Ricardo Martí Fluxá

In memory of Enrique de Sendagorta

Enrique de Sendagorta (on the left) with Ricardo Martín Fluxá (on the right).

Enrique de Sendagorta was one of the most renowned engineers of his generation. A Kingdom of Spain Award-winner for his brilliant career as a businessman, founder of SENER, the large engineering company, and the deepest and most earnest humanist that you could find. Until the day he died, Enrique de Sendagorta remained hugely spirited. He had an intellectual curiosity that never left him, a positive mindset and an eternally entrepreneurial spirit that was passed on to all who were lucky enough to get to know him, deal with him and share with him in both business and academic projects and ventures.

Being profoundly Spanish and Basque, he always felt close to his Viscayan homeland in the Basque Country. Over the course of his life, which was exceptional in many aspects, the values and principles that he embraced during his education were ever-present and never left him, which he faithfully upheld and knew how to preserve and convey to others in an enlightened manner.

He had one very clear intention: to leave behind a better society than the one he found. As such, his professional life became entwined with Spain’s own political and economic history, due to the significance of his actions. The Stabilization Plan of 1959, and what the successive Development Plans from 1962 onwards represented for Spain, have not yet been explored in enough depth.

A conversation enjoyed with Enrique de Sendagorta made us better people.

Spain, thanks to Enrique de Sendagorta’s generation, became an increasingly less different reality to that of its neighboring countries. He always insisted that Spain should be technologically independent, searching for ways to improve our products, be innovative and pursue excellence. Two ideas, two concepts—innovation and excellence—lie at the heart of SENER, a company that was founded with his brother José Manuel in 1956 at a time when there were no other engineering companies registered in Spain. In his own words, it was “the business of his life”, and one to which he dedicated years of endeavor and enthusiasm.

In 1959 he was named the Director General of Foreign Trade, as part the Spanish Ministry of Economy led by Alberto Ullastres. At the end of his stint in politics, he began his era as Director and Chief Executive Officer of La Naval, a company where he began his professional career. Both in the world of shipyards and later at Petronor, where he filled the position of Chairman for the first time, and then at the Banco de Vizcaya, Enrique de Sendagorta taught us something that he later described in his book “El afecto a la empresa” [A love for business] – a concept which he put into practice at the Enterprise and Humanism Institute at the Universidad de Navarra. As has been repeated so many times, it is essential that we achieve a humanist vision of work by placing the dignity of people, the strength of institutions and a global outlook at the heart of our primary objectives. He used to speak about social responsibility when such a concept had not yet emerged in companies. He was also perfectly clear that if financial progress turned everyone into anonymous cogs in a large machine, such progress was an empty promise totally devoid of any meaning. In his view, in order for a business to be able to prosper, the principle of emotional engagement and community should prevail in the shared vision of values.

In spite of his advancing years he used to enjoy discovering new writers, finding new tones in a well-known melody and re-reading a book by one of his favorite authors. A conversation enjoyed with Enrique de Sendagorta made us better people, motivated us, inspired us to grow and work harder, to be innovative and to share in both material and spiritual dimensions. Love and affection were constant in his life. Love for his family, wife, parents, children, grandchildren, siblings, friends and his work.

The moving memory that I will always hold dear of Enrique de Sendagorta will be that of his smile and his brotherly hugs. Few people have managed to achieve the difficult science of being happy, of engendering love and happiness, since he was aware that without these elements, all existence, deep down, lacks purpose.

I don’t think that there is any better way to live one’s life. Seneca, in one of his letters to Lucilio, wrote “Alteri vivas oportet, si vis tibi vivere”, which translates as “You need to live for others if you want to live for yourself”. That was the life of Enrique de Sendagorta.