Please note, your browser is out of date.
For a good browsing experience we recommend using the latest version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer.

Joaquim Amorim: I had the good fortune of being able to adapt to the world

Portugal 15/5/2020

Joaquim Amorim, 83 years old, is the youngest of four brothers who, from the 1950s onwards, took over the reins at Corticeira Amorim, in a decisive stage of the group's development. After spending time in France and England, he moved to Brazil to manage the group's business, and stayed there until 1966. After returning to Portugal, motivated by intrinsic curiosity and a profound joie de vivre, he continued to travel the world, in a constant learning process that he is very proud of.
A living and emotional testimony concerning the last 60 years in the group's history.

“I, Joaquim Amorim, was one of four brothers, who, with everyone’s support - our family, friends, and the commercial and industrial team - managed to build the group that exists today” recalls Joaquim Amorim, the youngest of the four brothers, who, from the 1950s, took over the reins at Corticeira Amorim and made it the world leader of the cork industry. “Logically, the leader of the four brothers was Américo, who always used to say: “It can be done”. If nobody else could do it, he would find a way, and it was always for everyone's benefit.”

Américo Amorim was undeniably a man of action, while his brother, Joaquim, was driven by innate curiosity. “Learning” is the word that popped up the most in a conversation in which he recalled some of the most remarkable moments from his time with the group, with great emotion and gratitude.

“I attended primary school in Mozelos, then I went to the Escola Comercial do Porto, where I took the 4-year course. I can still remember all the subjects: Portuguese, French, English, Geography, Calligraphy, Shorthand, Mathematics, Algebra and World Trade. In 1954, when I finished the course, a Frenchman, who worked with Charles Duvicq et Fils, one of Amorim & Irmãos’ clients, invited me to France, where he had some cork factories, near Bayonne. Since I was the youngest of the four brothers, I decided to go. I went on 14 July, Bastille Day, and stayed until December. It was a great internship. I had complete freedom to move around the factory, and see all the offices. I learned a lot. I accompanied him on visits to clients, where he negotiated with them. I learned a lot about French culture, and also about cork stoppers.”

The beginning of a life filled with discoveries

Joaquim Amorim was 18 years old at the time. Back then, not everyone had the opportunity to leave Mozelos and go to France. But he seized the opportunity. It was a wonderful school. This was just the beginning of a life of travel and discovery, always linked to cork.
“I returned to Portugal in January 1955”. But not for long. He moved to England to learn the language and attended a business course in Cambridge. He then moved to Guildford, in South London. “There were people from all over Europe in the school – people from France, Italy, Spain. There were classes for all languages. Since I already knew how to speak French, including so-called ‘patois’ (vernacular), I ended up spending all my time with the French speakers, even though I was living in England.” During his stay in England, he nonetheless learnt English, and became acquainted with the culture of the British commonwealth.

In 1960, his older brothers suggested that he move to Brazil, to take care of the family business. Joaquim Amorim arrived in São Paulo, that had a population of 10 million, where he hardly knew a soul. He stayed until 1966, and forged strong commercial ties and bonds of friendship, which even today, after 50 years, remain alive - as for example, with the founders of Cereser, the market leader for ciders and sparkling wines in Brazil.

On Christmas Eve, 1966, Joaquim Amorim returned to Portugal and became a full-time member of the company, led by the four brothers. During this period he established in-depth knowledge of the birthplace of cork: the cork oak forest. In the Alentejo, he learned from the local people, by observing, listening, and “contacting this and that person”. He also visited the group's factories in Portugal, and travelled to Silves to immerse himself in the industry.

From 1970 onwards, in line with the group’s internationalisation, he began to assume responsibilities in the area of sales. Joaquim Amorim capitalised on his knowledge of foreign languages and accompanied the sales teams when they visited clients abroad. These tours took him to the four corners of the world - Japan, Australia and China, for example, where he accompanied the delegation led by the Portuguese prime minister, Mário Soares, in an official visit to Macau.
With his characteristic youthfulness, he recalls all the stops of his 23-hour trip to Japan: “Porto - London, London - Dubai, Dubai - New Delhi, and New Delhi - Tokyo”. He concludes, with a characteristic expression “Okay, no problem”.

‘In whatever country you visit, adapt or die!’

Life continued to smile on him, and Joaquim Amorim responded likewise. In Japan, he encountered a new language, culture and rituals and even another way of doing business. Later, he travelled to Central Asia, Central and South America and North America. He was able to learn something new in all these parts of the globe. In a process of constant learning, he discovered the contrasts that exist in the world, in terms of miseries and also wonders. “I always remember the words of a Brazilian writer: ‘In whatever country you visit, adapt or die! ’, I completely agree,” he says. "In Brazil, act like a Brazilian, in Morocco, act like a Moroccan, and in Russia I just have to be Russian, and there will be no problems."

Freed from weightier responsibilities, Joaquim Amorim was perhaps the brother who had the greatest freedom to move around as he wanted. “Of the four brothers I was the youngest, and as the others were already working inside the group, I had the greatest freedom” admits Joaquim Amorim. “When I ask myself what I did over the past 60 years, I always remember what my brother Américo used to say - our first school is to travel and see the world. And if we know the world and how to adapt to the world, we will be successful. I had the good fortune of being able to adapt to the world.”

Looking back at the 150 years of the company founded by his grandparents, Joaquim Amorim recalls the values that he thinks have always been upheld in the company. “Common sense, loyalty, honesty, gratitude. The success of this group results from all these factors. When I think about my grandparents' story, how they started, how they went here and there, I think we owe them tremendous gratitude. They gave us this education: work, work, work, and we don't know how to do anything else.”