What’s the secret recipe for a story of success?

What’s the secret recipe for a story of success?

What’s the secret recipe for a story of success? 2560 1973 Spii
Spii in the 60s
Aerial photo of SPII headquarters in the 1960s

There are not many companies today who can date back their origin to over 70 years ago. Even fewer are the ones who managed to resist through time, history, adversities, change, and still keep their original spirit intact.

Among the few who can, there proudly is SPII. Not because it was a special company, nor thanks to any specific competitive advantage. Probably the reason is that it was founded on people, on their ideas, and still is today.

People are what make history. History is what declares a company successful – or not. And the origin of SPII is a story of history and people, of how successfully interconnected they were.

Let me tell you a tale, then, that dates back to 1947, but is more contemporary than ever.

A product of its time

spii's factory in the 1950s
Spii’s factory in the 1950s

SPII was born as a small industrial design studio for electrical appliances. It was a very technical company, a product of its time – the booming fifties.

The industrial history at those times was generally driven by technicians, because there was great request for new inventions to match the ever-growing needs of the population. Selling a product, then, was not hard: money were flowing, people rushed towards the adoption of mass consumption and the economy was booming.

building site in the 50s
Building site in the 50s

But times do fly, and soon enough just inventing the right product wasn’t enough anymore, you had to sell it better than your competitors. Marketing was born in the 70’s, and by the 80’s advertising had become an essential part of the success of any company.

Times were changing also for SPII, and in the late 80’s Roberto Foiadelli, Angelo’s son, best known among the employees as “The Engineer“, succeeded to his father as the leader of the company.
It was him who changed the course of its history and sent it, literally, on a new rail track, becoming a market leader for components and safety devices for railway and industrial applications.

spii factory in the 1950s
Historical photos showing the factory in the 1950s

A new rail track

Roberto was indeed an engineer, but he was also a natural salesman. Most of the management techniques today studied in universities were inborn to him, and that allowed him to create within SPII the authoritativeness that drove the company during the following 30 years. He was the kind of boss who spoke to people one by one: he loved it that way and wanted the company to remain small, only for the Italian market.

But again, time changes. Roberto was smart enough to realize that keeping its “child” from growing was not a successful strategy anymore: the world was moving fast towards innovation, but also towards the difficult times lying ahead in the years 2000s, especially after 2008.

SPII production site 2014
Spii production site 2014

In the early 2000s Roberto Foiadelli began to understand this future world was not the same he used to play in. He decided to open the capital to a private equity fund, in order to gain a a partner with managerial, investment and expansion skills. He understood that overcoming the provincial mentality and expanding into the international arena was the way forward.

That mindful decision and the choiche of Wise Equity as a partner, who proved to be a great one, are what eventually led to the glorious future of the company, despite the crisis that was to come.

A future that would include a partnership with Schaltbau Group, a company with whom Spii worked for the first time in 1965; exactly 50 years later they would close a deal to become a shareholder.

Ultimately, a future that would bring the “professional studio of industrial engineering” to become “strategic partner intelligent interface“.

Spii production site 2018
Spii production site 2018

The future belongs to people who embrace change

This future would see a third generation of the Foiadelli family at the wheel: Paola, a woman leading a company that clearly finds in its history the courage to be innovative, even at uncertain times. A leader that will write another chapter of the story, one that deserves to be told in full.

In the years ahead, difficult for the whole world, those who had bet everything on superficiality, jus on marketing strategies, lost it all. Because they lacked something that SPII has always had: a vision, a mission, strong values.

Today is the era of all these qualities, and this part of history matches perfectly with SPII’s identity: a company that was already like that, even before it became fashionable to be so!

Spii has always talked about agility, flexibility, human capital, and so. And it clearly doesn’t even need to talk about quotas for women in business leadership.
It has always done all of that, looking for new solutions to old needs, with a try&adjust methodology.
Now that these terms are on the first page of newspapers and on television, time has proven Spii to have the right approach.

Probably, that is something that the few companies who can trace their history back to almost a century all have in common. That’s the secret recipe for a story of success: history, people, change.

Albrecht Kohler, CEO at Schaltbau holding AG with Paola Foiadelli CEO at SPII Spa and Roberto Foiadelli chairman of the board at  SPII Spa during the Schaltbau 90th anniversary party in 2019
Albrecht Kohler, CEO at Schaltbau holding AG, with Paola Foiadelli, CEO at SPII Spa, and Roberto Foiadelli, chairman of the board at SPII Spa, taken during the Schaltbau 90th anniversary party in 2019

See you next time!
Ilaria Cazziol