As we know very well by now, SPII’s history is tightly connected with the story of the city that hosts the company and of the people who work within.
In the beginning, the business thrived under the leadership of its founder, Angelo Foiadelli, who saw in Saronno the perfect place for his dreams.
In the second phase, the company evolved around the character of Angelo’s successor, Roberto: “L’Ingegnere” (“the engineer”), as the employees respectfully and fondly referred to. He led the company from its past to its future through change and history, and when the time was right he saw the opportunity for growth in the collaboration with a private equity fund, Wise Equity.
It was then that a new chapter began for SPII and its people.
Change is never easy
Its first pages were complicated. When the Fund arrived, the aim was to expand the company beyond its current borders as a “small family business”: to do so it was necessary to change the role of the founding family itself. The Engineer could no longer be a lone leader, a new management team was needed, along with new ways of doing the old business.
Shortly afterwards, something else occurred: SPII merged with another company.
It had a similar size but different culture, so it was one more change in a short time to deal with.
The organization turned from something informal, more similar to a family revolving around the authority of the father (Roberto), to a structured company with different departments, and managers with different backgrounds, coming from small and larger companies. There was even a new CEO.
Meanwhile, the third generation of Foiadelli’s leaders was waiting for its moment to come: Paola, Roberto’s daughter, started making her way within the commercial department.
It was clear she was a born leader, even though a different kind from her father and grandfather.
She was able to surround herself with a crew of like-minded and sharp people, who saw opportunities for improvement and wanted to contribute to the growth.
Talking informally, some ideas emerged about the possibility for positive change and how to make it happen.
Time is never right…until it is!
But those projects had to stay on hold for a while, because again time was not right: it was 2012 and the global crisis that had stroke few years before was at its peak.
SPII was not spared: times were difficult even though there actually was an increase in the amount of work.
But this turned out to be the perfect spark for change, as it is often the case when times are tough.
Some people started working closely together and a new team emerged naturally around the leadership of Paola.
There is a famous quote by Simon Sinek that says: “a team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other“. This became a kind of mantra, so everything that was to follow started around Paola’s leadership and this belief.
Among other things they did, there was the decision to host informal meetings between different departments that apparently had no common business.
It was a small change, but it started a positive snowball effect of cultural exchange and proactive dialogue within the company.
Paola, with her coordination role, became naturally the leader of this new “movement”, with a leadership style that has been defined a “distributed leadership”: kind, empathic, based on listening to people and empowering them.
In 2015, when Schaltbau joined the company and they started looking for a new CEO, Paola was just perfect for the role.
She knew the market, she knew the company, she was respected and beloved from the employees.
And not because she was the daughter of The Engineer, but because she was something else entirely: just herself.
At that point, the time was finally right.
All the things Paola and her team wanted to do, all the projects, the ideas, the changes…it was finally their time to make them real.
One of the goals during this first part of Paola’s term was to actually turn SPII into a “people-centric” company, making the growth, safety, happiness and evolution of the employees a priority. This led to the establishment of SPII Evolution, among other things…
But this is another story!
Leadership is the art of resilience
So this is the end of another chapter of SPII’s history, and the beginning of a new one. Changes are never easy, and there is still much to say to this story, but by now it should be clear: something special runs in the veins of this company.
Yet it is not just blood.
How many great companies pass from one generation to the next without any real evolution?
They remain in some way linked to the fate of the original leadership, like the noble families of the past did: the Medici, Gonzaga, Visconti, exactly like most of the companies based on the founder’s skills, were slowly consumed over time.
Talent is not always passed on from father to son. More importantly, time passes, and what was good during the ‘reign’ of one generation may no longer be useful to the next.
Most companies just keep doing business as usual, with the motto “we have always done this way and it has always worked“. They forget the first rule of success: change is inevitable, resilience is the only possible keyword to get through it.
SPII has always tried to be different: the leadership is at its third generation, but the corporate structure has changed a great deal during time, and the leaders of the family with it.
One generation after another, SPII was able to transition from a small family company to a private equity fund, and eventually to join an international group.
Angelo Foiadelli managed a company with a technical spirit, like all the successful companies of his era did.
Since the 1980s, Roberto Foiadelli has further developed the company with his “commercial” skills: the noble kind of marketing, based on relationships and values, what we may call brand positioning.
Paola is running the company in a different way altogether: a leadership based on people, inspiring them first with the “why” and then with the “what”.
Different people, different talents, different eras.
Ironically, today’s methods would not have led to success in the past, and vice versa.
What was the secret recipe of a story of success, as we discovered before? History, people, change.
And that is exactly the recipe SPII has been following all along.
Is it a coincidence that Paola and her father have been invited to take part in the national “Father to Son Award“?
I don’t think so.
And by now I am pretty sure you don’t either.
See you next time,