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?