Italian Families Stick Together At Home And At The Office
Perhaps not quite reaching the level of influence of the Borgias, Italian family dynasties are among the most successful of the country’s businesses. From Beretta to Ferretti, Barilla to Alessi, Italian families make their presence known in almost every industrial sector and have risen to the top of the country’s socioeconomic ladder… and stayed there. More than in most European countries, the family unit in Italy remains one of the strongest influences on the national culture and economy. Why do these dynasties do so well as private companies, and how do family ties lead to commercial success?
Maybe that’s part of it. Remaining in private hands allows for total control with no need to consult shareholders or other outside influences—other than their clients, of course. Privacy extends to numbers as well since private companies need not make their financial information available to all and sundry as a publicly owned company would be obliged to do.
Rather than sell out to large companies or go public, Italy’s most successful textile companies remain tightly held by their founding families even several generations after their beginnings.
A recent New York Times article lamented the drag on the Italian economy caused by tight family units preventing economic development by reducing worker mobility, yet it is the tradition of strong family ties that has seen many Italian companies become successful. This is especially true in the textile and fashion industries; many of Italy’s biggest commercial empires in this sector remain in the hands of northern Italian families such as Benetton and Versace representing hundreds of billions of francs in commercial activity.
Despite its current economic situation, Italy still has one of the world’s largest economies and is home to a number of companies that are leaders in their fields. Consumer brands with household names like Piaggio, Pirelli, and Luxottica (the world’s largest eyewear company) are well known; less familiar are the industrial giants like ENI, among the 100 largest companies in the world.
In a country with a history of political instability, the institution of family is one that can be trusted rather more reliably than government. Take that away and people are left with nothing to believe in, and that’s not good for any nation’s economy.
Article by Robert La Bua