you can save a life. from a person just by teaching. This is giving impact in the community, but I’m not measuring so far. That’s why I’m saying this is still to be solved. I’m in the journey to solve that. How I’m going to measure the impact in the community.
[00:21:48] Sue: You also mentioned about how you have engaged with your employees. What approaches do you take with your employees to help them to have a better sense of connection to the bigger purpose?
[00:21:58] Manuela: Well, when we started with the name of Vivaldi. We also said, okay, we need also to connect with the purpose of the employees and we need that their purpose is connected to the company. And how I’m doing in it now is having also these type of conversations that we are having with the customers. Very similar. So going a lot into the why also so we are a company, this is small more or less twenty people is not, it’s a small company still, and we are working a lot with holistic solutions. So we make some trainings in which ones are your beliefs or which ones is your purpose, or we have these conversations.
[00:22:43] Sue: So in addition to your own inner adventure, your employees are going on their own inner adventure too.
[00:22:49] Manuela: Yes.
[00:22:50] Sue: get, get a sense, a better sense of their, why
[00:22:53] Manuela: may I say something there? Our central point in our customer experience is inspired transformation.
[00:23:01] Sue: I love it. Well, that certainly resonates with us here at the access to inspiration podcast. Of course, inspired transformation, I guess could often mean a pull, we get inspired because we are pulled towards something as opposed to push we’re not pushing people to be inspired. We’re pulling them to be inspired. How was a leader just in terms of your own leadership style, Manuela how would you describe. What that’s like to the listener. If they were to observe you as a leader, how are you creating that inspiration?
[00:23:33] Manuela: I’m not pushing. And that’s why when my father step away, it was not working because the people that we were having there, it was people that needed to be pushed. And what I’m doing now is really offering the time to have conversations. So these conversations are open to everyone, so really having conversations and deep conversations and also uncomfortable conversations with [00:24:00] questions with going back and asking and making them reflect. Also when now I’m the leader of one people or two people in my team, in the operation team, what I’m doing is that they are really going through their work and what I’m being there is observing. And looking at what they are doing and making questions that they can reflect what they are doing and what they want to achieve. We also make meetings every three months to observe how was our development in the last three months? And in these three months we make some agreements at the beginning. And then at the end we do an evaluation of that. And we have this for all the company. And this evaluation is not only in objectives, clear, clear objectives, but also in the development that the person is having as a person. And this is through conversation
[00:24:56] Sue: and with those conversations and the difficult conversations that you described that you have been having, did anybody then choose to not continue with the journey? Because it, their values weren’t in alignment with the organisation?
[00:25:08] Manuela: Yes. We have some people that they are stopping the, for them, they are saying, no, this is I don’t want to go inside more or less.
[00:25:19] Sue: Yeah. So it, it can weed out as much those that don’t want to go on that journey as it does identify those that do.
[00:25:27] Manuela: Yes. It’s easy for us to identify who wants to go on their journey and who wants not to continue. And also it comes to a point that we can identify that, but they also, by themselves, they identify that as well. And one thing that we want to start in this awareness or in this kind of journey is to bring education more like in awareness. So just not the type of education, just like a mother or just a training in some heart stuff. We want to bring education in really questioning yourself about life.
[00:26:05] Sue: So it, it sounds like that when you’re focusing on people and you’re focusing on purpose, actually those two things are generating profit. Yes. I understand Manuela that you went on a program with vital voices and that, that was quite impactful in your own journey. What was that all about?
[00:26:22] Manuela: Yes. So Vital Voices is a non profit organization in USA and they give voice to women all around the world and they have different programs. In 2018, when was starting the, the part of the difficult journey I was selected to be in this program. It was a fellowship for one year, one year training. And I describe this program for me to be a catapult. It was because they were really focusing in the driving force of the entrepreneur that you find that out, which one is your driving [00:27:00]force. And if you are leaving your driving force or your purpose in your daily life basis or in your business, and if not, how you can do that. And this was very impact starting to take from that way. And also the networking. I named the networking because I’m here today with you Sue, because of that, imagine 2018, we are in 2022. And all the journey has started there.
[00:27:27] Sue: Wonderful. It certainly has been very impactful. And in terms of going forward with the business, what are your ambitions? Where do you see it heading in the future?
[00:27:35] Manuela: I’m following, uh, German methodology, like how you live as entrepreneur. And this is a German methodology that someone is bringing since I more or less, 20 years. And I found it very interesting because it focuses in, in all your life. Not only focuses in your life as entrepreneur so you have to focus in all areas of your life and in each area is continue developing yourself. And I mean, by this, I will just name the areas in personal development. So you as a person, your energy and your health, your emotions, and joy in life, your family, being entrepreneur, network and friends, finances, and world, and contribution. And I’m naming that because you are asking me how you are heading forward, what are you doing? And I want to grow in all areas. So I want to be really a professional entrepreneur. So we are have plans for us to continue growing our company to really measure the impact that we are having in the community and to bring more solutions in the community. But for me, it’s very important also growing in all areas that I mentioned before. And more that growing as a goal, my biggest goal is being in the present
[00:28:57] Sue: well, I think you’ve certainly given us that sense today in the conversation, Manuela that you are in the present here, giving us all the wealth of your wisdom and insight to date. If there was one piece of advice that you would offer to our listener who may want to go on their own inner adventure, what would be the advice you would offer?
[00:29:17] Manuela: To connect with your heart. I think this will be the advice that I will give to find ways to connect with your heart, because I think the heart has a lot of answers that we don’t hear and to connect with your intuition. And I think when you start to do that, the answers are coming and the path it will be there.
[00:29:37] Sue: Well, it’s wonderful. And I really get the sense from how you’ve shared with us today that you’ve brought your heart to our conversation today. It’s been lovely to speak with you Manuela. If our listener wants to find out more about you and Vivaldi, how might they do that?
[00:29:52] Manuela: You can find us in a website vivaldi.com.co also in [00:30:00] LinkedIn, you can find as Vivaldi Ingeniería Hospitalaria and for me in LinkedIn Manuela Gil de Tobar.
[00:30:08] Sue: we’ll put links to all of those connections onto the show notes from today, and I wish you well on your inner and outer adventure in the future for the business and for yourself, its been lovely to speak to you.
[00:30:20] Manuela: Thank you, Sue It was also. Lovely.
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Manuela, what passion she brought to the topic of purposeful leadership. And she certainly is living that in practice. Next week, we will go from Colombia over to Finland where my guest will be Thomas Luther, a CEO working there. So I hope you can join us again next week.