He avoided interviews, had the employees' wives judge the novelties, personally tried every variation of his delicacies. Salvatore Giannella, author of the first biography of the very reserved entrepreneur, tells who the father of Nutella really was and how he managed to transform a pastry shop in Alba into an extraordinary happy multinationalMichele Ferrero celebrates 40 years of Nutella in the Alba factory in 2004 Photo
the phone call from Alba, headquarters of the Ferrero Foundation, chaired by Maria Franca Fissolo Ferrero, took me by surprise: 'Would you feel like telling the human side of my husband, Michele Ferrero?'. My instinct as a reporter immediately made me answer yes: 'I consider this position a privilege, even if I imagine it will be an arduous task to reconstruct the life of the inventor of Nutella, an entrepreneur as mythical as he is mysterious, characterized by almost monastic habits: no interviews, no visibility, no cult of the image”. A discretionary strategist, managed with gentle firmness, who had left even Enzo Biagi speechless: in 2004, for the 40th anniversary of Nutella, he arrived in Alba to interview 'Mr Michele', as he liked to be called by his collaborators, but that 'gentle warrior' welcomed him with affection without granting him the interview, due, he explained, 'to the immense shyness and the concern of seeming vain'. And Biagi gave up: «With you there are three people I haven't been able to interview: the other two are Stalin and John Paul II». – photo | video
DO NOT TELL ANYONE – “ This is lu a niun” , don't tell anyone, was the motto, in the beloved Piedmontese dialect, favorite of the man who created a company, today led with growing success by his son Giovanni, present in 55 countries and gone from a thousand employees in the 1950s to 4 thousand in the 1960s, to then rise to 10 thousand in 1990, up to the current 41,441 in the world. How do you tell the life of a man who built a confectionery empire away from the spotlight? The words of another journalism great, Dino Buzzati, acted as my compass: 'The first, sure rule of the profession of reporter to get great men and women off their pedestal so as to make them appear mere mortals, which in fact they are , consists in going to the place of the character to be told, collecting the maximum possible quantity of testimonies, quotations and notes, stalking a number of people, making oneself unpopular due to their insistence, toiling: in short, digging”.
Nutella also beats Facebook: Giovanni Ferrero richer than Mark Zuckerberg – guard
UNPREDICTABLE AND RIGOROUS – And so, for almost three years in all discretion (I made one of the metaphors recommended by Ferrero my own: We operate as if we were submarines or sharks”) I met and interviewed around a hundred family members, managers and collaborators in the Langhe, Piedmont and Liguria, who lived next to “signor Michele”. Unpredictable, and also generous, rigorous, creative, visionary anticipating… The many pieces of the complete and unpublished portrait, which reconstructs an exceptional life and the historical goals of an inimitable adventure, are now condensed into the 288 pages of a book ( Michael Ferrero. Sharing values to create value , Salani, 18 euros) which is an exciting epic line. In the book I reconstruct decisive days and encounters, joys and sorrows (such as the premature death of his brilliant son Pietro, struck down by a heart attack at the age of 47), productive curiosities and useful advice for young people, entrepreneurs and otherwise.
ENLIGHTENED ENTREPRENEUR – Michele Ferrero emerges as the architect of a way of doing business that has put the person at the center since the beginning, according to the motto “work, create, donate”. He learned the basics of craftsmanship from his father Pietro, the importance of commercial organization from his uncle Giovanni, the sense of the company from his mother Piera, who in the 1940s managed to transform a pastry shop in Alba into a factory. Taking over from his father, who died prematurely in 1949, under his leadership Ferrero grew to become the first confectionery industry in the world and the only true Italian multinational, but one with unique characteristics. Yes, because Ferrero is not just a company but a family, a community. Indeed, something more because it has interacted with the territory, with the civil society of the Langhe, drawing sap from it and, at the same time, enriching it, making it grow.
Funeral of Michele Ferrero, thousands of people and many VIPs in Alba for a last farewell to the father of Nutella - guard
THE KEY TO SUCCESS – Over the days I discovered that the key factor of his success was continuous training: to feed it, the reading of specialized magazines and the invention of innovative production systems such as research and constant attention to innovation, encouraged by father Pietro who shared it and knew how to use it: “Send me to Paris, to London, to Frankfurt, to New York” the young Michele told him, «but not to be a tourist, send me to see new cars, to buy them. We need technological innovation to grow in production and employment». Michele did not lose a file of Italian (few) and also foreign (many) publications, assisted in the translation by a young and promising assistant who would later make her way into his heart too, Maria Franca Fissolo. The bride in 1962 and even in the official wedding request chocolate peeps out, as Mrs. Maria Franca confided to me: “I would be delighted if you, Maria Franca, would answer yes to my proposal to marry you. But think about it. And mind you: if you accept, you marry a man who will always talk to you about chocolate”.
THE FORTUNE – The key factors of his growing fortune, according to those who stood by him, are a highly topical model for new entrepreneurs: strategic choices, almost always the result of the reversal of market surveys; ethical choices (“our reputation is equal to our keeping our promises”); the ability to make every employee feel like a trustworthy entrepreneur; humility (for years he had attributed the credit for the company successes to his parents and uncle) and faith ('he rightly attributed to Our Lady of Lourdes an important role in his success. I wonder why others often look at me perplexed when I know this biographical detail. Faith does not take anything away from a person, on the contrary it enriches him', words of Maria Franca). A recurring phrase of Michele was “ vag 'n chemistry », I go to the room next to the laboratories, where he spent the night in a white coat with his closest collaborators to taste chocolate and try dozens of variations. He personally followed every change in the reserved formula of Nutella and in the search for new products, from Rocher to Grand Soleil. “Remember: ca piasa madama Valeria” , that Mrs. Valeria likes, symbol of the average housewife. In the end he entrusted his men with a small package with the different variations: ' That makes him taste his smoke “, let your wife taste it; the lady's verdict would be decisive.
The greedy cat devours Nutella. And he finishes the jar with his paws. The video is viral – guard
THE INTERNATIONAL VISION – Add the international vision (always with the heart in Alba, with a generous gaze towards the South especially to revive, for example, the earthquake-stricken Balvano, but with a pioneering gaze open to Europe before the birth of the European Common Market): “It was l '50s and we went to Germany, because I had thought that the chocolate market should look to the North, where they consume it all year round”; have the well-being of employees at heart (the shuttles that transport them from home to the company and bring them back, or permits for harvesting in the fields). And again: love for the family and for her land, care for human values, social responsibility. The birth of the Foundation and social initiatives in Africa or India.
AGAINST MODERN MANAGERS – You will tell me: what about surveys and marketing research, those cards that are popular with modern managers? To listen carefully but not to follow the instructions, on the contrary: he attributed success to doing things differently from everyone else with passion. “Everyone made solid chocolate and I made it creamy and Nutella was born; everyone made boxes of chocolates and we began to sell them one by one, but wrapped up for a party; everyone thought that we Italians could not think of going to Germany to sell chocolate and today that is our first market; everyone made an egg for Easter and I thought you could make a small egg but every day; everyone wanted dark chocolate and I said they needed more milk and less cocoa; everyone thought that tea could only be the one with a bag and hot and I made it cold and without a bag'.
In short, dear director, the happiness of a reporter was to illuminate an exceptional entrepreneur and a life against the wind.