Market is the keyword for growth and finding new spaces in areas of intensive development of public and private consumption, in order to define a benchmark of corporate restructuring with an eye to greater and above all better competitiveness and to map out values ranging from merit to be rewarded to responsibility to be respected, the sustainability of products and production processes to good relations with all the stakeholders involved in company activity in the territory. Market, as a physical and conceptual, legal and economic place, properly defined by clear rules, efficient controls and effective sanctions and driven by free parties who sell, exchange and construct a close-knit fabric of economic and also social and cultural relations. A market, in other words, as lynchpin of a new corporate culture for bringing alive innovation and competition. Innovation in the widest meaning of the term (products and production systems, materials, industrial relations, languages of communication and marketing, services, criteria of governance, etc.). Competition in the dual meaning of “cum petere” (joint involvement in a common purpose) and of entering the arena in order to proclaim a winner. Not parallel convergences but synergies towards balanced and, in fact, sustainable development.
The best Italian companies look to new forms of international markets and create programmes in order to be as “close to the markets” as possible. Large to medium-sized firms, small innovators to industrial areas and production chains have withstood the crisis by in fact staking on exports and on direct investments in countries with more intense growth (from central Europe which looks towards Russia to the USA where the value of industrial manufacturing has been rediscovered, from the Far East to Latin America, with special focus on Brazil and Mexico). They’ve made good use of a radical organisational and production transformation (aimed at innovation, in fact) at that very time during the early years of the new millennium, up to 2007, in which the dynamism of European domestic markets (including Italy) and international markets allowed good margins for investing in growth. They have transformed the crisis into opportunity (often however with a struggle in a tough and tense process) of reorganisation and transformation.
Now those companies (many of the seven thousand medium-sized family-owned yet management-run firms) can look with a somewhat greater degree of confidence towards the future, seeking to drive the admittedly slow growth of Italy as a corporation. They need the support of industrial policy (rewards for research and innovation) and fiscal policy (tax relief, starting from the “wedge”, for those who create permanent jobs). They can form the cornerstone for the strategic decision by the EU to reach, by 2020, a weight of manufacturing in relation to the GDP of more than 20% (only Germany at present has gone beyond the target).
This is a time of major change in Italy and “relational capitalism” has finally come to the end of the line. Soon historians will have to express peaceful critical opinions, neither ideological nor Manichaean, on a long and controversial period in the Italian economy, the one with the domination of Mediobanca, of the right connections and “trade union agreements” and the essential defence of the large private company against invasion by a “public hand” dominated by politics and nepotism. It is definitely a time of change in private industry (above all medium and large in size), considering organisation in fact according to market dynamics and strengthening good competitive cultures. Fewer holdings and more specific focus on the core business as well as streamlined organisations so that most of the business margin goes to developing typical business, products and services. Italian enterprises can in fact find in this process room for benefits: flexibility has always been one of their strengths, and they are well-suited to resilience and intelligent adaptation to change. In globalisation, which is not a “flat and identical world” but a variegated geography of similarities and diversity, our market-related corporate culture can be, even more now than in the past, a tool for solid growth and also a good example for other areas of the world.