I had the pleasure of interviewing Carlos Jereissati. As President and CEO of Iguatemi, Brazil’s first and premier shopping center. Carlos has played an instrumental role in the development of Brazil’s luxury retail market, bringing in luxury brands like Prada, Bottega Venteta and Yves Saint Laurent to BRazil for the first time. His empire has a critical influence in nourishing Brazil’s talent through Iguatemi’s sponsorship of Sao Paulo Fashion Week and the influential art fair SP-Arte.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

There are so many stories, but almost 20 years ago we changed how cinemas are operated in Brazil. I wanted to give our customers the option to reserve their seats before going to the movies, and I had to fight the movie theater industry in Brazil because it was very American centric. They were convinced that going to the movies was an impulse buy, and that nobody would want to reserve seats beforehand. We wanted to have larger and more comfortable chairs, to have a more elevated experience and high level of service like in everything we do. We wanted the interior of a movie theater to be like more sophisticated and give our customers a special place to relax and even host events. They finally agreed to do it, and it was such a success that we became a reference in Brazil: more than 100 similar movie theaters were open after we launched ours.

2. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? We had a mall that had some issues with flooding, and like everything we do, we always have contingency plans and make sure we are prepared for whatever happens. So, I told my team to think about how to have tools and resources available in case there was a flood. So, one day I visited the garage and realized someone bought a wood canoe!!! Not an inflatable boat that one could put away, but a wooden one, proudly displayed in our garage. We still talk about this to this day, it was hilarious. But all jokes aside, I learned that I need to communicate better, I should have been more specific about what I wanted.

3. What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Iguatemi has been creating emotional connections with our customers for 50 years. In the 80s we bought a special clock designed by physicist and artist Bernard Gitton proudly displayed in our center square. The clock is made of hand-blown glass globes, discs and tubes filled with 250 liters of colored water. The discs tell the minutes, and the globes tell time. At that time there was only 2 of these clocks in the world, and it is a great iconic piece. Today, parents bring their kids to visit and to show them the clock, because they want to share the memories they created in our mall when they were growing up.

We were the first mall to bring fresh flowers to all our properties, and the tulips became our trademark. Brazil is warm, and tulips are rare and expensive, so when we do our installations, we draw people from all over the city and even from outside of Sao Paulo, who come to see them up close. We do beautiful displays during Mother’s Day and many other important holidays, and the beautiful displays enhances their experience while they are visiting us, and stays in their memories when they leave.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think it’s important to always try to learn from outside of your own industry. We don’t search for inspiration from malls, but we look at amazing hotels, services with that wow factor, disruptive technology, and innovative events in other industries. It’s important to get out of our bubble and look at other areas with fresh eyes.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My father has definitely been the person we look up to. When he started, there were no malls in Brazil, and everyone was skeptical about the business. But he had a vision and worked really hard to make it to what it is today. Growing up, he would play games with me, my brother and sister, asking us to count how many shopping bags we saw in our mall. We’ve grown up in the business, and he wanted to show us that you need to work hard and nothing comes for free. His pursuit of excellence in everything he does, his attention to detail, and his constant curiosity to learn new things inspires us every day.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

We are working very hard on digital and we will be ready to share more news closer to November.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We do a lot of philanthropy, but one of the things I am most proud of is our commitment to education. We have been supporting the non-profit organization Parceiros da Educacao (Partners for Education), which promotes the partnership between the private sector and public schools to improve students academic performance and learning. This organization also supports the government on initiatives that improve public education. I believe that everything starts with a good education, and we want to help as much as we can.

Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

· Improving the store experience: We always believed that we should be an entire environment and provide gastronomy, experiences, events, and many more reasons for people to visit us, and I think malls all over the world are catching up to this concept as part of their adjustment. Standalone stores as well, providing more reasons for customers to hang out at their stores, like adding a coffee area.

· Changing how they communicate: the shift in advertising dollars from print to digital has been an industry changer, and companies had to move quickly to adapt to more effective ways to reach their customers, on mobile especially

· Social Media: the power now lies on the customer hands, and social media changed that. Companies must be customer centric, and that is a good thing in my opinion.

· Automatization of boring tasks: retailers can take advantage of technology to solve the boring parts of their businesses: payment process, staying in line, carrying your package. There is a great opportunity for us to follow on the footsteps of Amazon Go, and focus on the customer experience.

· Online retailers: although more customers shop online, they also need the physical experience, so online retailers will also have to open strategic brick and mortar stores to offer the experience that their customers need. Nothing will ever replace the human touch.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe that you can be a much better person if you can put yourself in another person’s shoes. To me, a world with more empathy is worth fighting for.

How can our readers follow you on social media? I am on Facebook, but I write in Portuguese for the most part.

This was fantastic Carlos, thank you for joining us!

Originally published at medium.com