giovedì 22 dicembre 2011

Working in Rome (and South of Italy)

next post Tuesday January 10th 2012

Merry Christmas and a cloudless new year 

Let’s get to Rome, the Eternal City, the center of the Old World, of the Roman Empire. The cradle of the western culture, of course together with Athens.
What time means here and in the south of Italy?
For sure it flows much slower than in Milan. I mean people are not such in rush like in Milan, they tend to live slower and some way happier.
Forget about afternoon meetings. Usually afternoon starts very late (early afternoon here could mean 3.30 pm) and ends much earlier (4.00 pm could be a good guess).
This does not mean that people are not working, but that they are used to a very different working schedule.
Rome is the seat of the Italian Government: institutions, ministries, bureaucracy (you can name more) are based here. And their daily working hours are not like working hours of large multinational companies based in the North.  Just consider morning, a short morning: from 10 to 12 to avoid any mistake.
And south of Rome?
Of course much closer to this than to the northern habits.
9.00 am is a good starting hour up to 1.00 pm. Then consider a long break and the evening closure could be around 6.00 pm.
Cultural differences are a true reality in Italy. Even in time schedule.

lunedì 19 dicembre 2011

Let's meet at... italian schedule and time culture

next post Thursday December 22nd

It’s time to learn what time means to an Italian.
We do not have a homogeneous time schedule for the working hours. Yes, something close to a common timetable, but nothing compared to Anglo-Saxon habits and practices.

We use to say “l’Italia è lunga e stretta” literary Italy is stretched and squeezed, and that means as lot.
Both for different weather than for singular culture.
I was really surprised the first time I went to Dallas, when a colleague of mine picked me up at 6 pm and took me straight to dinner. I was confused thinking of what usually happens in south Italy when you can’t have dinner before 9 pm.

Actually you do have very different habits in setting our business schedule.

In the North, the working day starts early, around 8.00 am, while in many offices in Milan it’s unusual to set business meeting before 9.30 am. And in Milan, which is a peculiar place in Italy, the working day tends to finish much later than elsewhere: up to 9 pm, and I mean usually not once in a while.

Lunch breaks in Milan starts at 12.30 pm to 2.00 pm depending on the different routines of the offices. What’s quite usual is the fact that it rarely lasts one full hour and very often people are used to have their sandwich while working or having a meeting. 

Best time for meeting people? From 9.30 to 11.30 in the morning and from 2.30 to 6.00 in the afternoon. Sometime you could be asked to meet someone at the top even at 7.00 pm, when -they will say- "we will have more time and no stress at all".... 

If you drive southward you can find very different situations. Let’s take the countryside: here the lunch break for instance usually can last up to 2,5 hours. The reason is that people were used to get back home for having lunch with the family and then back to work. Don’t dare to ask for an afternoon meeting before 3.00 pm then.

And what about Rome?

We will discover the Città Eterna in our next post.

giovedì 15 dicembre 2011

Italian seasonality: when our country shuts down

next post Monday December 19th

Twice a year Italy shut down. Almost.
Once it was much more evident. Now globalization force to consider the opportunity to don’t shut completely down, to leave a glimmer for someone willing to do business.
But it’s not so common.
For historical reasons we do not want to explore here, August is the national Italian vacation month. Everyone used to go on holiday on August, with only exception of the people working in the touristic industry, which of course were working hard.
Nowadays this means that about 90% of people not involved in the touristic industry takes their days off in August. And since August is a long month, almost five weeks, please take note that the week of Ferragosto, that means the week of August 15th, the day of the feast of the assumption of Holy Mary, no one works.

So if you would like to plan meetings in Italy during August and especially during the week from 10th  to 17th, well… forget about, change your mind and change schedule.
Usually it’s not worthy to meet people from July 15th (people are looking forward to their vacations) to September 15th (people are remembering their vacations).
And it’s almost the same for December. It’s unworthy to spend a visit to Italian clients from December 4th to January 10th. Our long winter vacations use to start from Dec 23rd to January 7th, being the day of the Epiphany Jan 6th a national bank holiday.
If you plan your schedule, please consider this Italian habits. They may be annoying, and you are somehow right, but that is what it’s going on here.

lunedì 12 dicembre 2011

Christmas's coming: it's time to... bridge!

next post Thursday December 15th

It’s Christmas time, and Italy almost stops.
To make business with Italy you should learn the Italian calendar and what vacations mean in our country.
And you have to learn the meaning of the word “ponte” (literary bridge) in our culture.
Let’s start with the industry. Italian workers are lucky from the vacation point of view.
The starting point is 22 days. That’s the minimum days of vacation any worker gets in a year. Then every years more days are added on top.
So we have to spend more than 20 days of vacation every year, that means more than 4 weeks, about one month.

That’s not enough: we have 12 days of bank holidays  during the year.
Quite a lot !
And the distribution of these days are the pillar for building our… bridges…
What’s a bridge? A potential extension of a vacation.
Let’s take last week. In Milan we had two bank holidays: Wednesday Dec 7th, the feast of Saint Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan, which is a day off for our city, and Thursday Dec 8th, the feast of Our Lady which is a day off in all the country.
Now here the pillars: Sunday Dec 4th – Wednesday Dec 7th – Thursday Dec 8th- Saturday Dec 10th.  Now just spending three vacation day from your budget of 22 you can build a long bridge: more than one week! From Saturday Dec 3rd to Sunday Dec 11th! To enjoy the first snow and an appetizer of Christmas vacation!
Since many of us build this bridge you can imagine how business could have gone during that week: how many business meetings were cancelled or postponed and so on.
And that’s not all: we will talk about national vacation in our next post.

giovedì 8 dicembre 2011

No country for research men?

next post Monday December 12th

No country for research men. This could be the recurrent movie for Italy.
Very common, and very false.
A lot of multinational companies are indeed investing in research center based in Italy to take advantage of the creativity and lateral thinking which is typical of our people.
Some names just to reassure you that what I’m claiming is true:
3M Italy people were able to project and design Skindesign, a film that allow you to easily customize your car. A solution by the way that Antonio Noberini  was able to provide, even in an handmade way, about 30 years ago.
Procter and Gamble developed Dash stain remover in its Italian laboratories thanks to an idea of the Pomezia people
Café Zero the Unilever drink that was selected for  the European Business Awards (Innovation) was the result of the team work and efforts of the Italian people
Microsoft Italia planned and realize KitXkids a software aimed to ease the use of a PC in elementary schools.
We could list many more: it’s not worthy.
The goal is reached: Italy is a country were you can find true creativity and brillant innovation.
And a bunch of interesting potential clients.

lunedì 5 dicembre 2011

Good entrepreneurs are easy to find

Next post Thursday December 8th

Here a sample of Italian entrepreneur who is truly focused on developing his company business through a solid strategy looking export-ward.
His story is told in this article  which enhance the capability of Interpump, this is the name of the company, to look forward, planning a worldwide strategy to overcome the risks of economy crisis which are never so global to end up with a complete stop.
Being able to diversify both geographically than for different market segment this company was able to reach this targets (first 9 months of 2011 vs same period 2010):
+ 52,7% of net profit
+ 18,9% net sales up to 353 millions €
+ 32% of EBIDTA
and a ROI for the shareholders very close to 10% every year since 1996 when the company was founded.
How can you spot this kind of entrepreneurs in the Italian market?
Do not look at their website: this is not an index. My experience is that Italian Industries are not yet in love with the net, they are discovering what it is but cannot handle in the proper way. Very often they mistake a website for a shop window and use it to talk about them. But you can guess from the information they publish here if they are smartly facing the market or just fighting to survive.
Let me name a couple of other examples of excellent Italian group that deserve the spotlights:
Trevi group, working in the field of foundation engineering, and Flamespray (coating of critical components in air frame applications) who were able to settle subsidiaries in the US and increase widely their marketshare and penetration.
Take a look or the widespread of their clients and their reach and you can get a nice insight of their possibilities.
What else would you like to know to check they are a good client? 

sabato 3 dicembre 2011

4 hints to overcome Italian skepticism

While wating for
next post Monday December 5th
please enjoy the reprint of this interesting article about Italian mistrust

We have listed in a previous post the consequences of the sprayed industries and we want to discuss how we can face them.
Let’s start with the huge number of small companies: if you consider to sell in Italy at the very beginning do not try to reach all the country and just focus on the most suitable place, the one which will provide you more grip for the solutions you are offering.
It is quite easy to understand which will be the best geographical market, thanks to the fact that Italy presents very specific local features and industries are usually gathered for market segment, what we call “comparti industriali”   so that you can find a huge number of companies producing valves and taps around Borgomanero, the silk industry close to Como, the gold one near Vicenza, wool close to Novare and so on.
And cities too have very specific features so that if you want to approach the B2C market you can easily find out which will be the best town to start with.
Very often you need to work with some local people, and this is not due to the fact that you are a stranger company. 

It has to deal with the usual mistrust that Italian people pay to someone who is not a close neighbor.  And by the way this is not just an Italian vice, isn’t it?

My suggestion then is  to follow these steps

  1.  Identify the added value of your product/solution: why should it be interesting for the Italian market?
  2. Whom is supposed to by it? Which kind of industry will find it useful and more interesting that what they are purchasing now? Or which kind of clients will be dying for buying it? 
  3. Where are they located?
  4.  How can I reach them easily?

Do you have any samples of questions that can be useful to describe this procedure with a concrete case?

mercoledì 30 novembre 2011

More than one single Italy

Next post Friday December 2nd
sorry for the delay to Monday December 5th

There are actually many Italy in our country.
There is a nation which is suffering for the crisis, one nation that is injured by the losses of the Stock exchange market. A country which is surviving and a country which is growing unharmed.  We are talking of about 5 millions Small and Medium Enterprises which have ideas that can be transformed in success and cash.
Recently  in New York some of these last Italian companies presented their excellence to potential American investors. Searching for business angels.
Some of these companies are already listed at Piazza Affari and were looking for new fund to grow faster and faster.: Primaindustrie, Savelli, Centervue, Cascaad to name some.
That means that our economy can be described as solid and ready to benefit from foreigners investors or suppliers able to provide their added value to Italian companies.
Italian strengths are easy to spot: flexibility, creativity, innovation, quality. If we are able to mix all these atout in a right way, without compromise and without undesirable pride, we can be really overcome any kind of competition, Especially that  based on low price/low quality.
But not all the Italian companies are able to find the best formula.
The question is: how can you recognize the different entrepreneurs?
The answer in our next post.

domenica 27 novembre 2011

Braziling Italy

Next post Tuesday November 30th

Networking is the mantra: let’s find common goals and let’s share our clients so that anyone can profit. And it actually works.
So  met a team of high level professionals that knows very well the Brazilian market,  one of the emerging markets of the globe, to find out ways to support Italian companies willing to invest over there.
What I wasn’t aware of is that the reverse flow is very rich and powerful. I mean Brazilian entrepreneurs and companies investing in Italy.
Why that? Because at present prices in Italy, for real estate or for launching new industrial initiatives or services, are so low that this is the best moment to invest and found new companies.
Around Bologna a newco promoting discounted vouchers, like Groupon or Groupalia are doing, was just presented and got a great success.
UK investors are looking with interest to the Italian market, and their experience is based on many years of good results as you can guess by the fact that the wine area around Florence is now called Chiantishire….
Many good industrial companies are also suffering from the father-sons factor. I mean that it seems not so easy to transfer the company from the founder or the second generation owner to the new generations, for many reasons which do not deserve time talking about.
A simple example: the well known and very powerful retail chain Esselunga is still managed by the founder which is about ninty, and will likely sold to foreigners company (walmart is claimed to be priority one).
Sp, why don’t considering to invest in Italy or sell in Italy as a good opportunity?

giovedì 24 novembre 2011

What's going on in Italy? Why this new government?

Next post Sunday November 27th

I'm not a politician neither a political journalist and I just try to understand about politics the right required to vote in a wise and aware way. But since I’m a consultant and need to know more about economy, I therefore need to know more about politics. And what’s happening today in my country where a government legitimately elected by the people felt down in the Parliament not reaching the minimum 308 vote and was replaced by a new government chosen by the Italian President, with no link to the Italian voters, was approved by the Parliament with 561 votes thus reaching an unbeatable record.
The fact is that we have been taught to reject sacrifices: we have been taught by all institutional forces (parties, media, trade unions and so on) that we have rights, we have dreams, we have expectations that we must fulfill and claim, but we have no duty.
And that’s weird, but not uncommon since Plato and Aristotle had already described this in the past when they said that democracy could bring to dissolution.
Actually to stay at the top you need votes and to get votes what do you think could be the easiest way: ask for sacrifices (I cannot promise you but blood, sweat and tears) or assure benefits and wellness?
So what do you believe parties and trade unions did in the past, in a situation where you do not have to promise blood, sweat and tears.
Now it’s of course harder to recover. That’s why we have a new government not supported by one single party, so that everyone can claim that it was not his fault to vote for a new tax or a cut in benefits.
Let’s hope that this is the best way to re-launch our economy, which by the way as we wrote in our previous posts, is not doing so bad even if we cannot claim that the crisis is not here in Italy.
Does this help to understand what’s going on chez nous?

sabato 19 novembre 2011

Italian fact and figures. Off the records.

Next post Thursday November 24th

Here some other data that can be used to understand what Italy is
I collect them in the first weeks of November  and they seem to me impressive to describe an healthy market.
Let’s talk of the packaging industry: the results are amazing. The growth of last 12 months brought the industry back to the results that were reached before the financial crisis. Some figures:  the increase in export sales to Brazil: 63,4%,  to the US +100,9%  and finally to Turky +113,1% .
The improvement in export sales boosted the level of employment in the southern regions of Italy.  The figure is impressive: in the last twelve months 40.000 new jobs were created in the companies exporting their goods.
From south to North: a recent market study presented last week in a official seminar in Piedmont confirmed that the shortfall due to the local crisis, mainly caused by the underperformance of the automotive industry, was mostly recovered by export. 
And  what about fashion? Both Natuzzi than Piquadro increased their sales and invested in new initiatives. Piquadro launched is new line of leather accessories, fully tailor-made , opening the first of new retail chain in Hong Kong.
What about the water industry? The Italian owner of San Benedetto waters bought back the shares once sold, thus solving the joint venture with Danone and Coke and winning back the full control of the company .
Are these figures describing a depressed country? A hopeless country? A static country?
Do not trust everything the media tell you, go searching for figures and facts. And come to sell to Italy. Or invest her.

lunedì 14 novembre 2011

Italy from its entrepreneurs' perspective

Next post Thursday November 17th due to technical problems (no time and the on going process of new Italian government) next post is delayed to Monday November 21st. Sorry for that and thank you for your patience. 

I had the chance to talk with two entrepreneurs recently, one is the owner of a medium chemical company with an international market while the second one was actually the HR Director of a big company in the coal market. They were describing me the success of their companies, growing in competitive markets. None of the two companies is present in the Italian stock exchange.  So in some way their good performances are not recorded and are not taken into account while describing the statistical situation of Italy. 
Let me start from these news to get back to the economical climate in our country. Some days ago our primer minister claimed that there is no crisis in Italy since restaurants are overbooked and you cannot reserve easily a vacation.
Well it may be overestimated and too sharply said, but that it is not far from the truth.
Although the crisis bites hard and a lot of people are under pressure, especially professional people and consultants are the first in the row, the general trend could be described as clouded but sunny.
Some segments are suffering indeed, some others on the contrary are growing, and growing fast.
Let’s talk about banks as an example: we all know that banks could be defined the core problem of this financial crisis, and their present position is what seems to jeopardize the whole western economy status.
That’s not completely true in Italy. Yes, we do have big banks, big names, but we also have a lot of small local banks, founded to support local agricultural entrepreneurs or craftsmen. Small local banks, mostly based on an cooperative approach, who were not affected by greed or the desire to grow mainly through derivatives and speculations. Many of them are not even quoted at the Stock Exchange market.
And they are solid, still able to support the growth of their clients. Who are mainly small enterprise, craftsmen, farmer.
And who are considering to export and supply a global market. They need to mature and change approach and mentality. That’s true. But they are solid, someone maybe not strong, not even weak and fragile.
Isn’t this a good reason to consider Italy as an interesting market? 

giovedì 10 novembre 2011

Italian saving and expenditure

Next post Monday November 14th

We are trying to understand what’s going on in Italy and why even in the middle of a storming crisis our country, the so called Belpaese, could be an interesting target for investment.
In my previous post I tried to depict the climate where we are living in: a situation were everyone believes to have a lot of rights and no duties, because we have been taught to.
So we may not profoundly perceive what the crisis truly is and we are in some way be dancing on the  deck of the sinking Titanic.
This is not a social or political post, so we won’t discuss the reasons and causes: just the facts and situations. And it’s a matter of fact that Italians are used to live healthy, very often at a standard higher than the one they should really consider.
But we are also a country where family saving are relevant. It is true that our people saved and preserved much more money than other countries. Well at least it was till a couple of years ago. Although it diminished it is still a not insignificant aspect to consider. As this study shows a lot of Italian families even during the crisis have been able to make savings that ConfCommercio evaluates   around 105.000 million €.
Another interesting factor to be consider is that about half of the Italian population works for the State or the Public Administration.  What does this mean? Well from one side this could be considered as one of the cause, (the main one?) of all our problems; on the other hand this is a factor of stability and safety. Since these guys will never be fired nor will lose their salary and thus represent a real market.

lunedì 7 novembre 2011

What's happening in Italy?

Next post Thursday November 10th

I’d like to spend some post to explain what’s happening in Italy and what is actually Italy, because I believe that due to some political reason I do not what to consider, Italy’s image is under attack. And it’s is fair to clarify what is actually bad and what it is distorted by the international newspapers and magazines which do not like our premier and tend then to fire against the whole nation.

We are not an easy country. It’s a matter of fact: reliability can be an issue and the honor that was once one of our founding values is no more so… widespread like in the past.
We like the easy life and it is almost true that even in the middle of this storming crisis, restaurants are overbooked and you can’t easily find a vacation spot. Is this due to a general welfare or, more likely, to a prevalent unawareness, a sort of  unperceived unconsciousness?

We have been taught by our politicians, by our trade unions, by the advertisements, by the televisions that we are a good people, that we deserve everything and that we just have to step up and take it. This was done for several reasons: politicians –most of them, independently from the party they were in-  wanted to be elected again and rule. Trade unions wanted to reach their goal and increase their power. Advertisement…. well  you know.

So we ended up believing that we just have rights and no duty. And that is a true issues nowadays, in a middle of a hard crisis.

But on the other hand we survived a lot of crisis and there is one reason: we are truly different from any other western country. Not better, not worst: just different.

When you consider the economy of a country you look at the stock exchange, you look at the main groups and you consider what they are doing.
Well Italian companies, which as I already wrote, are mainly family companies, are not public companies. Less then 10% of the Italian companies are quoted at the Stock Exchange Market. Now how can you tell the state of our economy just cheching what’s happening at piazza Affari?

We can look naives and our creativity can be considered manipulation or a perennial ageless trial to survive difficult times without planning: do we really live thanks to  “expedients”?
It might be, but that creativity helped us to survive so many difficult times we learnt from it how to manage any hurdle. That’s why we are growing much more that it looks like.

giovedì 3 novembre 2011

The growth of Italian Districts

Next post Monday November 7th

Some figures sometime can help to take decision, to make up one’s mind.

Why should one invest to sell into the Italian market?

We have seen in our previous posts both the different mentality you have to face if you want to approach Italian clients, so I’d like today in this post to list all the recent figures that should be considered.

Every quarter the Intesa San Paolo Monitor uses to publish a study about the state of the technological districts. The last one, dated September 2011, showed a great increase in exporting: more than 2,2 billion euros more than in 2010, a growth of 12,9%, the fifth two digit growth in a row for Italian companies.
The main districts that improved their export sales are the following ones:

  • leather and shoes in Tuscany and around Fermo (Marche)
  • textile industry (Biella)
  • mechanical industry (North East)
  • packaging industry (Bologna)

What is relevant is that about the half of the districts totally recover what they lost during the harsh crisis (2008 and 2009) thus reaching the same level of export they had before the crisis.
Italy may not be Germany, but the SME, once more I say the true backbone of Italy, is growing rapidly and with innovation, and creativity: you cannot increase export this way if you are not able to compete smartly.
Just one word about the concept of districts: the Italian industry presents a lot of “island” where you can find several manufacturing companies producing the same product or a very similar one. A concentration of companies that represents the best producers of that kind of product. Just to name some (North to South):

  • Textile around Biella, Vercelli, Novara
  • Taps and valves around Borgomanero
  • Silk in the Como area
  • Gold and jewelry  close to Vicenza
  • Mechanical components along the via Emilia between Parma and Bologna
  • Leather in Tuscany
  • Shoes around Fermo

and many more.

domenica 30 ottobre 2011

Guess Who's Coming to Sell

Next post Thursday November 3rd

We are quite a formal people. It might be due to our history, to the fact that we have been ruled by many people, each one imposing its rules and dominion over us. It could be .
What is important is that we love appellation: we love to be called dottore, ingegnere, cavaliere, commendatore, and so on. We do love honors, although many of them are absolutely void, without any meaning.
This love for useless titles produces a formal approach. If you meet for the first time someone, especially if you are dealing with the decision maker, very often the owner or someone of the proprietor family, you should use a very formal and respectful language.
If you can use the Italian language, you should address her/him using “lei” instead of “tu”, of course this is impossible if you use English.
Avoid calling the guy with her/his name, use the surname (family name) instead always adding Mr. or Mrs. 
And please note that although we actually live in a different world, some old habits are still alive. Never call a lady miss when she could be over 30, once it meant that she was supposed to be spinster. Ok, nowadays this means nothing, but the habit remained, don’t ask me why…
Formality means also that you have to be sharp and respect time schedule, while your guest could be late (it’s a way used in the ages to show power: the old landlords used to do this) and that you have to keep your promises.
Too hard and complicated’
Just consider the last figures presented by Intesa San Paolo Monitor: Italian export increased by a two digit growth for the fifth quarter in a row (12,9% II qrt 2011) in all the major segment of the typical SME that constitutes the backbones of our country.
Would you be part of that?

lunedì 24 ottobre 2011

Payment terms: adapt your price (and mind set)

Next post Monday October 31st

Payment terms can be a problem for someone willing to start a business in Italy. It’s a factor you should consider because it’s a major hurdle for every Italian company.
It’s hard to say where it all begun, but the situation can find at present the first ring of the chain in the Italian government.
As you may now the Italian institutions represent one of the biggest market: the health system is mainly owned by the state and both government agencies (Army, Police, Carabinieri just to name some) the local government (Regioni, Provincie, Comuni) are big clients for a lot of products and services.
Since many of them have a complicated financial situation, to put it mildly, many of them tend pay their suppliers with… some delay. Some Regions, especially in the South, have payment terms which are closer or even worst to one year.
Yes, that is not a typing mistake: I’m talking of more than 365 days from the invoice.
You can imagine the kind of problems generated by this delay, and if you go upstream from these clients to the supplier’s suppliers and so on, well, everyone try to pay when and only when they have received the money from the downstream ring of the supply chain.
In the end that means that the average payment delay time is around 100 days. Some large Italian companies set the trend: Fiat is paying its supplier usually around 180 days, just to provide an example.
So do not expect to agree a delayed payment lower than 30 days.
And then when the due time is elapsed… start calling.
It’s a very bad Italian habit to delay further the payment until when you have called several time to remember the client that actually she/he has to pay you.
It’s not a dishonest behavior, although I confirm it’s really unfair. I mean, you do not have to fear (too much) for your due money, just work hard to get it.
I’m exaggerating, just a lit bit though, to provide you the right taste: do not expect easy money. You can make a lot of good business, but in any case worst paid than in your country.
So if you are considering to sell in Italy, sit down and estimate the cost so that you can adapt your price accordingly.

lunedì 17 ottobre 2011

Pricing in Italy: what discount means to Italians

Next post Monday October 24th

Pricing in Italy can be very tough! We are a Mediterranian people after all and we do love to bargain. You have to consider this is you want to make business with Italy.
Price is not a rational value of the product, is an emotional way to connect with people. Be prepared to negotiate, every time, everywhere.  Unless your brand is Apple.
We love discount, although we do understand very often it’s not a true reduction, but just a sort of sales game.
We invented the Commedia dell’Arte some centuries ago and we love to play parts: the client must fight for a price cut and she/he needs to win one, it’s a question of honor!
We do not feel offended if you raise you price so that you can cut it and provide a discount. It’s a game, you just have to know how to play it.
Do give it away immediately, start claiming that you will be spoilt by the discount and so we can argue for some minutes about. Then concede it and ask for something in reward.
It works.
Maybe I have depicted it in a romantic way, but believe me you have to consider our latin attitude toward prices if you want to be profitable.
Two little samples:
1)   the company I used to work as a marketing manager provided a discount on listed prices of about 70% to OEMs: can you believe it?
2)   Have you ever seen on the back of your hotel room door the listed price for your room? Did you agree a night rate of 130 € breakfast included? Now, why you can read that the list price without breakfast for one night is 380€?
That’s Italy.
Do you need to know more about?

domenica 9 ottobre 2011

Welcome to Milan: the hub to new business

Next post Tuesday October 18th
Sorry for the delay

Milan is considered the business capital of our country. Why Rome is the political center and one of the best town in the world, Milan hosts the Stock Exchange Market and many headquarters of the most important Italian companies. 
The Milan fashion week is well known everywhere and the quadrilatero della moda, the block that revolve around Via Montenapoleone, is considered to be one of the smartest and most beautifull “shopping mall” for fashion and high quality stuff.
Milan is even much more than that, as this article points out.
Biotech, mechanical, food are fundamental sector based in Milan while the textile and silk region is truly close to the big Italian city.
Furthermore the plan for the 2015 EXPO, that will take place in Milan, is really a global opportunity that should be taken.
People from Milan, milanesi as we call ourselves, are among the most open in Italy. Open to foreigners, to new business, to innovations, to good ideas. Yes, we may sometime be perceived –since we really are-  a little… arrogant, self-centered, but believe me if you can be patient and sail through the weak storm, you’ll find bright people, hard-workers, really interested in making good deals with everyone.
Just come and visit us!

giovedì 6 ottobre 2011

The FIAT move: in search of flexibility

Next post Monday October 10th

Fiat is leading the way. The move decided by its CEO Sergio Marchionne to leave Confindustria, the association of the Italian industrial companies, motivated by a public letter published by several newspaper, talks about flexibility and the desire to grow in a country free of ancient bonds and unable to understand what’s going on around the world.
Other companies are following, creating a dramatic breaking not only with the other industrial groups, but with the government and the trade unions.
The main point is to help companies being more competitive: and first to understand what flexibility really means.
That’s  an opportunity: do you have to propose solutions that can increase flexibility? Or that can help to apply an innovative approach to the market place? Can you demonstrate an immediate impact on the bottom line?
Why do you wait to lend in Italy then? We are ready to welcome you.

domenica 2 ottobre 2011

Much more than that

Next post Thursday October 6th

We are truly different. We are not what it can be perceived. Let’s claim it loudly. We can be through a terrible and dingy political crisis, our government can be losing its dignity, but we are not just that!
Italy is much more than its political class, we are used to survive to political crisis and we know how to go on and increase even when around us everything seems falling down and giving up.
The economical index of the country are positive. You have to understand and read them.
Unfortunately the BelPaese is an house divided. I’m not talking of inner racism or aspiration to secession, which seems more funny than dangerous.
I’m talking of an historical difference in industry growth.
The Norther part of the country is recovering fast from the crisis and starting to grow rapidly.
So that’s the perfect timing to consider hoe to be part of this growth as a supplier or as an actor in the Italian scenario.
The chemical sector is crowing, the food industry is growing, the shoes business too (+20% compared to first nine mounth of 2010).
Furthermore there is a rising interest for everything that can cut costs while increasing efficiency: could you position in this way your solutions? Then come and do it.
We will go through the freshly published report with statistical data for Italy so that we can find out interesting data to be revealed and used.
We need thus your help. Please ask to these simple questions:
What would you like to know about Italy? What should we focus on?
What we have to:
Keep, go on doing and telling?
Stop, forget about: not interesting?
Start, never did it again but you are interested in?
Thanks for your help.

lunedì 26 settembre 2011

Web digging for Italy

Next post Thursday September 29th Monday October 3rd

The Net is full of nice hints, good suggestions, lot of information. So let’s grab what we can find about selling in Italy.
You can dig into this nice webpage Business E Via Italy whose goal is to promote investments in the BelPaese and suggesting the best way to do it.
In the session Etiquette you can find several interesting articles, this one for instance wraps up the main guidelines to be followed when you discuss business with Italian people.
To be honest, and slightly proud, you’ll find nothing more than we already disclosed in these pages….
Now what we have discussed thus far, also with support of some links of reliable website, is how to start doing business with Italian people and why you should.
What we will introduce with next post is what you could be interested to sell in Italy and if you should start doing it now.  
We will dig into the yearly document that present the picture of our country to find out clues of opportunities and threads.  
Stay tuned!

sabato 24 settembre 2011

The consequences of a sprayed industry

Next  post Monday September 26th

Which are, from a business point of view, the consequences of the Italian individualism that we presented in the precedent post?

In my experience the main ones could be so summarized:

1)   A huge number of small companies: if you want sell in Italy be prepared to face this sprayed country. You will have to deal with a lot of small clients, forget about the chance to sell to few big customers that can provide you high volumes.

2)   The decision maker is very very often just the owner of the company. He/she can be enlightened and rely on professional managers, but that it’s not a frequent situation. Usually the company revolve around the owner who tends to install his/her relatives in key places, or where they cannot hurt too much the company (family links requires to find room for everyone till the fifth level of parenthood). So if you you want to make business easily and quickly you have to find out your way to the very top.

3)   The cultural level is quite low: let me be more precise. We usually have very smart people, with profound intuitions and a brilliant touch for business. They are intuitive, they are in the Influence in the DISC approach. Being so talented and having had success, they tend to rely just on themselves: no need to study the evolution of the market, to learn more about marketing and web-related strategies, a furious skepticism against any kind of consultants (who are you to tell me what I need to do?), and no need for sharing ideas with other people. This approach, which of course it’s not at all general, even though quite recurrent, is then spread through the company.

Now, what we can do to face these feature?

Your suggestions are welcomed.

giovedì 22 settembre 2011

7 hints to deal with Italian prospects

Next  post Monday September 26rd

Searching the web to find out some clues about the best way to sell to Italian companies you can find this document originally designed for Irish companies that depict the best way to approach a new Italian prospect.
Some of these hints look to me too stereotypes to be actually true, but I have to say there are a lot of good suggestions that you should consider.
Let me just wrap up seven of  them:
1)   Italian people are very formal and used to evaluate potential customer by the way they are dress and they talk. You might remember the beginning of the movie Gung Ho when a typically American Michael Keaton tries to win the interest of the Japanese board of a car company. Well, that’s what can happen.
2)   Italian people love titles: to avoid any mistakes we tend to call everyone ingegnere which is even more than dottore. Don’t use Christian names until you are permitted to.
3)   Consider that many people do not speak or understand English, even if they pretend to, and that usually those who claim to talk English fluently actually can speak itanglish, that means “english the Italian way”. Not just in the use of false friends like eventually used instead of “in the case” or actually for “at present”, but much often in the way the sentence is built.
4)   We love to bargain, is our Mediterranean soul. We tend to be sometime even Levantine in our attitude to negotiate, consider that we were used to get discount as high as 70%!
5)   Italy is a stretched country and actually it’s built of a huge number of different cultures. People living and working in Milan can act very differently from their “cousins” in Rome or in Palermo.
6)   Do not make joke about Italy or our Prime Minister. We are allowed to, you aren’t!
7)   Work to build long term relationship, after all we are Latin people and we do trust only those who want to spend time in knowing us.
Next time we will explore further hints.
By the way do you have experience you want to share with us?