Every working part of the machine that is a round the world team is important. Each part must work to perfection, not just by itself but as part of the whole. We take a look today at one of the parts of Team Telefónica. We speak to Jorge Blanco, responsible for buying whatever the team may need, wherever they may be, at the best possible price.
From Galicia to the world
Jorge is from Galicia in northern Spain, more specifically from Sanxenxo in Pontevedra and he is 34 years old, a Film and TV Studies graduate and this is the first time that he's taken on a role like this: “At first it was utter madness. The first few months, despite being a local lad in Sanxenxo and being based there, it was a totally new job I was coming to... This requires absolute professionalism, it's very technical and there is equipment and material that I didn't even know about when I started.”
Step by step Jorge learned. He joined Team Telefónica when the team was at it's teething stages, whilst the first training sessions were taking place in his hometown: “At the start I was playing at home. I knew the areas of Sanxenxo, Vigo and Pontevedra very well... although you always have to buy from suppliers from all over the world. Of course, it was easier there, because you're on home turf”, he admits.
Things got progressively more complex... The final building phase of “Telefónica” took him to Alginet (Valencia) although, as he admits, that was still relatively easy as he was still in Spain. The next stage took him to Lanzarote and along with that came the headache that almost always comes with trying to send anything to and from the 'lucky islands'. “The fact that we were on an island made sending things a lot more tricky and also meant that our scope for suppliers was reduced.”
After that it was back home to Sanxenxo and to Alicante. That's where the starting gun fired, the round the world challenge began and it was off to South Africa!
Purchasing, orders and balancing a budget
The main job carried out by Jorge Blanco, with the support of Laura Liñán is to buy anything that the Spanish team may need, wherever they are. “We buy all sorts of things. Every head of department; electronics, sails, boatbuilding...gives me a shopping list which can can include anything from screws, sanding materials, tools and resin to office materials.” Everything is closely coordinated with Horacio Carabelli who is in charge of the shore crew and Alex, the Boat Captain within the shore crew.
Another one of his responsibilities is to order all of the materials needed by the team that aren't available in the particular country they are in, as well as tracking the order to make sure that everything gets to its destination in time. That could mean sending something from Australia to China, from the USA to New Zealand or sending a sail from Cuntis to Abu Dhabi, or a cable somewhere else... “I deal with the packages because the containers are a whole different matter and Maria Bertrand is in charge of those”, he points out.
Of course all of this has to be done in whatever currency fits the bill, be it euros, dollars, dirhams, rand... and more importantly the budget must balance, which is something Jorge keeps a close eye on.
Google vs local contacts
“The worst part is the first week,” explains Jorge Blanco. “We get to the city in question, we have to set up the base and the shopping lists for parts start to roll in... of course, you're in a new place and you barely know the way to the hotel from the base...”
How do you find out where to get things from? That's where technology comes in, especially the internet and Google, the first page to open on his laptop. “We do get a lot out of Google but it's always better to use local contacts, especially in terms of timing,” he says.
That's where the old fashioned methods come in and they beat the new technologies hands down. “If you've got a local person who you can tell what you want and can tell you where to find it, it accelerates the entire process”, explains the Spaniard. “If you have 20 things to buy and you have to spend half an hour in Google looking for each thing, the whole process becomes eternal and we're always up against the wall here and almost everything is needed today or tomorrow which reduces the options considerably.”
Sometimes it's down to the idiosyncrasy of the country requiring local help. “In China, where we are not allowed to drive, we have a local person to help us with purchasing, assisting both Laura and myself as we have the added problems of not knowing where things are, not being able to drive, not being able to make ourselves understood or to understand people because not many people speak English,” he says.
One mustn't forget that each market has its own features... “In Abu Dhabi, for example, there's less development on the nautical front than in Europe, so things are harder to come by. China appears to be the most critical of the pitstops in that sense.”
Important to have 'order within the chaos'
According to Jorge the way to fulfil this role and not crumble in the process is “finding some sense of order within the chaos that this brings with it”. This job always carries with it a constant struggle against the clock and everything has to be ready by the time the stopwatch hits zero.
Keeping your cool and being flexible are also important attributes in this role: “Right now, for example, I might get a call saying they need seven screws of a certain size and once I've gone to the place I need to go to to get them, they'll call saying that no, in fact they need a different size... If you are too organised you get annoyed because you find yourself going to the same place twenty times, so you have to be a bit easygoing and have team spirit, the desire to do things well and to work well with everyone.”
The payoff: “Contributing to the team's progress”
So much stress doesn't go unrewarded. For Jorge Blanco that means “contributing to the progress of the team, the victories and being another working part of the bigger machine” he confirms. “Our job is behind the scenes, just like the boatbuilders, sail makers, the person who buys all of the plane tickets, the one who find the hotels, the journalists who write our press releases and take photos... but you feel like another working part of the boat...” he concludes.
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