Louise Helena Trajan’s lessons on managing her retail empire

posted on 04/14/2024 06:00

Louise Helena speaks during the World Social Forum: More than a Businesswoman - (Credit: Disclosure/World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell)

Louise Helena speaks during the World Social Forum: More than a Businesswoman – (Credit: Disclosure/World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell)


When it comes to entrepreneurship, management, leadership and women’s empowerment, the president of the board of Luiza magazine, Luiza Helena Trajano, at the age of 75 and in full swing, is considered a Brazilian reference. Listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential women in the world, the Sao Paulo-based entrepreneur runs the Magazine Luiza chain, founded by her aunt Luiza Trajano, who died this February.

In an exclusive interview with Mailshe talks about the challenges women face in the corporate world, the importance of facing crisis as an opportunity for growth, the role of human resource management and the urgent need to focus on diversity in recruitment.

“To achieve this diversity, I have always been in favor of quotas. The quota is a transitional process to reduce inequality,” says the leader of the Women’s Group of Brazil, created in 2012 by 50 businesswomen working in different segments of the economy. united for the common goal of improving the country.

Today there are more than 4,000 of them, and they meet every month to discuss and propose actions related to education, entrepreneurship, social projects and quotas for women. “We are the big difference in the world of work,” he said.

Luisa Helena, you are one of the few women who lead a large business in Brazil and are among the most influential. When you started working behind the counter in the family store as a child, did you already have that ambition?

We never worked at Luiza magazine to be the biggest or to compete with someone, we were always focused on the work. I have a quote in my room from St. Francis of Assisi that I really like: “Begin by doing the necessary, then the possible, and suddenly you will do the impossible.”

In your experience, what is the biggest difficulty a woman faces in the corporate world?

We have come a long way in the corporate world, but we still have a long way to go. Companies that haven’t yet realized that women are a huge difference maker in the world of work are sure to be left behind.

The group of women of Brazil turned 10 years old. What is the balance of this journey?

Today, we have centers all over Brazil, as well as on all continents, with more than 120,000 members. All groups are working intensively on dozens of cases that have already had an impact in many places. We also have a lot of work to do to influence public policy according to the needs of the times. This was the case when we led Unidos Pela Vacina, and now we are working hard to end violence against women and achieve equality of seats in the next elections.

Although you do not hold public office, you consider yourself a political woman. What does this action look like in practice?

I have always been a political citizen, I have never held political positions or related relationships, but I have always worked in structures or organizations, trying to influence things that benefit our country. Now, through the Women’s Group of Brazil, which is political but non-partisan, we are working on dozens of cases throughout the country.

You have always said that your business grows with crises. What is the recipe for dealing with problems and overcoming them?

This is part of the culture of Magazine Luiza, which we learned from my aunt Luiza, the founder of the company. Crises require unity and analysis at all times, and historically we have always overcome moments of crisis with many creative solutions, opportunities and hard work.

During the pandemic, you’ve been extremely active not only online, but also in the Don’t Lay Off campaign to raise business awareness about saving jobs. How has the pandemic affected Magazine Luiza’s business?

It was a time of great effort in which I put a lot of effort into helping especially the micro and small businesses that were most affected during the pandemic. There were hundreds of lives and participation in activities to help them cope with the situation. At Luiza magazine, we have strengthened our online operations, which were already representative, and we have been able to help thousands of sellers keep their business open through our online channels.

Louise Helena Traiano
Louise Helena Traiano
(photo: Disclosure)

You value and defend HR as an area that is truly focused on human capital. Can you explain your vision to us better?

Just think that the ultimate customer service, at the end of the day, where it all comes down to, depends on good people management. We have always paid attention to the whole team, employee evaluation is so important and practiced in the company that we are on the list of the best companies to work for more than 25 years. People management must also value diversity. The more diversity, the better the company culture.

Starting in 2020, Luiza magazine has an exclusive black internship program. This policy was even challenged in court as discriminatory, but was found to be legal. What are the practical results of positive policies in business?

We created a program to solve our problem. As such a diverse company, it realized that it didn’t have many black people in leadership positions, and we felt that an intern was a natural way to increase that number. So we did the program and we got a lot of criticism. We didn’t expect it, but then we had a lot of people and organizations that supported us. We launched the program a second time and managed to burst the bubble with a model that began to be copied around the world. Today, we are constantly approached by companies that want to implement a similar policy.

You stated in a recent interview that you used to advocate for diversity in companies, but today you no longer see that issue as an option. What made you defend these changes as mandatory in corporations? Are mandatory quotas a viable solution?

Diversity is essential for any company. The more diverse, the better the creativity and profitability. To achieve this diversity, I have always advocated quotas. Quota is a transitional process to reduce inequality.

In your opinion, what transformation should Brazilian education undergo in order to obtain more effective results in the labor market in the future?

There are many groups and experts who have specific diagnoses about ways and solutions for education, what we must demand now is that these projects start working. I see important actions to be taken to deal with early childhood education, which is fundamental to learning.

What does it take for a leader to stand out?

It is impossible to be a leader today without listening to people, the company base and customers, without having a real concern for diversity and responsibility in ESG.

You recently noted that not every manager is an entrepreneur and not every entrepreneur is a good manager. What is each person’s profile?

As a rule, an entrepreneur is not so focused on day-to-day management and does not like to spend his time on the processes and controls necessary in any company, but wants to work proactively and creatively. Both profiles are needed in the organization.

Who are your biggest references?

There are several, but my mother and my aunt Louise, who is the founder of the company and passed away in February, were important in my training. My mother with emotional intelligence and my aunt with intelligence and entrepreneurial vision.

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