Francisco Graciola: 70 years of entrepreneurship history and pure inspiration

published in 26/04/2022 12:04 News

Discipline and respect are the fundaments of this great entrepreneur who has spent seven decades at the head of one of the largest construction companies in the country. Anyone who admires FG Empreendimentos these days can hardly imagine the simplicity that has always accompanied the life of its founder.

From the countryside to the biggest skyscrapers in the world. Anyone who knows the laid-back Francisco Graciola cannot imagine his life trajectory. His white hair and serene gaze reflect all his experience, but his simplicity and broad smile hide all the things he's had to overcome in his life. Those who believe that it was pure luck and no work involved, couldn't be more wrong. On the contrary, in addition to getting his hands dirty, he gave relatives and friends the opportunity to pursue their dreams. He also gave room to those whom embraced his goals alongside him.

70 years ago, in the countryside of Gaspar, a city in the middle of Santa Catarina's valley, Francisco Graciola was born. He was the third of 12 siblings. He started of by helping his parents in the countryside at a very young age. It was during his childhood that Francisco's mind and soul began to feed off of the most genuine feelings of struggle and perseverance. These feelings helped him take his first big steps into the entrepreneurial world. It was in the countryside, in plain field that Francisco, at the age of seven, lost one of his eye sights in an accident. In spite what happened he still didn't let that bring him down. He was born with an entrepreneurial spirit. It is intrinsic to his existence. At the age of 14, he accepted his uncle's invitation and he started to work as a barber. He was the first in his family to abandon the countryside labor, but in spite of that, he never forgot where he came from. He wanted to live in the city, to be someone in life and so he grabbed such opportunity with all his might. The insightful friendly young man soon won offer many customers and, one by one, his siblings soon went into business with him. “I have always been very observant. In very few years, I had already formed my clientele and so I rented a small room and started my own business - I opened up my barbershop”, he fondly recalls. In order to win over customers, the young entrepreneur had to innovate: “I put a sign on the sidewalk: 'Cut your hair and get your beard done for free'”, says Francisco Graciola. The barbershop was next to a cafeteria that used to close up early. “That intrigued me. The owner, who had rented me the space for the barbershop, saw that it had the potential to grow and with that proposed that I'd also take over the cafeteria. He made me an offer to pay it off in 36 installments and so I ended up buying it. I then drew my attention to my 11 siblings that were living on the farm in Gaspar, and I started to bring them into the family business. First a sister of mine, then a brother, and so on. We were making dreams come true”, he adds. "Seu Chico", as he is affectionately known as, recalls that since the barbershop was not always full of clients, in their spare time they did some sewing. “We used to do that because the barbershop was near Hering industry, and they would bring over those knitted fabric shirts and so, during our spare time, we would correct the knitting details on the collars, sleeves and sew on buttons. Thus, "Barbearia do Chico" (Chico's Barbershop) was born and, soon after that a cafeteria and then a tailor shop. We started managing some other cafeterias as well”. At a given time, there were 15 cafeterias.

Francisco Graciola is a born Midas. A visionary man in which everything he planned during his trajectory transformed itself into a complete success. Civil Construction has always been a great passion to him. And he has always dreamed of going beyond expectations. I wanted to transform realities, to make a difference in the lives of numerous families and to achieve the unimaginable. It started off with small buildings in Blumenau in 1983 and so, brick by brick, all the profit that came from the cafeterias was reinvested. He would go to São Paulo, with a truck he had borrowed in order to purchase the construction materials he needed for the construction sites. He'd unload it, help mix the plaster cement, and do whatever needed to be done. He wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty. I'd started something and never intended on stopping. As we continued building developments, I always wanted to take it up a notch and add one more floor to the project. I'd look at just about any townhouse, house or land and I'd start to think of how one could make a profit out of it. I'd wonder about the heights and about that fact that with so much technology and development out there, they still didn't have taller buildings. That always intrigued me”, he recalls. He had great passion for Balneário Camboriú, and at that time, the city was not even close to having all the development that it has today. Such advancements puts Balneário in the ranking as the municipality with the largest economic value in the country. “I used to leave Blumenau every Sunday morning. At that time I already had Jean, my firstborn. As a child, he was already involved in the family business. Sunday mornings, the whole family would hop in a Fiat 147 and travel from Blumenau to Balneário, driving for upto 80 kilometers. We would stop to visit the construction sites along the way,” he says.

At that time, the commerce in Balneário Camboriú was begining to gain strength and the civil construction sector was not yet very thriving. Investments would normally come from local family groups. “The city mesmerized me. I would look at the sea and at the blue sky and I'd think: It is possible to break barriers, I will go further”, he comments with nostalgia. In the 1980s, the opportunity to invest in a plot of land in Balneário Camboriú came up. Then, in the mid-1990s, the first building in the city was designed, a 14-Story building, on Atlântica Avenue.

Up until 2001, Graciola and his son, with whom he would share the management of the company, would divide their attention to their other companies, managing the entire business. It was then that Francisco Graciola and his son Jean Graciola founded FG Empreendimentos and focused their efforts on Balneário Camboriú and on surprisingly different developments, aiming to overcoming limits. They began to travel the world in search of innovative ideas. “We went to Dubai, Panama City, Singapore, New York and some other countries and cities that had the best technology and the tallest buildings in the world. And that's when Balneário went through a transformation phase - from the end of the 90s to the begining of the year 2000. We brought up the idea that each condominium should have its very own leisure space, similar to the ones you see in home clubs, with a heated pool, a gym, a playground and areas for family gatherings. It was a novelty for the region. Our brand gained stregnth and we acquired land - we were always thinking ahead of things”, points out Jean Graciola.

From the year 2007 and on, the company started to intensify its search for new technology and to accelerate it's plans for the unprecedented, bringing even taller buildings to the city. Up until that moment, FG had only built 30-story buildings. In 2008 the entrepreneurs acquired a large amount of land that was composed of more than five thousand squared meters of land. It was a place where it would be possible to build three 20-story towers. “I called my team up and said: if this land fits three 20-story towers, we will build one with 60”. Why? If you build three towers in an area of ​​5000 squared meters, you'll be using up 50% of the land just for that. If you build a single tower, only 20% of the land is used up for that. Doing so, a large area can be spared and it can be used up for leisure options. So, we went ahead and built the Infinity Coast residential, which is composed of 66 residential apartment floors and is equivalent to a 76-story building. It is 234 meters high. It was the first building in the country to pass the 200-meter barrier height”, he recalls with a smile on his face.

Some of the world's largest structural and architectural companies, such as RWDI from Canada and BRE and WSP from England, have become partners of FG Empreendimentos. These are the same companies that developed study research for skyscrapers like the Petronas Towers, in Malaysia, and the Central Park Tower, in New York. Gradually, FG Empreendimentos went from being just a dream to becoming one of the biggest and best companies in the country's construction sector with international prominence.

In 2010 the company started to invest in its corporate governance process and since 2013 it has been audited by EY, one of the worldwide known Big Fours in the auditting segment. “We started to invest in personnel training - the unimaginable has always been a goal of ours. For those who dream, not even the sky is the limit. I've always wanted to help transform Balneário Camboriú's skyline and to be able to reach for the sky. That's why we continue to invest in even more audacious developments. I enjoy making beautiful and different things”, he explains.

Chico is the head a holding group, composed of 60 companies and over five thousand employees. In addition to the civil construction setor, he also owns three hotels, the Fazzenda Park Hotel in his hometown, the Vila Germanica in Piratuba, and the Hotel Marambaia in Balneário Camboriú. Characteristics he continues to carry out with him are his simplicity and his essence. He never forgot his origins - where he came from and the strength his whole family had to have in order to over come the obstacles life presented them.

When asked about what he learned from his time on the farm that may still help him in some way in the construction sector, he is straightforward to answer: Planning, persistence and daring to do so. “A man who wants to advance in life must dare to do what no one esle or few would. It is necessary to leave your comfort zone, to have a certain amount of ambition and, at the same time, to have someone to share responsibilities and achievements with. It is important to face up to mistakes in a way that one does not victimize oneself, but as a learning experience, as a possibility to trace a new route”, he explains.

With a young spirit, businessman Francisco Graciola looks up at the sky and is already longing for even higher and grander developments. “We have great projects that will not only transform the civil construction sector, but create a new legacy for all of humanity. We are looking forward to the years to come in order to continue investing”, he concludes.

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