For an economy of its size, Italy has many highly specialised small to medium sized enterprises. This can be attributed to a variety of reasons, from the fractured history of the peninsula to the highly family orientated culture of its people. It is, therefore, important to start on the right foot when communicating with Italian businesses. 

By Duncan Singer, International PR specialist at Stone Junction 

While I was growing up in Italy, shopping was never a simple event. I was often dragged around all day by my mother to act as her personal translator while she searched for specific items. Invariably, everything she needed would be in different shops, with every shop being in a different part of town with variable opening hours. However, over time I got to know the shops and the shop keepers and forged lasting relationships with all of them.

The same principles apply for understanding Italian businesses. Most Italian enterprises are small, highly specialised and base their relationships on familiarity and trust that has been built up over time.  

Italy has always been divided. Its rich history of isolated city states and quarrelling kingdoms forming the basis of the modern Italian culture. This lack of cohesion lead to each city building independent clusters of businesses — a tradition that survived unification and is remains largely prevalent today.

This division, however, has not had an effect on the quality of the country’s products, with Italian business being lauded with producing some of the finest quality products — whether it be chemicals, clothes or cars.

One barrier to communicating with Italian business families is always familiarity. Just like when I was translating for my mother, unless I had been there to translate many trips would not have been fruitful.

It is hard to do business in Italy without having first gone through proper introductions. The formalities may not be massive, but they must be respected. Italians will always want to try out their English, but they won’t respect you unless you try and speak their language. A good way to make sure you are playing by the rules and are above board is to hire a Commercialista. This is an Italian mix of lawyer and accountant who will generally have the contacts and legal knowledge to get you started. To find a Commercialista try this website.

Italians are a population of perfectionists, with “if its not done right it’s not worth doing” being the unspoken rule. This can make the nation appear slow paced and laid back, but it’s part of the country’s fabric to carefully consider things and prepare to make sure that, when a project is ready to launch, everything runs as smoothly as possible.

I may have complained at the time about being dragged around to talk to all those shop owners, but many of the items bought when I was a kid are still working and being used by my mum today — and there are many familiar faces waiting to great me whenever I go back to visit.

There’s a lot more to international PR than simple translation. To help navigate international business practices and launch your brand in a new region, get in touch with me at duncan@stonejunction.co.uk or call +44 (0)1785 225416.

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