Exclusive Talks con
Any discussion about Italian business today, means talking about values such as quality, research and respect. How do companies and business networks incorporate these values into their daily lives?
Today we’re talking to two entrepreneurs who, on the surface, work in very different sectors. I’ll begin by asking Luca Boffa which specific values his company shares with Exclusive Brands Torino.
The value which, without doubt, binds Exclusive Brands together is our search for a product of the highest quality - not necessarily in terms of luxury, but in sourcing the best materials and researching the best technology for any single project or initiative. That’s what we’ve been striving to do over the past 10 years – to create a brand that few real estate or construction companies have attempted. This common value unites us with the network.
We also share the desire to look beyond Italy, at the same time as importing excellence from abroad into this country.
We’ve been working in Russia, in St. Petersburg, since 2002 and have been moving into China for a couple of years now. So the mission of the network is to begin from Turin and Italy and take a high-quality product to the rest of the world, while bringing to world to us here in Turin.
I’ll now ask Stefano Quercetti what are the advantages in networking with other companies which all committed to taking the excellence of ‘Made in Italy’ to their clients?
I believe that mine was one of the last companies to join EBT. At the outset I was a little perplexed, precisely because of the enormous differences that exist between the brands involved. However, that turns out to be precisely the huge advantage of EBT – the fact that it encompasses the excellence of all the many sectors working out of Turin and how being able to work closely with entrepreneurs directly can give a totally different meaning compared to a standard operation.
You feel part of a small community where product quality is absolutely central. Quality born in Turin and exported all over the world - this was so much more than I had expected.
And now a question to both of you: why, now, should we be choosing ‘Made in Italy’?
‘Made in Italy’ today is still so important because it’s such a powerful international brand throughout the world. Contained with it are also all the core values of the EBT group, like product quality, design and attention to detail. When all’s said and done, that’s what makes the difference, whatever the field, from toys to buildings and all those in-between.
Stefano clearly explained what ‘Made in Italy’ means; I’d like to add that Italians have excellent minds – we are a people made up of thinkers and researchers; so, the products we come up will never be run of the mill. This means there are very few multinationals, but we’re the land with the largest number of small- or medium-sized businesses. EBT itself is just one example. There are 17, 18, 19 of us and we’re growing every year. Companies from a single area, all medium-sized and leaders in their sectors: not the largest, but the ones aiming to achieve the highest quality. Perhaps large groups will take their cue from us. So choosing ‘Made in Italy’ means choosing quality, also thanks to all the research that goes into everything that has been created.
Next to Stefano Quercetti I can see something that brings back memories from my childhood, the educational game that I enjoyed for years. But there is something new: today it is an organic and eco-sustainable game. Therefore I’ll take this opportunity to ask how a much-loved tradition as solid as that of Quercetti games can also incorporate innovation and research without losing its identity?
The traditions of our company are comparable to the foundations of a house; our history and our existence is all about where we come from and how we have evolved through innovation. These plastic toy pegs which you see beside me, illustrate this fact. We really wanted to create an iconic product using totally innovative, organic materials, but requiring the application of more technology that is usual - this has led to huge investment in research and development. Now we have a very worthwhile product, with more than 40% CFC wood inside - therefore extremely compatible and eco-sustainable. It is a small hero product that we produce.
You have both talked about quality and research. I’d like to ask Luca Boffa which other factors are important nowadays, besides quality?
While quality is fundamental, we must focus on research as well. While research can lead to quality you have to be able to reinvent yourself avoid standing still. Our company began with my Father in 1983, but my Grandfather had already been doing this kind of work since 1959, as he was employed as a steelworker at Fiat. My father started by building industrial warehouses and then, in 2000, we moved onto shopping centres and then in 2010 we started building residential properties. Today, we are moving to Milan, so the goal is to keep moving forward while aiming to be innovative. At the moment we are on our 5th project in Turin with Up Town. This will be a totally different project from the others that all had a single common thread - building a brand with a proven track-record on quality. But behind all this there has been research and the desire to improve every time. The secret, in my opinion, lies in that.
I would like to go back to the topic of eco-sustainability and ask a question to Stefano Quercetti: This was a powerful ethical choice and also very economically demanding; has it also proven to be a winner when it comes to marketing?
At the last trade fair that we were able to participate in – at Nuremberg last February - there was a big initiative to underline the importance of using those types of plastics in toy manufacture, but contrary to what one might think, it’s very difficult to use them. Despite a real revolution from a technological point of view, what is still not so clear to the public is that while they are still plastics, they cost much more both as raw materials and in their transformation. While the market is not yet willing to bear a proportional cost to cover the investment we have made, this is certainly a trend to be maintained and developed as much as possible, in the hope that the public will be made aware of what goes into it.
And now let’s return to the present. We are undeniably going through a period of extreme crisis and I wanted to ask Luca Boffa how such a situation can be transformed into an opportunity.
Our sector has been in crisis for 12 years now, so the fact that we are still here is because crises can also create an opportunity. It stands to reason that, as I said before, you can’t be afraid to embrace change. We are now in a somewhat different crisis because for now it is not yet a systemic crisis, it is a period of crisis. If the period continues for a long time it becomes a systemic crisis that we could stay with us for maybe 10 or 15 years. But there are good opportunities in our sector as today there are so many more things to buy. So for those of us who buy entire buildings there are so many more on the market either because Italians either find themselves short of money, or because there are private families who want to sell up. While the opportunity must still be commensurate with financial strength, the opportunities are still there.
This period of crisis is obviously due to Covid. I want to ask you both how difficult it was to maintain high standards of quality and how much work had to change, for example with due to smart working?
This period has been extremely difficult from both a commercial and an organisational perspective. Covid has had a truly devastating impact because a single case of infection is enough to cause the shutdown of an entire production department. So it really has put our production capacity to the test, which at the moment is reduced to a third – meaning we have lost two-thirds of our production capacity. We should resume tomorrow, but it is really becoming such a difficult situation to manage -you can’t tell customers when goods will be available because you simply don't know. It all depends on test results, which can take up to 7, 8 or even 10 days to arrive. Lately it’s been more like 10 days so it's all very difficult, but we're still doing it.
And in your sector Luca?
We build and produce: people on a construction site cannot work from home like administrative workers, so we have no choice but to keep working. We already suffered a lot in March, April and May when work stopped because materials were stuck in warehouses and the transportation system was at a standstill. It’s easy to forget how inter-connected we all are and how complicated everything can become. We’re either open or closed – there’s no half-measure on a construction site. Also in the office there’s all the planning and exchanges of ideas to be done - interactions that cannot take place when everyone is at home. This is a period that we can get through – one which can’t last more than a few months. If it does we’ll have to find alternative solutions, but I can't tell you as yet what they might be!
Well, I want to thank our two guests who have helped us to understand how the connection between companies that they have discussed can become a network for growth for individual Italian enterprises. Thank you both again.
Thanks to you, too.