Strategy, Structure and Knowledge
Clearly, the only way to earn more (the end objective of any strategy that seeks to ensure survival) is to have asymmetric competitive advantages that are not easy to obtain. And, if these are exclusive, then so much the better. Today we are aware of this, since the only legal monopoly which is socially admitted is that of intellectual and industrial property (brands, designs and patents). So relevant are these so-called "intangible assets" that today it is far more worthwhile to be the owner of the knowledge than to be the (subcontracted) physical producer of the products or services based on this knowledge.
However, if protectable knowledge (in the sense of intellectual and industrial property) is the key to developing one strategy or another; if strategic exclusivity is focused increasingly more on holding - or not holding - certain "knowledge rights"; then it is also true that a company's human structure is decisive, since it is people who generate knowledge. And a structure that generates knowledge makes it possible to implement a strategy altogether different from one that does not generate it.
This explains why Santa & Cole defines itself as a knowledge industry. We do our utmost to generate, contract, protect and spread knowledge, expressed through physical products with fine design, the fondly remembered Gute Form of the Bauhaus: constructive solidity, aesthetic sobriety and functional quality, which develop into a standard that verges even on the moral.
Santa & Cole employs its brand name to edit (1) lighting products and indoor furniture, (2) urban elements, (3) books and (4) plant elements for urban reforestation. In Spain it also defends the interests of certain important manufacturers (the German bulthaup, in kitchen furniture; the German Ingo Maurer, in interior lighting; La Cornue, the French cuisinières; and the American SubZero, in cold appliances). Product groups that are individually very different, but which have a shared sales network because they have a common influencer: the professionals involved in the project, interior specialists, designers, architects, urban planners and landscape architects interested in contemporary design with an accent on original quality.
Santa & Cole subcontracts 100% of its production to an extensive group of suppliers based largely in Spain (yet also present in other countries). Thus, we do not manufacture with our own hands. We are editors. Our task (in terms of catalogue products, not special products for a single project) can be summed up as follows:
- Selecting what should be included in the catalogue (new products)
- Developing them technically
- Subcontracting and financing the production of the different components
- Storing, selling and collecting payment for the finished products
- And, at all times, defending both the ownership of our edition rights against all intrusive third parties, and our authors' creative worth.
The importance of Design for Santa & Cole
The finest protectable industrial design, and whatever related knowledge required for its proper business operation: this is the true essence of Santa & Cole. Since editing is our raison d'être, registered design is not only an aesthetic choice but also the basic pillar of our differentiation strategy.
Santa & Cole works solely with protectable original design, either registered by our authors or generated in our in-house departments.
Our philosophy of taste is modern rather than futuristic. We are interested in rationality and balance, silence as opposed to stridence. And we are particularly motivated by the fact that we are the standard-bearers of a fine sample of Spanish design throughout the world. For the most part, the creators of the objects we edit are internationally renowned designers and architects from Spain. This is because we value their ability to contribute ideas, new reflections and attitudes toward the objects, new perspectives on the world that, together, we help to project.
Policy Knowledge Management
It is true that the beginnings of Santa & Cole were typical of any "central-product" editing company which edits in order to enlarge a catalogue, in the hopes that the products will later be of interest to its target market. Yet, for years now, we have been witnessing a progressive internal transformation of our organisational culture towards a "central-product" model, where our mission is to contribute knowledge in order to attend to our clients' specific needs and solve their project problems: from how to light up a seaside promenade to how to arrange a kitchen. To furnish offices or a home, to qualify and humanise large public spaces, or to compose the wooded area in a section of the city. We do not however sell the project; we sell the elements that might be used to make that project a success: our knowledge merely seeks to act as the common-sense basis of the professional advice we give to our clients.
Santa & Cole has several specific areas for knowledge development:
- In terms of a project culture: Everything related to the process of discussion, selection and validation of new authors and products for our catalogue. Part of that knowledge is published through our book collections, co-edited with the ETS of Architecture of Barcelona (Polytechnic University of Catalonia).
- In terms of technologies: The implementation of ISO 9001 certification; of the Santa & Cole Intranet (which accumulates a growing collection of internal pages on product development); of a PDM (Product Data Management) and CAD (Computer Aided Design) system. These are only a few samples of the means we employ to generate, store and internally distribute this specific knowledge of our craft. We handle thousands of different pieces and components manufactured by hundreds of suppliers from several countries.
- In terms of a business and commercial strategy: Santa & Cole has proved its innovative performance in different markets, as diverse as the commercialisation of kitchen furniture or urban elements, and now seeks to do so in the commercial focus of its new Forestry Division (wooded area for public use). The internal management information systems range from ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) to CRM (Customer Relationship Management) programs, and our corporate website has already opened an e-shop. Part of this knowledge is published in the form of a new collection of business management books, co-edited with ESADE (Ramon Llull University).
It is within this context of the importance of knowledge as a vital element of Santa & Cole's strategy that the Parc de Belloch project can be seen: the promotion of a campus for innovation linked to a new, first-rate academic institution.