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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Italian Business Leader Speaks on Family Business and Essence of “Made in Italy”

November 23, 2018. Shanghai – Following her appointment to the CEIBS International Advisory Board this May, Ms. Luisa Todini paid her first visit to the CEIBS Shanghai campus on November 23. As well as advising the school on overall strategy and international cooperation, Ms. Todini used the opportunity to deliver a Master Class lecture about the essence of the “Made in Italy” concept to an audience of more than 150 alumni, students, and other guests. Ms. Todini has an impressive resume of leadership roles at well-known European companies. In addition, she served as a member of the European Parliament during the mid-1990s and has served as the President of the non-profit organization Comitato Leonardo (Italian Quality Committee) for the past 10 years. CEIBS Vice President and Dean Ding Yuan chaired the dialogue, during which he helped introduce a range of topics from family business success factors; second generation succession; balance between private and state-owned companies; and what is “Made in Italy”; to Italy’s future growth and China-Italy investment opportunities.

As Ms. Todini explained, economically, the period after the end of World War II was marked by a shift away from an industry of creation for the purpose of destruction to an industry of creation for creation's sake, the exploration of new technologies, and business models previously unheard of. Since then, many family businesses have flourished in Europe. Ms. Todini’s father built up Todini Costruzioni Generali from the scratch and the company now is one of Italy’s largest and most important construction firms. The success, according to Ms. Todini, is the gene of entrepreneurship and the spirit of teamwork.

Like most second generation successors, Ms. Todini was not fully prepared to take over her family’s business when her father passed away. Only 35% of European family businesses have successfully passed to second generation. So, how did Ms. Todini handle this challenge and expand her father’s business globally while tapping into agriculture and investment? “The most important thing is to treat it as a responsibility, rather than a burden,” she explained, adding that when you really get into a business, no matter what it is, combining your talents and passion is the key for success. Furthermore, because Ms. Todini’s family’s business has deep roots in its community, she says the pay-off of the business extends beyond family wealth and company profits to include the prosperity of the community.

It is hard to imagine how Ms. Todini managed a five-year career in politics, followed by work in the private sector and later in state-owned company Poste Italiane (Italy Post), which was listed on the Milan stock market in 2015 while she served as Chair. So, how did she play these different roles in such different sectors? “The first thing is to make sure that there is no conflict of interest” Ms. Todini pointed out. “And then, be yourself, and stick to your ethics. You don’t have to pretend. After all, no matter which sector you work in, your reputation is your most valuable asset.” She also emphasised that a period in political life taught her patience and how to better present others on their behalf.

These characteristics could be the reason why Ms. Todini was elected as the President of the  Leonardo Committee in 2008 and has stayed in the role ever since. The non-profit organisation was established in 1993 by the Italian Trade Promotion Agency (ICE) and the Association of Italian Industries. Today it represents a think tank and an accelerator of ideas that aims to support a new concept of “Made in Italy” based on internationalisation and innovation. “Made in Italy” is in fact today recognised as a real brand and is often synonymous with luxury in the country’s most traditional sectors: food, fashion, and design. But what is really behind Europe’s second largest manufacturing country, one with over 4 million active companies? As Ms. Todini summarised during her talk, “The beauty equity of Italian industry is an intangible value that manifests itself in art, culture, landscape, flavours, lifestyles, and permeates our way of doing business and our ability to design unique services and products.”

“China is one of the fastest growing economies and the Chinese market represents great potential for Italian companies and investors, and vice versa,” Ms. Todini concluded. “We welcome Chinese ‘Marc Polos’ to explore Italy and experience its beauty. And we hope ‘Made in China’ also becomes an exclusive brand in the future.”

With the support of Ms. Todini and Leonardo Committee, CEIBS is now working on a joint executive programme with LUISS Business School in Italy for Italian entrepreneurs and managers as a way to deepen the culture and dynamics of the Chinese market.

Today’s event is part of the CEIBS Insights 2018 initiative aimed at celebrating the 15th anniversary of the China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Previous Master Classes have featured speakers such as former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Roland Berger CEO Charles-Edouard Bouée, and former Heineken CEO Gerard Van Schaik.

For more information about future CEIBS Master Classes and other upcoming events, visit the CEIBS events page here.

Serena Cui
Michael Donald Thede