Italy is without a doubt one of the seven most industrialized nations internationally. It has the most highly developed production facilities in the EU. Not to mention the fact that Italy has a pretty broad economy encompassing everything from fashion accessories, to cars and machines. Most of the raw materials for manufacturing are imported. That said all of this and other reasons make doing business in Italy highly attractive.
In this article, we will discuss how the Italian business culture works and what foreign businessmen and women should be aware of when in the country.
How Does Business Work?
In Italy, like any other country, the key to doing business is building relationships. Finding a well-connected person, and establishing a connection to them can be invaluable. However, it requires building trust with your Italian counterparts. Business meetings in Italy like that in the UK and even America are formal, but those involved in the meeting can openly express their disagreement. Conflict during these meetings is relatively common.
Though the first meeting is often informal and used as a way to evaluate other people but not make business decisions. However, the initial meeting needs to go well for things to move forward. Status also plays a significant role in all aspects of Italian society. Power and age are highly respected. However, the bureaucracy tends to move at a very slow pace, and because of that, there is an inherently slow business decision making process. Westerners from the UK and America might find that frustrating, but there are advantages to be had from it like easing pressure.
Most large businesses have working hours that start from 8:30 am and end at 6 pm, from Monday to Friday. There is an hour’s break for lunch. While these are considered universal business hours in Italy, some meetings can be scheduled for after these working hours. Also, don’t organize meetings during August as that’s often-slow owing to Catholic festivities.
It is not uncommon for business or formal meetings where colleagues interrupt each other. Sometimes things can appear to be a shouting match between two rival sides, but in fact, that’s the way differences are hashed out.
The most popular theme for a foreigner who is trying to do business in Italy and striking up a conversation would probably be culture. Italians are curious, tolerant and open to an array of manners and uniqueness. They tolerate mistakes and even laziness to some extent. However, if you’re rude to them or arrogant, then that’s not appreciated.
Also, most Italians in the business world speak English so knowing Italian isn’t necessary. However, you may still want to be well versed in everyday Italian words.
Marketing and Advertising
In Italy what’s on the outside needs to be just as beautiful as what’s inside. So, all your marketing and advertising material should look excellent. However, Italian should be your language of choice. Make sure that all material adheres to Italian sensitivities, in Italian or it can just as easily backfire.