Antonio Hernando and his business

Antonio Hernando is a Venezuelan entrepreneur, who founded Aquapana with his brother. The business focuses on the area of pumping systems, which are equipped with high technology and innovative devises, and are environmentally friendly.

The company is located in Ciudad de Panamá, and was created eight years ago. Aquapana is the second business that Mr Hernando and his brother have founded. Thus, it was created as an alternative to the one located in Venezuela, which was also founded by his father, and follows the same business line and the same functioning structure as Aquapana. This way, Mr Hernando has been working in the same sector for thirty years.

The Venezuelan entrepreneur is the general director of both the Panamanian and the Venezuelan one, and his position is a multitasking one. Therefore, he is in charge of the key accounts, of the company’s documentation, of team motivation, of the finances…

Antonio Hernando with the interviewer, Ana María Gómez through Facetime

Antonio Hernando with the interviewer, Ana María Gómez through Facetime

As he explained, the political crisis that Venezuela is facing currently, does not make living or working there easy. Regarding business life, Mr Hernando explained that, as the laws and regulations are constantly changing, nearly on a daily basis, the entrepreneurs must constantly carry out paper work in order to be within the law. As he was saying, this is something that takes up time that businessmen would rather invest in other needs that their companies may have.

On the other hand, since the company needs to import and export, Mr Hernando explained that the functioning of his business sometimes depends on the availability of dollars. Regarding this issue, the president of Venezuela established an exchange control some years ago. Thus, in order to have access to the dollars, he was obliged to participate in an auction, and obviously not always could achieve the dollars he needs. Moreover, Mr Hernando added that the Venezuelan’s law regarding employees and working conditions, has seriously damaged the power of the companies and the working environment. In this line, he stated that the employees are overprotected, so they cannot be fired even if they do not attend work for a week without any kind of justification, or if they decide to work just five hours per day. Additionally, the employees could also denounce the employers and often achieve compensations for any minor issue easily, for instance, not agreeing on with what the employer says. This generates an awful working environment and the stress for the employers.

As for his personal live, the Venezuelan entrepreneur stated that the situation of the country constantly implies stress and isolation because of the insecurity, the lack of resources… and put emphasis on the grey mood that characterises the current Venezuelan population. Due to these factors, he was forced to send his two daughters to Spain, in order to provide them with a better opportunity to evolve and have a better life. The country’s situation has also forced him to create the business of Aquapana in Panama, as an alternative to the one in Venezuela. He emphasized that he decided to develop the same business line, to continue the legacy of his father.

In this line, the Venezuelan entrepreneur explained that to start a new business in the Panamanian market was quite tough, specifically without living there, because it was hard to keep daily control on the company. Moreover, the first manager of Aquapana turned out to be a scammer and stole the customers, preventing the business from development well. Three years later, when he was uncovered, a new manager was hired and he turned out to be another scammer too, creating also a bad working environment. This way, each time Mr Hernando or his brother travelled to Panama, the business situation had declined, so he had to move to Panamá for longer periods. According to Mr Hernando currently, “Aquapana is reborn”, after a long period of hard work to achieve its good functioning. He also added that now the company is trying to achieve diverse contracts “that will be fruitful for the company, as well as determinative for the coming years”.

Going back to the Venezuelan company, which is suffering losses, Mr Hernando explained that it is at the minimum performance right now, and that the maintain the staff, but he cannot close it because of the government laws that forbid it. He explained that each year imports decline, as well as the constructions, that needs pumping systems. Moreover, the entrepreneur stated that new competition has recently appeared on market, a cheaper version of bad quality water pumps from China. Although, people know that these pumps require frequent changes, it is what the majority could afford.

To conclude, Mr Hernando explained that the Venezuelan crisis has strongly affected almost all companies, which have had to reborn and find the way to survive in business. Many of them have had to close, and many others, as Aquapana, have had to go out of the country in order to go ahead and due to the fear they have to the power that the Venezuelan government have over the businesses. In this line, he explained that for instance the government could expropriate any company without having to justify it.

Ana María Gómez González


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