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Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

Cristian Rovira

2nd chance entrepreneurs in action

 

Cristian Rovira

Spanish restarter

Grupo SIFU

ES - 08907 L'Hospitalet de Llobregat (Barcelona)

A team start-up

In the spring of 1998, full of enthusiasm and great expectations, Cristian Rovira and two partners set up a company offering various beauty and wellness treatments for men and women. They also had a team of medical experts providing advice on skin, muscle and dietary problems. Before starting, the team prepared a proper business plan, clearly specifying their turnover and customer targets.

The plan does not work out

It soon became clear that their projected targets would not be achieved. Cristian recalls: "We made management mistakes through our inexperience and insufficient knowledge of the sector". Besides, the selected premises - which had cost them dearly - did not come up to expectations. They did not draw enough customers and failed to realise the revenue envisaged in the start-up plan. With costs constantly outweighing profits, something had to be done.

Restructuring or closure?

With so much money lost, the stakeholders' enthusiasm was giving way to disenchantment. A detailed analysis showed just how much effort would be needed to reach those projected targets. It would even have meant building new premises, which would have required more investment and another set-up phase.

"We did not want to owe creditors, not even one euro. We were all agreed on that", Cristian recalls. The team stuck together through this rough patch, supporting each other and taking all decisions jointly - even the hardest: shutting up shop after having settled all outstanding accounts.

A fresh start through stakes in a company

Despite his disappointment about the closure, Cristian was buoyed up by his conviction that experience is the best teacher. "If you want to fight to manifest your own ideas and learn from your mistakes, the value of experience cannot be overrated". At this stage, the cohesion of his team and support from his family and friends were of capital importance.

He decided to join an existing company: Grupo SIFU. Since 1993, this firm has been helping people with physical, mental and sensory disabilities to integrate into society and work. In 2000, Cristian became a stakeholder and chief executive officer of Grupo SIFU, contributing substantially to its expansion. Some 2 000 employees (around 90% of whom have some sort of disability) currently provide a wide range of clients, from public authorities to schools, housing estates and shopping centres, with cleaning, gardening and other company-related services.

Lessons learnt: the difference between theory and practice

"My first start-up did not yield the expected success", Cristian sums up, "but I gained experience not to be had at university or business school." This includes down-to-earth business planning as well as many details of daily management. The experience has left him much stronger. Entrepreneurship is Cristian Rovira's passion. President of AIJEC, an association of young entrepreneurs in Catalonia (Spain) since 2006, he wants to share his know-how and enthusiasm with other entrepreneurs.

Cristian Rovira's advice to entrepreneurs in financial difficulties:

"You must be believe in your business, which is why you can be easily seduced into overly optimistic planning. If things do not turn out as you expected, the crucial point is to accept problems for what they are instead of procrastinating - even if your company is somehow like your baby."

First try

Company founded in: 1998

Business sector: healthcare

Core business: beauty and wellness treatments

Maximum numbers of employees: 5

Closure: 2000

Fresh start

New start: 2000

Company: Grupo SIFU

Business sector: services

Core business: Cleaning, gardening and company-related services (e.g. visual design, outsourcing of administrative tasks), primarily for public administrations, schools, housing estates, shopping centres, etc. Some 90% of employees have some sort of disability.

Number of employees 2006: 2 000

Alfred Lanfer

Hervé Lecesne

Manuela Mutschler

Cristian Rovira

Friedrich Stummer

Jacqueline Dubernet

Josef Zotter

Michele Zanor

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