Ferruccio Rossi, chief executive officer of Ferretti Group, a luxury yatch maker, has worked as a consultant for KPMG Consulting for first three years of his career.
In 1998, he became member of the investment banking team of ING Barings, and in 1999, he became the manager of investment banking team of JP Morgan Chase & Co, coordinating a lot of fusion and acquisition operations.
Prior to his new appointment as Ferretti Group CEO, he was the America country manager of the group. Ferretti Group, headquartered at Forli, Italy, is a leader in the design, construction and marketing of luxury motor yachts. It has a popular portfolio of eight exclusive brands, each with its own distinctive features, including Ferretti Yachts, Pershing, Itama, Bertram, Riva, Mochi Craft, CRN and Ferretti Custom Line.
In an interview with HT, Rossi says leadership is an incessant communication process whose success depends more on the perception of the employees about the ability of the leader, than on the leader himself. Edited excerpts:
What does leadership mean to you?
I believe the role of leaders is to inspire others. A leader must have the ability to inspire people to make them change direction. The key to success lies in the ability to promote leadership at all levels.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Carlo Riva, the “Pioneer of the Boating Industry”, and Steve Jobs are two great sources of inspiration for me.
What is your leadership mantra? What is the most important trait of a leader?
An incessant communication process whose success depends more on the perception of the employees about the ability of the leader, than on the leader himself. Leadership involves building trusting relationships with your own working group to guide, lead the people to the achievement of organisational goals, creating opportunities for learning and growth, and bearing in mind that the ultimate goal of leadership is to groom new leaders.
How do you handle the bad economic scenario, especially when your performance is constantly watched?
It’s important, in my opinion, to view this economic period as an opportunity to learn and improve our company in order to be ready for future chances. In any crisis, there are opportunities. The CEO’s job is to spot them.
Is there a difference in leadership style when you manage business in India (a developing nation where luxury is still penetrating) and when you manage the Europe-based business? India has price-conscious consumers. How do you compare the growth rate of the yacht business in India compared with the global growth and growth five years ago?
For sure, India has recently started to approach the luxury market and only 0.6% of the total population belongs to the “high” segment of the wealth pyramid.
Thus, relatively to the leadership style, we have to consider a totally different penetrating strategy compared with other countries such as Europe. India can be considered a virgin territory for the nautical industry but, nowadays, a status symbol culture is developing also in this area and luxury brands in general are conquering a larger share market. Small marinas are developing along the west and the east coasts and yachting, sailing and charters have grown. On this basis, we think that the nautical industry may deliver good results over the next three-five years.
What is the best leadership decision you have taken so far?
My greatest satisfaction is to see in our company the success of young people which until their appointment were never considered by the “common view” as candidates for the job.
And your worst decision as a leader?
I would not be a good leader if I had not taken any wrong decisions. The key thing is to learn from our mistakes (and also avoid to do too many!).
Being a leader in world-class yacht brands, how do you keep a track on the not-so-wealthy consumers of India?
India is today one of the countries with the highest growth and has the best auspices for further growth over the coming years. We are experiencing great changes in both demographic and economic, and social situations.
Where does India stand for you as a focus market in the list of countries you look to expand business in? How do you plan to penetrate further into the country which is increasingly witnessing a luxury boom?
India does not look more to the generation who works abroad but to the growth of jobs in the country. The challenge is not about the past as a model, but on the simulation of the future. It is a country that is highly internationally reliable with a strong interest from Indian capital companies in foreign investments.
Any Indian leader, sports person or corporate leader you have taken notice of who has inspired you in some sense?
Surely, Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi led India to independence employing non-violent civil disobedience and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world. A great leader!
It’s important for a leader to walk the talk. What is your belief?
Respect comes from being able to do things. Actions speak louder than words and the results speak louder than actions. Confidence in the leader comes through honesty, trust and coherence between words and deeds, as well as the willingness to tackle difficult issues.