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Italy is driven by the spirit of enterprise

Winged words by Romano Prodi

These words of Romano Prodi are more than 20 years old but still current. They point towards the mass of small and medium-sized businesses with often ringing brands.

The olive harvest has just finished. As always a pleasant reunion with friends. Crisis or not. The Italians will not let this get to their hearts. The olive is a small fruit with a big reputation!

Crisis? Which crisis? The Italians don’t seem to sleep any less. They are born merchants. A lot of small and medium-sized businesses form the engine of their economy. Their SMB are small bricks in a large economic network. Diversity and resilience make Da Vinci’s country unique and less susceptible to economic turbulence. ‘The crisis is something we read about in the newspapers.’ The Italians are often overwhelmed with stereotypes. But whoever looks behind the scenes can meet a blossoming business tradition which makes the image of the well-dressed macho disappear.

After working in Italy myself for years, I can describe them as proud, motivated entrepreneurs with:
  • A base of strong ownership
  • Expert knowledge (‘artigiani’), creativity
  • Strong beliefs and drive
  • Great adaptability (‘flessibilità’) and elasticity
  • A lot of joy in their work
  • A constant mix of rational and irrational intelligence
  • And last but not least! A strong focus on the client. Intensive contacts and cooperation
Every business starts out as the fruit of a creative spirit. I’m sorry to say that this motivation often fades over the years. The will is there but the soul has gone. And this is the challenge for every CEO. Profit from economics of scale and growth, but keep, like many Italian businesses, the enthusiasm of a pioneer as your first priority!

This is why I, in my coaching sessions, always try to find the heart of the business, the spark with which everything began. And let us be fair: everything starts with the understanding of clients and being able to imagine their problems and challenges: ‘customer intimacy’.


By Herman van Herterijck

"my ambition is to put the importance of pragmatic and continuous self-coaching on the agenda of current business leaders"

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