domenica 29 gennaio 2012

The growing Italy

Next post Thursday Feb 2nd

There is an Italy which is growing nonetheless. It’s the Italy of the districts, geographical concentration of companies producing the same kind of products, a typical Italian phenomenon mainly due to spin off and/or historical reason.
There are quite 150 around Italy and they are not just the backbone of the Italian economy but often, and this is the case, its foundation and drive.
The Edison Foundation recently published the results of the first nine months of 2011 showing that a substantial growth was attained in 101 of them, with an increase in export sales of 11,3% compared to the same period of 2010.
What’s encouraging is that 48 districts scored the same level of export sales obtained in the first nine months of 2008, the peak reached before the explosion of the present crisis.
Which are the top scorers?
Number 1 is the industrial machine district around Treviso, which reached a +40% in sales outside the EU; very good results were attained by the machine tool compartment in Rimini, leather goods in the Florence area, textile and garments in Perugia, the paper industry in Lucca, shoe industry around Fermo and the pump and hydraulics components in Reggio Emilia.
What is in for us? Here is a country that is ready to capitalize on its efforts, ready to relaunch the Italian economy, eager to discover new markets and  ready for the battle.
Are you interested to be their partner? Do you know how to approach them? 

mercoledì 25 gennaio 2012

Neither Monti nor Schettino: that’s the real Italy.

Next post Monday Jan 30th

Yes, we know, we are used to be described as romantic and unreliable opportunist. A mix between an artist, even in the worst sense of the word, an innovator, a genius, a latin lover with no scruples nor cares and definitely without sense of honor.
We are not that. Not everyone. I’m not saying that the description does not fit to some Italian, but you can find even in Germany people that can be described that way.
The tragic disaster of the cruise ship Costa Concordia unfortunately brought to the scene another dramatic icon, that commander who seems to have played all the nasty and frarful characters of the movie and literature history, from Lord Jim to  commander Philip Francis Queeg. 
Schettino almost become a new insult, if not the label to depict an old way of life.
But the acid journalist who loves to trap Italy in this symbol too easily forgets the members of the crew who stayed there till the end, helping passengers and even giving their life for them.
We are no more an hard working country, we are no more the “italiani brava gente” (nice and good people) as we were known in the XX century, and those who are responsible for this change, this shift toward selfishness will receive what they deserve, but we are still a people that know how to strive toward  the light.
We cannot even be represented by our present prime minister, which is too English and to professorial to truly embody the typical Italian guy. I’m not blaming him neither suggesting a political evaluation, just offering that his sober loden does not exactly talks of Italy.
Who are we then?
The simple, hidden people who wakes up every morning, take a breath to forget all the worries that night set down in her/his hearth, looks outside the window trying to solve the cold winter in a hopefully spring, and start working hard and professionally in whatever she/he is involved, better say committed.
Like this profound and powerful trailer, realized by Fiat, suggests.
We deserve your trust and respect, believe me.

lunedì 23 gennaio 2012

Discover Italy through blogs

Next post Thursday Jan 26th

Let’s go on introducing some blogs that talks about Italy and what’s going on down here.
This time is the turn of Italy Chronicles  a web magazine, with also a Facebook page that present the point of view of expats living in Italy about what’s happening: politics, economy, tourism and of course food.
Food is a big thing in Italy, and not just because we know how to prepare it and we love also to east it, but as a market and not just for export. The agro-alimentary industry can be an interesting niche for companies selling in this field.
Discover Tuscany, the other blog we would like to present today, actually cover this last area: providing info about the wine industry in Tuscany it essentially supplies information about the potential client in this sector that can be reached by potential supplier.
The third, and last blog I’d like to introduce today is much more focused on business and financial opportunities. Business evia Italy  provides updated information about investment –company to buy, real estate opportunities and so on- along with chances to move to Italy to cover jobs or buy your own farm.
But is this the best period to move to Italy? What’s going on politically that can provides hints and clues about the chances to invest in our country or consider Italy an intriguing market?
Stay tuned!

venerdì 20 gennaio 2012

blogging about Italy

What I’m trying to do with this blog is to provide hints and clues to people willing to make business with Italian companies to avoid misunderstanding and wasting opportunities.
And maybe offer my service to help them shortcut their path to success.
I may be a dream but I’m not the only one. Neither the only one to talk about Italy and the Italian  scenario.
So I’d like to introduce you a couple, well two couple to be precise, of blogs that I found interesting to discover more about Italy, from several point of views.
The fist one I’d like to introduce is Italian Notes, written by Mette Vaabengaard a Danish journalist dividing her time between her job in Copenhagen and a farm in South Italy. She talks about a lot of stuff: from food to people to places. A nice reading to understand more about our country and habits.
Foreigner Remarks is the creation of an American journalist, Rebecca Helm-Ropelato living in Italy since 2001. I hope to have the chance to interview her once. She discusses of many subjects connected to the Italian daily life. This post about the Italian way to focus on local approach more than global is very interesting.
I will introduce you to the next two on Monday. Have a nice weekend!

mercoledì 18 gennaio 2012

Self-phone and respect

Second post about self phone and Italian habits.
As I mentioned everyone as a self phone, some more than one, and it’s almost always connected.
So people want fast answer and seems to be always in a hurry.
And they can get nervous if you are not immediately reachable.
My experience, what I’d like to share with you, is slightly different: what they are looking for is contact and attention. Not necessary immediate answers.
You can teach them, you can “instruct” people, that you could not always be on-line because you are giving the deserved respect and attention to the person you are talking to as you would do for them if you were listening to them. So you need to switch off your phone from time to time.
What you need to do is to provide them a voice mail box with a nice welcome message and call them as soon as you really can.
I once tried this message and got good feedback: “I cannot take you call right now because I’m talking to someone who deserves all my attention and time. I promise to call you back as soon as I can to give you the same respect”.
What could you suggest?

lunedì 16 gennaio 2012

The self-phone etiquette

The world changed dramatically about 20 years ago. Especially in Italy. It’s hard to set the exact turning point.
The late Eli Goldratt used to say that you have a true change in technology when you have a real change in paradigms and behaviors.  That’s what happened.
I’m talking of self phones and the revolution, which is much powerful than an evolution, they caused which can be summarized by the iconic fact that we replaced the old question “hello who’s talking?” with “hello where are you?”.
What did self phone changed of the Italian way of doing business? Which are the impacts caused by this new tool which sometime seems to have reached the role of goal?
Two the main area I’d like to cover and suggest:
the “use of self phone” etiquette
the consequences for availability
Consider that Italy is one of the country with the highest presence of mobile phones.
A recent research by Nielsen pointed out that we owned more than 20 millions smart phone which represent about the 45% of the self phone used in Italy. It’s about 1 each Italian inhabitant.
We are cell phone addicted, that’s true.
And it seems we are unable to switch off. Even during sales meeting.
But, and that’s the point I’d like to make, don’t dare to be interrupted by a phone call if you are the salesman and not the client.
For a weird and inexplicable reason the client has the right to keep her/his phone switched on while you must turn it off.
So before entering a meeting with an Italian VIP, and we mentioned that everyone believes to be a VIP, please have your phone switched off if you do not want to waste the chance to make business. And in case you forgot it inside your coat pocket, and someone search you: let it ring and switch it off as soon as the bell stops. You will win some respect from your client.

venerdì 13 gennaio 2012

Normal Jeans: like a candle in the wind

next post Monday January 16th 2012

How to dress for a meeting in Italy?
I wore just twice jeans in a working day and both time I have been reproached by my boss, actually two different ones.
We are pretty formal, and we do judge potential suppliers and partners by their dressing style. I know, that’s not fair neither too relevant. It’s our culture.
Yes, Sergio Marchionne, the famous CEO of the Fiat Group, Chrysler included, can wear a sweater, a black polo neck sweater and no one dare to judge him.
But, unless you are Marchionne, or someone at the same level of popularity,  my suggestion is to follow the tradition dressing code: so wear a jacket and a tie and try to avoid too bright colors, that could be suitable if you work with the fashion gurus but not for more traditional niches like mechanical, heavy industry, power generation, ICT and so on.
Accenture and particularly McKinsey people in Italy uses to wear black dress, sometime daring to go for a sober chalkstriped one, while ladies use to wear a somber black or gray close fitting dress (like Audrey) or a tailleur with a smart and moderate pearl necklace.
Of course you are not asked to dress that way, but the closer you can go to this sample, the better it is. In any way my suggestion is to avoid any kind of affectation: gold Rolex could work during the “anni da bere”, the 80s, not know.
I used to work for a filtration system companies and many of my clients were iron mills, paper mills, machine tools producers and end users and so on. We use to filter lubrication oils. So we had to visit the maintenance manager down in the subsoil where the tanks and pumps are.
I’ve been taught to dress anyway as I was meeting their CEO in their smart headquarter downtown.
And what about summer, when hot hits hard? Same thing. You could try to forget your tie in the last fortnight of July, south of Florence, and if you have already met the client, so that won’t be your first impression.
What is your experience of the dressing code in Italy?

mercoledì 11 gennaio 2012

Dressing code: making a good first impression

next post Friday January 13th 2012

There is no second chance for the first impression: the most trivial and worn commonplace are very often the smartest one.
That’s the case. So how to start a sales meeting in the Bel Paese? What to say and what not to say if you want to look trustworthy and friendly? I always remember that wonderful sequence from Gung Ho, when Michael Keaton address the board of Nissan Motors to support the acquisition of the car plant where he works. 

That’s a true masterpiece, a rich book full of hints of what you absolutely need to AVOID to start positively a meeting.

What about Italy then?

We need to distinguish two main populations: multinational companies and Italian owned companies, especially SME.

If you have a meeting with a director or a manager of  Italian subsidiaries of multinational companies, like IBM, Shell, Toshiba, Volkswagen, Dell and so on, you could behave like in the international context: be professional, concise, straight to the point, do not indulge too much on greetings, don’t be too personal. Although Italian people seem to be very open and friendly, they want to decide with whom they like to share their privacy. Do not push us or we could react even firmly against what we believe could be a sort of violence and violation.

But if you are talking to a SME owner or director, you need to know that the first challenge you have to face is to overcome their skepticism. Italy has been overridden by many foreigners, I mean in its history. When the Roman Empire felt down our country has been conquered and spoiled by almost all the folks that lived in ancient Europe. German barbarians tribes? Name one and you found they invaded Italy and ravaged our cities and countryside.
And after that the French, the Spanish, the Austrian, the Turkish in the South, the Nazi…. So you can imagine people tend to be a little suspicious, even just for genetic reasons, something embedded in our DNA.

So first thing you should do: win their trust. Show them you have studied your lesson, did you homework: tell them you know something about their company, their history (website can help you), show them that you know something about the city they are based in, about Italian culture; avoid commonplace like I love Venice, love your food, love your wine. We take it for granted, we know we have the best food in the world and some of the most magnificent cities of the globe.
Try something different: what would you think of an Italian guy coming into your Manhattan office and start talking of Jo Torre and Derek Jeter or meeting you in Paris and quoting some Aznavour’s songs or Prevert’s poetries? A totally different approach…

Don’t overact. Better be calm, quite even cold, and then warm up during the meeting, that act too warmly and lose the grip of the meeting.. And if you need more hints, just write me.

domenica 8 gennaio 2012

Looking forward: 2012 in Italy

next post Wednesday January 11th 2012

Looking forward: what will be this new year for Italy, Italians and our economy?.
You can find a independent view of what happened in Italy in 2011 in this post  offered by Alex Roe and his team, although I do not agree with everything it’s told here, I do believe it’s a good résumé and a good place to start from for understanding what went on and what’s going on in our country.
But, what about this 2012?
Forecast are not positive, although the Stock Exchange market of the first days of January where really positive. Personally I do not share the pessimism of economical and political analysts, even if  I have to confess that I cannot sort my expectations from my analyses and hopes from facts.
Why do I believe that 2012 will be better. First, it would be very difficult to find a year worst that 2011…. (smile!).
Well, the new technical government can have enough strength to strengthen our economy, breaking some of the old privileges that plaster our society: trade unions, corporations, bureaucracy. Since this prime minister must not respond to electors, he can impose the sacrifice that could really make a change. Yes, many do not share the same respect and consideration for this government, which actually could look like a coup d’état more than a solution, and fear that banks have took over Italy, like they did with Spain and Greek. Since we do not have the Palantir neither are we so intimate with mr Monti and his ministers, we have just to wait and see…
But what makes me feel rather optimist for next year is a new will that I can find in the people around: the desire to be the hero of one own’s life, to be able to start again dreaming and beating the destiny.
Christmas vacation showed s good level of expenditure: of course less than previous years, especially cutting what was not perceived as necessary, and I do not mean the essential.
We have been told by everyone that we need to save, to act more soberly, so it’ s impossible to reproach if consumption went down!
But hotels were almost full and everyone took some days of vacation and do not save money on restaurants and parties. I’m aware that this could not be takes as a measurement of a potential growth. But if I sum up these indicators with what I heard from other sources, and with the fact we already mentioned that the real backbone of our country is made up of SME having nothing to do with the Stock market, and with the wide opportunity  that still exists for any Made in Italy products, I end up being more positive than pessimistic.
So, next year could really be a new start up, as sort of small “Italia new deal”.
We all need that, so let’s strive to get what we want. The old saying is very clear and sharp: either if you foreseen to lose or to win, you’ll be right.