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February 23, 2024
Featured in Incorporate Magazine
Reading Time
9 minutes

What Makes Avenidas an Excellent Place to Work

Featured in Incorporate Magazine

Founded in 2016, Avenidas is a company operating in the fields of mobility, tourism, logistics, and ventures, and above all, it is "an excellent place to work," as stated by the team members themselves. In an interview with CEO Manuel Salema Reis, we get to know the company better and understand how happiness and sustainability are promoted in this workplace.

To begin, could you tell us the story and motivations behind the creation of Avenidas?

The company started in 2016, with me and another partner. At that time, I had just finished my bachelor's degree, was in a master's program, and ended up dropping out of the master's program to focus solely on this. It was a time when everyone was putting their cars into service for Uber. There was no legislation at the time, so it was very easy to do; the requirements were simple. My partner, who is a banking broker, is older and more experienced, and he joined forces with me to put a car on Uber. We quickly realised that we wanted independence from the platform and created our own services, building a network of contacts, friends, and family. We also started acquiring clients for private passenger transport and focused on transporting children to schools, which is still one of our products in this segment to this day.

Basically, our drivers pick up or drop off children at school under a private transport scheme. With this, we organically grew the fleet of cars, and in 2018, we also started looking into tourism, establishing partnerships for airport transfers and private experiences, such as private tours to Sintra. We tried to leverage the human resources we had, which were drivers with language skills and knowledge of history or the ability to learn, to become more than just drivers but also driver-guides. This gave us our first major boost because it complemented our core activity, which was the partnership we had with Uber. With this, we grew to 19 cars in 2019 and had a turnover close to one million euros.

Catarina Pereira, CFO of Avenidas

"Avenidas is a true box of surprises. My experience here has been incredibly enriching, a blend of hard work and pleasure, with Avenidas growing every day. I am proud to be part of a team that makes things happen."

However, the following year, in March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic, which had a significant impact on most sectors, forced us to reinvent ourselves. What strategy did you adopt to continue the business?

Things were going well until the pandemic hit. In a way, we found ourselves at the forefront of companies affected by it because we were linked to passenger transport and tourism, and all of this disappeared. But we have always been a very agile and dynamic company and have always done a bit of everything.

For example, when we opened a client account for passenger transport, people could ask us to pick up keys, to buy any item, we had clients who were restaurants and used us to transport their employees. In a way, this already positioned us for what was to come. For instance, with the restaurants, we had two or three clients who had never worked with delivery services and asked us for help because they started receiving delivery requests from their regular customers by phone.

We obviously stepped in so that our cars wouldn't be idle, and that's how a new business area started to emerge, which we now call Avenidas Send, where we started delivering meals for restaurants, but also more than that, we started delivering baskets, doing grocery shopping, where the customer paid a fixed fee of 20 euros, sent the list, and our driver, in real-time, went shopping and reported which products were out of stock, which products were available, creating an interactive experience that was quite successful. It was these kinds of things that we did to survive.

Joana Cristóvão, Head of Avenidas Tour

"Avenidas saved me. This company noticed me, invested in my skills, and smiled as we faced a difficult pandemic phase. The value of Avenidas is reflected in how it cherishes its employees and accepts them as both people and professionals in the field. For me, it's a privilege to be in this home and have amazing colleagues who help me evolve, face challenges, and teach me to be a better person. I trust this family. Here, I am happy!"

And after this pandemic period of reinvention, did you maintain the model you had in practice, or once again, did you decide it was a good time to continue developing the business?

As with everything in our approach, we went further, and when the post-pandemic transition occurred, we realised that we no longer wanted to have our passenger vehicles and our drivers, some of whom were guides, providing this type of service, nor did they want to, but we also didn't want to lose what we had created. Therefore, we invested in a fleet of motorcycles, software to manage restaurant orders, and commercial vans to carry out other types of scheduled deliveries. Nowadays, this area consists of 30 commercial vans and delivers e-commerce products for companies like Amazon, Inditex, and Nespresso. On the other side, we have a network of restaurants with whom we have partnerships to deliver their orders.

Mobility, logistics, and tourism are three of the business units that drive the company. In a more general sense, what does each one entail?

The company is divided into three distinct areas, which we, after a recent rebranding, call Avenidas Ride for passenger services, Avenidas Send for deliveries, and Avenidas Tour for tourism. Avenidas Ride specialises in mobility solutions, from private drivers and transportation network companies (TNCs) to fleet management and corporate accounts. Avenidas Send is our logistics business unit. Our couriers and distributors transport all types of packages from point A to point B.

In Avenidas Tour, we have two segments: one is B2B (business-to-business), where we partner with hotels, and the other is B2C (business-to-consumer), which is our brand Swingo. We felt the need to create a brand that is much more easily recognisable by tourists. "Avenidas" is easily translatable to other languages, but it doesn't have the same connotation or potential to stick in the memory of a foreigner who comes here and can reference our company. Therefore, we felt the need to create a brand more oriented towards foreign tourists who don't speak Portuguese.

André Belo, Head of Avenidas Grow

"We invest a lot in the internal progression of our employees."

"I identified from the beginning with Avenidas' innovative approach, and also with the commitment the company has to promoting the ambition of its employees. At Avenidas, we are very agile in decision-making processes. We are always ready to adapt to the daily changes, and challenges are always welcome."

More recently, in 2022, you created a fourth business unit, which puts into practice ideas and plans to drive companies to success, Avenidas Grow. How did this idea come about?

In 2022, this fourth area was born, which we call our business unit without wheels. We were contacted by an American startup to activate their brand in Portugal. They hired us to be their operational arm and have sales promoter teams on the ground, in shopping centres and train stations, for example, to acquire users for the application.

We used a lot of our operational and recruitment know-how to set up teams for this, but obviously, it's a bit different from our other businesses, which all, in a way, have something to do with mobility, whether of people or things. Around this, we created Avenidas Grow, which aims to support companies in their growth, either with business operations, setting up operations, or as sales consultancy, through brand activation or networking for other companies, or as we often do within our group, for the other units

How many members are there in the Avenidas team?

We have 33 people in the office and a total of about 300 human resources, including all the couriers, distributors, drivers, guides, and sales promoters we have in the field, from north to south of the country. Since sustainability is one of the fundamental pillars of Avenidas, what measures have you been implementing to contribute to pollution reduction and the preservation of the environment?

For example, as part of this commitment, we prioritise the use of eight-seater vehicles, recognizing the potential to accommodate more passengers and minimise carbon emissions. Also, since 2021, we haven't purchased vehicles that are not fully electric. All our growth has been through investment in an electric fleet, and currently, more than 70% of our vehicles are "green."

In which areas of the country is it possible to find Avenidas operating?

In the Metropolitan Areas of Lisbon and Porto. Although we have all our units in Porto, we can say that we only have a small presence there, which makes one of our major goals for this year to make Porto as close as possible in size to what we have in Lisbon.

The idea is to have a warehouse/office because of Avenidas Send and because we have business opportunities in that area that will be what gives us the first boost. However, because of our client Worldcoin, we are also present in other locations and plan to be in more because our expansion in this segment is easy since it involves little investment. Basically, they are stands in shopping centres, and our client builds them; we just have to set up the team and then manage it.

"I strongly believe that people should be as humble and transparent as possible."

Regarding the company's organisational culture, what prompted this curiosity about your company, and how do you promote happiness in the workplace?

We have always had three values that we adhere to, which are open, committed, and family, and I think this describes us quite well. I strongly believe that people should be as humble and transparent as possible because that's the only way we can continue to improve personally and professionally. If everyone has this spirit, everyone will help each other grow mutually and will be willing to help instead of creating barriers or putting egos ahead of the group.

Carlos Mourita, Financial & Systems Controller

"Avenidas is different from any other company I know. They are young, flexible, and accessible. I started as a driver, then became an operations assistant, and now I am a financial and systems controller."

I don't give orders to anyone. I can suggest or recommend a path, but I won't force anyone. This is highly valued here because people feel that they can always have an opinion, that they have autonomy. We also invest a lot in the internal progression of our employees. We have numerous cases of people who were couriers, who were drivers and who are now working in the office, some of them have even moved up several levels.

For example, salary or performance reviews, we do them twice a year because we believe it shouldn't be done just once. If we feel that someone deserves recognition, we sit down and want to always be on top of the situation because we know that this is how retention increases, and above all, we invest in profit-sharing. We offer each team member who joins us a Welcome Book containing information about the company, a pen, a coffee mug, and a personalised water bottle.

Finally, two years ago, we invested in the Great Place to Work certification, which involves surveys of our employees to understand, in various aspects, their level of happiness within our company. From the renewal we did in December 2023, we had a score of 93% in all metrics, with one typically distinguished as the main one, which is the percentage of people who say that Avenidas is an excellent place to work, and we had 100% in this parameter. This is something that makes us very proud and that we invest in so that we can look at and work on what people are anonymously telling us.

What goals and expectations do you have for the future of Avenidas?

We are very ambitious; we want to grow rapidly in all areas, so we strategically analysed and believe that we will double the turnover of 2023 this year. If we make a connection to the cultural aspect of our staff and the growth potential this brings, the company needs to continue to grow, and gain scale, and we can do more with fewer human resources, which means that we can pay better on one hand, and on the other hand, these human resources are developing in terms of skills and career progression. We also want, as I mentioned before, to launch an office in Porto, which will probably end the year with three to five members of our office team.

Please see the Incorporate Magazine article here

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