Forty eight (i)

“Giuliana, thanks so much for coming in to see us. It’s a real pleasure to meet you.”

Giuliana is Attilio Enzo’s eldest. I’d contacted her after Jigya’s party to find that coincidentally she was making a fleeting visit to town and although she’d had nothing to do with the business for seven years she was good enough to find time to meet. I bought some nice cookies.

“Likewise. You’ve been here, what, eight months now? How’s business?”

It was a rather hot day, and the chocolate chips had melted.

“Well it’s a privilege to take on the mantle, and although I never knew your father of course, I want to do his memory proud. I believe we’ve identified a way forward to pick up growth and profitability from the market average performance of recent years, and possibly reconnect the company with its heritage. I want to blend the best of the past with our hunger for a dynamic and outstanding future, and part of that endeavor therefore entails me improving my understanding of that heritage. And I was hoping you could help me do just that.”

“Happy to. Well I may as well begin at the beginning.

“I remember my father starting the company from an old aircraft hangar in 1960. It was where the West Road industrial park is now. I was six. I thought the hangar was incredibly exciting!

“He’d been a salesman most of his life, and for an oven manufacturer for three years right before starting Attenzi. They eventually went out of business because quite simply their product wasn’t up to scratch, and indeed that’s why my father decided to leave and do it properly himself. He knew long-term sales success needed repeat customers, and he wasn’t getting any. If anything, he was getting aggravation from dissatisfied customers.”

“Oh dear, that doesn’t sound like the best reputation with which to start a new venture,” I said.

“On the contrary, he told the truth. He called his customers and told them that they had made him start Attenzi. It was their fault! So in a way they felt ownership, as we’ve come to call it these days – I mean they didn’t have shares or anything – but they felt Attenzi’s success could play a part in their success.”

Giuliana and I talked for just shy of an hour, and it was well worth it. If I were to characterize Attilio from this very brief exchange I’d say he was a man who knew what was good for customers, good for employees and good for business.