Skimm'd from the Couch: Adriana Cisneros

Apr 22, 2020

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Right now, it’s hard to think about what will happen next week, let alone next year. Enter Adriana Cisneros, the CEO of Cisneros, who told us she’s always thinking 50 years into the future. At a minimum. This week, she sat down with us to talk about why thinking (really) big picture is integral to her leadership style, especially in times of change. 

Adriana shared how she thinks about restructuring, why she thinks 50 years into the future, and what it means for her and her company to lead by example. 

On Restructuring

Carly: A lot of companies are making very painful decisions around restructuring, around doubling down on a core part of their business. And I'm curious for those listening who are thinking about how to preserve their own business, or might be an employee at a business that's also making tough decisions, how do you think about restructuring, and what would you say to them?

Adriana: So the moment that something feels like it's extra, or a little fluffy is the moment that you really have to put that in a list of things that you should get rid of. And that could be anything from teams, to initiatives, to physical places. And that's just a general rule.

I think when you have a crisis like the one we're having right now, those issues surface much quicker. And in a way, it is kind of a unique opportunity to really think about what really matters to the core of that business and rethink it. The decisions are really hard.

On Future Planning

Carly: I want to talk about future planning.

Adriana: ... I like to say that it's very important in our case, to be able to play it short and long. By long I mean that, when you're carrying on your shoulders-100 years of history, and you've spent a lot of time understanding what were the key factors that made that possible you realize that there's a lot to protect. So every decision, every major decision's very important that you play it forward. That you try to think, how is that gonna impact who we are as a business for the next ten, 15 or 20 years?

...It kind of keeps you from making bad decisions, or working with bad people, or partnering with bad companies. So that's really cool. And it also gives you the ability to make better financial decisions that are perhaps not risky, but that are going to keep you afloat when things get complicated. And that's definitely proven to be the case during the few recessions that we've had in our lifetime.

On Leading By Example

Carly: There's the phrase that people say all the time - lead by example. I'm really curious what that means to you. And especially in the context of the enormous influence that this company has in Latin America, where there's a lot of volatile political situations that come up... What is leading by example mean in your day to day? And what does leading by example mean when you think about Cisneros' role in the world?

Adriana: … Every time that we come up with a really bold idea of a new business that can change a country or a continent, or a region, there's a part of our brain that's thinking, how can we use this new initiative, the energy around the new initiative to create something that will also be beneficial for society as a whole?

… It goes back to this perspective of playing it very long. You know, if you're gonna be around for the next 20 years you have to be a good citizen, and you have to treat your neighbors with transparency. So obviously, going down a path that is not honest and transparent wouldn't be sustainable for a business that's trying to be around for so much longer.

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