I learned the value of hard work early in life. At the age of 16, I was already a trainee in a customs office in Porto, while studying administration and accounting at night. Within three years, I was named head of the export department.

In 1980, aged 27, I took the bold decision to start my own freight-forwarding company, together with two colleagues. It was tough to find investors and customers. We convinced people with our willingness to put in long hours and our determination to succeed. In 1985, our engineers and I created an IT programme to process customs declarations electronically—we were the first company in Portugal to offer this software.

The biggest challenge came in 1992 with the creation of the European Union. The phasing out of customs duties within Europe eliminated 50% of our business. We had to reinvent ourselves by expanding internationally and opening up new markets.

A partnership based on trust

In October 2007, I met Adriano Treve, the General Manager of Roche Portugal at the time, who needed a distributor to transport sensitive oncology products. I was completely honest and told him that we had no experience with pharmaceuticals, but we were willing to invest and learn. “Why should I trust you?” he asked. I looked him in the eye and replied: “Because I am putting my own reputation and the reputation of my company on the line. When I make promises, I keep them.”

We shook hands and started an intensive period of collaboration. At Rangel, we invested heavily in new warehousing with cold chambers and transportation boxes that remain at constant 2–8 degrees Celsius. Roche quality experts came to our site in Lisbon to train our people. I knew our teamwork was based on a shared commitment to get life-saving products to the hospitals, pharmacies and patients who need them.

In January 2009, we went live. Soon afterwards, we introduced ‘track and trace’ from our website, so Roche could follow the shipments and even monitor real-time temperatures in our delivery trucks— something that had never been done before.

Looking back, I am proud to say that we have kept our promise. During all of 2016, we did not miss a single delivery or failed once in the cold chain— a 100% fulfilment rate.

Today, Rangel is a successful international Group with 1,450 employees. What we have learned from our collaboration with Roche has made us the number one distributor for all pharmaceutical products in Portugal, supplying 90 million life-saving products a year.

As Chairman, I am training my son, Nuno, to take over when I retire. My greatest wish is to keep the Rangel Group in the family and to continue fulfilling our promise in the future.