Day 1: Empanadas, salsa and a visit to Reckitt Benckiser Colombia
Feeling the tropical heat meant that I had finally arrived in Cali, which has a much warmer climate than Bogota the capital.
Marco the driver gave me a quick Spanish lesson. It had been 5 years since I was last speaking Spanish in South America so I was a bit rusty!
Chipechape – named after the noise of a train “Cheeepeeechaapeeee” – was the area of Cali where I would stay for a couple of nights.
Straight to the Reckitt Benckiser (RB) Colombia office. I had never experience security quite like it. On arrival we had to present our identification not to a man but put it into a drawer which would then close and a Spanish voice would speak out of a speaker with the buzzer.
I didn’t have ID as my passport was locked away in the safe so put my business card in the drawer. Marco managed to persuade the security officer to let me in.
The RB office with about 70 employees is next to the factory which makes the RB products like Vanish, Sanpic and Veet. There was a clear hustle and bustle as trucks moved pallets of products around and the daily production continued.
Leading by example
I was greeted by the wonderful Ana Isabel who has worked at RB for over 20 years and she gave me a very warm welcome. An interview with Carlos Pabon (General Manager of the Andean Pact Region) for the corporate Fast Forward newsletter followed.
It’s clear that Carlos believes in creating the right values and culture within his workforce and demonstrates this through his leadership. A group of employees have formed the Social Responsibility Committee, which drives the environmental and community programmes.
We discussed the exciting plans for the Latam Challenge, which is being hosted by Colombia next year. It will involve 30 people trekking in Colombia and visiting the Save the Children programme.
To finish off a busy day I was given a proper induction to the country and sampled cerveza with lime and salt, and empanadas with a salsa, next to the River Cali.