For those from a more formal culture where meetings are structured and ordered, meetings in Italy can often be seen as almost anarchic.
Meetings are usually informal gatherings and the smaller the meeting the less formal it is likely to be.
Agendas, if present, are extremely flexible with all members of the meeting taking an active role and with frequent interruptions, side conversations and people breaking off to answer mobile phone calls. Part way through the meeting, some of the delegates might leave whilst new participants arrive and join in with equal gusto.
Meetings can often seem to be for the formal ratification of a decision that has been made elsewhere and this is, indeed, often the case. Decisions will frequently be made in smaller pre-meeting lobbying sessions which take place prior to the larger meeting and in which much of the debate and dissension takes place. Therefore, in order to have influence in the final decision, it is often necessary to ensure participation in the pre-meeting meetings. Flying to Italy to debate a decision which has already been made is pointless.
Punctuality, although desirable, is less important than in certain other cultures. People will try to be punctual but other matters may come up which need personal attention and start times might be missed.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
Despite Italy’s much publicised economic difficulties, following the global banking crisis, it remains a vibrant and attractive economy which not only has an active export base but which is also open to new products and new ideas from abroad. Doing business in Italy has proved highly successful for scores of global companies – and will continue to do so as the country continues to grow at a steady rate.
Italy has a well-educated and discerning consumer base as well as a vibrant manufacturing sector with thousands of SME’s producing a wide range of high-quality goods across a number of sectors. Both the Italian consumer base and SME companies need new products and services and are actively looking to work with international partners who can add value to their lives. If you are not doing business in Italy at the moment, you should start to scan the market for opportunities as soon as possible.
Italy represents an attractive opportunity but that does not mean everything will be plain sailing when you get there. Like all countries, Italy has a distinct and unique business culture. Don’t expect business in Italy to function like things do ‘back home’.
Italian business is very relationship oriented and who you know is incredibly important. How are you going to make those all-important first connections and, when you meet them, how will you make a good impression? Are you speaking to the right person within a prospect organisation? How effectively will you be able to communicate your ideas and what are the ‘hot-buttons’ in Italy? These issues could mean the difference between success and failure.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Italian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: