Italian Business Structures

As has already been said, Italy boasts a large percentage of small and medium-sized family-owned organisations but even many of the larger companies are still controlled in large part by single families (Fiat, Benetton etc.)

Indeed, the traditional lack of available venture capital in Italy has meant that many organisations have relied solely on family money and retained profits for investment inputs. Given this ongoing family financial involvement, it is hardly surprising that the family would want to keep a large measure of control.

In keeping with this family suffused ethos, management structures have developed to be strongly hierarchical with most decisions, if not actually made at the top, certainly being pushed upwards by middle management for ratification. Much time can be wasted trying to get an agreement with peer level Italians only to discover at a later stage that the decision will be made elsewhere by people who have never been explicitly mentioned.

Therefore, possibly more than in any of the European countries, time is very profitably spent in the early stages of a relationship with an Italian company finding out what the real, rather than the paper decision-making process might be.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Italy

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Italy. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Italy and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips