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“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Her company specializes in the study of power profiles, systems integration, and management of consumption of large electrical installations.

This project came into her life at a time when she felt the need to take the next step. “I built my professional career in order to obtain the experience and the fundamental knowledge to found my own company”, begins by telling us Helena Patacão.

At that point, she recalls, the country was going through a financial and economic crisis. Even so, he decided to take the risk and take this step. “My daughter was only four years old. Being a single mother, this was undoubtedly a great challenge both in my professional career and in my personal life”, she tells us.

With 14 years of experience in this market, she is a leader in the creation of new trading strategies focused on the electric market and has been distinguished with 7 leadership awards since 2004. Can we say that the entrepreneurial vein has already been born with you? We asked her. Helena Patacão thinks so. She has known since her childhood that her profile indicated her as a leader and remembers, still in elementary school, to start leading jobs and groups. “Both the sense of responsibility and the sense of independence came very early in my life because I have always been ambitious for leadership.

I believe that it is an innate ability and that a good leader has to meet certain characteristics in his personality. Good character, sense of responsibility and justice, and independence in taking actions and decisions are determining factors in my success as a leader and entrepreneur”, she says.

Her eagerness for independence led her to want to start working early and go live alone. She wanted to be autonomous, and by the age of 21, she had a team of 30 people in charge. How do you reconcile, in your daily life, to be a single mother, without help from relatives, with your life as a businesswoman? “Above all, it takes a lot of discipline, rigor in time management, the spirit of sacrifice and the ability to know how to manage priorities. I am guided by success and I do not allow myself to fail as a mother. Being a mother every day, pampering, bathing, cooking, following schoolwork, playing, and observing the evolution of my daughter, who is the great love of my life. I sacrifice the time it would take to hold some meetings or to finish some important work, but being my priority, I choose after a tiring day, and after she is already sleeping, stay up late at night to work to be able to fulfill the goals that I establish and the responsibilities that I assume”.

Karate practitioner and trainer, our interviewee has no doubt that martial arts, which have been a part of her life since the age of seven, also influenced her way of being and her ability to lead. “The spirit of fighting and competition, the team spirit and the challenges associated with karate and martial arts meet the person I am. Skills developed such as perseverance, necessary to never give up, overcoming the physical limits of pain and tiredness, as well as the ability to concentrate, have become a way intrinsic to my way of being in life and to my personality. It is in this way that I can overcome the difficulties and adversities of life without regrets and overcome any obstacle”.

But who is Helena Patacão, as a woman and as a professional? “In every circumstance, I am always grateful and humble, both in learning and in relationships with others. I am demanding with myself and I am in constant self-analysis, self-criticism, and evolutionary improvement because above all it is a duty to set an example, as a woman, a mother and a professional”, emphasizes Helena Patacão.

For our interviewee, a leader has to be a human person with the ability to realize that business and companies are made of people.

But what features do you think are crucial to achieving success? Helena has always used the expression “money is the reward of work and success is the reward of an excellent job”.

Based on this principle, she tells us that it is important to define what position we intend to occupy in the labor market, if we want to be just a number or if we want to achieve excellence. “However, in order to achieve excellence, we need to be able to identify the differentiating element and apply it in the environment around us, knowing how to use and take advantage of our own capabilities”.

What challenges does a leading and entrepreneurial woman face today? For our interviewee, there is an added difficulty and the challenges are much greater because of being a woman, especially in this area: a technical area and associated, mostly, the male sex. “We already see some women with some influence in positions of leadership, however, when we speak of business administration, this is still exercised largely by men. It is gratifying to be respected, recognized and distinguished in this environment, but we need more entrepreneurial women”, she emphasizes.


After restructuring and adaptation of the company, Helena Patacão will now focus on its internationalization and integration in foreign markets, with a focus on the United Arab Emirates, where it will have its own headquarters, but without neglecting work in Portugal.

Helena Patacão has been working in Portugal for large companies and clients of renowned and alert to the socio-economic-environmental responsibility: “it is imperative to build sustainability and energy independence as a measure social responsibility and change of mentalities”. She will now apply her expertise and develop projects in the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai, which will be the center of operations to work with the Middle East, was the natural choice for meeting the best conditions within the current global economic environment and for its potential for development and growth. “I identify myself with the strategies, culture, laws, and goals, and admire the leadership practices of the Dubai royal family.

They bring together all the conditions I need to be better and more creative, and I believe that my profile, knowledge, and experience are an asset and can make a difference in a society that encourages and supports entrepreneurial women”.

Within the evolution of the electric market itself, and since the legislation already allows the production of electric energy for self-consumption, there are more and more companies in the market that present proposals and solutions to customers. “It is crucial to analyze, verify and study the energy profile, introduce measures to change behavioral practices, observing the technical and legal conditions, so that companies obtain the necessary guarantees for the execution of their projects, due to the diverse and price disparity they face”. This is where Helena Patacão Investments leads, because in addition to enabling the negotiation, defending the interests of the client and ensuring the best performance ratio of any measure to be implemented, financially enables the operation avoiding the investment of equity capital by the client. “I always guarantee that the customer is getting the best technical and financial solution”, she tells us.

In the view of Helena Patacão, portuguese companies increasingly feel the financial difficulties that arise from the demands of market competitiveness and taxation. “These difficulties lead to the incessant demand by managers to rethink their strategies in order to adapt to a survival cycle that strangles financial liquidity”.

The development of projects in the United Arab Emirates will have its challenges because each market has its specifics. However, for Helena Patacão, it is necessary to adapt the business model to the needs and realities of each market, and it is gained when the missing need is discovered and if a gap is filled. “I apply my technique where I identify what is missing and what is wrong. It is based on the response I provide to these two issues, which builds my strategy and successful business operations”.

Thus, the biggest challenge will be to be successful in Dubai, the emirate that has won numerous world leadership awards in several areas. “This is an ambitious and courageous challenge. On one of my visits to Dubai, a noted world-renowned personality who had become my good friend, told me, using a phrase from the well-known Dr. Seuss … “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”. “This is now my main guideline, and undoubtedly the greatest incentive to believe that this bet has everything to win”, concludes our interviewee.

Helena Patacão stimulates the versatility to consider that enriches the personality and strengthens the character.

She is a Karate Coach and founded the KAMAE personal defense class for women where she teaches the practice of movements and reaction techniques used to preserve a woman’s physical and emotional integrity.

She is also a participant in several motorsports events, where she has also won some awards.

The ability to engage employees as a competitive advantage

Cerealto is a global food company that manufactures products with the brand of its clients, from large retails to branded food companies. How do you define the strategy or factors that have contributed to the differentiation of the company in the market?

We achieve differentiation thanks to our experience manufacturing over 10 cereal-based product categories, our efficiency and our continuous innovation. Additionally, the fact that we are supported by the most stringent international quality control and food security systems, and that our teams have strong knowledge of worldwide food trends.

All this, allow us to build long-lasting and trusting relationships with our clients, offering them flexibility and differentiation, through our ability to innovate and adapt to their needs with value-added products. Our main goal is to promote win-win relationships with all of them, which means offering the highest quality products at the best possible price.

We currently serve clients in over 40 countries, from our eight plants based in Spain, Portugal, Italy, UK and Mexico. We are constantly striving to show them how they can trust us.

What balance can be made from the company’s performance in 2017? And what is expected for this year?

2017 has been a positive year for Cerealto and one of substantial growth. We’re also seeing that some of last year’s initiatives have started to bear fruit. As a result of this, we’ve ended the year with net sales of 160 million euros, a 72% increase on the figure reached at the close of 2016, with production reaching 111 thousand tones, a 50% increase on the previous financial year.

Our investments exceeded 45 million euros, which has allowed us to expand our productive capacity and carry out technological and efficiency-based improvements.

Among the critical milestones of last year, the incorporation of the factories of Antequera and Briviesca (Spain) stands out as they’ve facilitated our entry into the Spanish market with our own production of pastries and sliced bread. In Italy, after four years of operational activity, we’ve concluded the acquisition of the Pastificio Mediterranea factory, where we produce our top-quality “Made in Italy” pasta range. On the other hand, we’re proud to have concluded the construction of the Worksop factory (in the UK), commencing with the production of biscuits, cereal bars and gluten-free products.

As a result of all this, our workforce has grown to a total of 1,800, with the incorporation of more than 900 new colleagues, who include both colleagues in the new factories as well as 365 new posts that were created in 2017.

Finally, last year we reinforced our bet for innovation. We doubled our investment in R&D, reaching a figure of 7.5 million euros. This allowed us to launch 175 new products onto the market that cover consumer demand for a healthy lifestyle, as well as targeting the specific nutritional requirements of a variety of groups.

2018 lies ahead as a year full of new challenges, including consolidating our presence in the international arena, fulfilling previously acquired commitments with clients and of course continuing integrating our multicultural teams and standardising our ways of working.

This year we will also create around 200 new jobs, most of them in Sintra (Portugal). Thus, we estimate to reach a workforce of 2,000 colleagues by the end of 2018.

I’m convinced that if we continue to work together with the same passion and determination, we’ll emerge stronger than ever.


Rut Aranda has been CEO of Cerealto since 2016, a company with operations in more than 40 countries and with its own production centers in Portugal, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Mexico and the United States, with a total of 1,800 employees. What are the main challenges of a position with this dimension?

I believe the challenges vary according to the company’s nature. In the specific case of Cerealto, being an emerging company implies that as we grow we face multiple and diverse challenges, which are completely different from one year to another. In 2017, one of our biggest challenges was to continue expanding while guaranteeing all the necessary production capacities and teams to meet the commitments we have made with our clients. Moreover, since we have acquired most of our factories from other companies, we have had to work hard towards ensuring the integration of multicultural teams with an inherited corporate culture and to initiate the standardization of all processes and ways of working in line with Cerealto’s policies.

Rut Aranda stood out in promoting the integration of multicultural teams and for starting the standardization of the way of working in the company. Is it urgent that leaders and managers of people rethink the management of human capital?

I believe that the management of human capital should be oriented towards ensuring business alignment and towards promoting employees’ engagement.

The ability to engage people is becoming one of the biggest competitive advantages in today’s organizations, so it needs to be consider within the business strategy. It is no secret that engaged colleagues are more inclined to innovation and are far more productive in the path of achieving business goals.

However, anyone who holds or has held a managerial or leadership position knows that getting there is not as easy as it sounds. It is a very slow process that sometimes can even be frustrating. It demands a constant exercise of transparency and conceiving management as a service that we provide to others.

In Cerealto, employee engagement has been a real challenge and we are working very hard to achieve this. In 2017 we reinforced communication through digitization, we provided training to the new factories and promote spaces for the cultural immersion of new colleagues. We also promoted many activities to benefit our colleague’s families as we know this is relevant for our people.

43% of your team is made up of women. In addition, 60% of the directors are also women. Is it a strategy or a sign of a paradigm shift?

I would say it is a strong evidence that we truly believe in generating equal opportunities for all. At Cerealto we focus on our colleagues’ talent, knowledge and abilities regardless their gender, race, age, sexual orientation, political or religious ideology. Knowing that the person will be good for the job is the only critical factor that we take into consideration when hiring and assigning responsibilities.

Moreover, at Cerealto we are commited to the integration of people with barriers to work. Up to date, 6.5% of our entire workforce comes from these groups.