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Thu 15 Sep 2016 05:05 PM

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Giuseppe Santoni: In search of perfection

As CEO of Santoni shoes, one of the world's finest purveyors of luxury footwear, Guiseppe Santoni knows that running a business is about one thing; passion and lots of it.

Giuseppe Santoni: In search of perfection

As CEO of Santoni shoes, one of the world's finest purveyors of luxury footwear, Guiseppe Santoni knows that running a business is about one thing; passion and lots of it.

How did Santoni begin?

My father Andrea started the business from nothing and was able to create a successful company in a few years. To him, it’s impossible to make a good business without knowing the craft behind it. When I was a child, my father’s workshop was my playground, and I spent my time there every afternoon after school, talking to the artisans, looking at my father while he was working, and learning all the secrets of shoemaking. I practised a lot when I was young before I became the CEO, so I know how to make shoes. The skill is still very useful in my job.

When I became CEO in 1990, I was very young, but my father trusted me and gave me the possibility to expand the family business, with his full support. My first challenge was to enter new markets: Russia, Japan, China, and then the Middle East. I travelled a lot, looking for selected partners to introduce and distribute our beautiful collection in those new markets.

I would say that one of the secrets of our success is our unique formula: we are inspired by the classic, but we always propose it in a contemporary way, thanks to continuous aesthetic research and to the ability to add some unique detailing. I believe we perfectly combine tradition and innovation, quality and design, craftsmanship and research, classicism and modernism.

What's next for the brand? Where do you see it going over the next five years?

I see my company becoming more and more relevant on the international luxury scene and continue to build our strong reputation and image worldwide.

What's the biggest challenge facing your business right now?

It's always hard to maintain exceptional quality when everything around is threatening it.

Where do great ideas come from in Santoni?

Ideas originate from the great passion we have for what we do. They come from our attention to detail, and from our ability to interpret the Santoni philosophy in a new and contemporary way.


How do you encourage that type of thinking?

I let my people travel, especially the designers; they go to the coolest and most unusual destinations in search of inspiration and new ideas. This is a crucial part of a designer's job.

What's the driving force behind your company? The mission or core values?

It’s our mission: to create masterpieces for the new connoisseurs of the world

How do you make decisions at the company? Do you micromanage? Or hand your staff control?

Of course, I supervise all the different aspects of the company, but I stay in close contact with my managers – they report to me always, often several times a week. I consult them in every decision I make, and I think we're a great team.

As a CEO, do you believe in social networking? Has it impacted your organisation?

Personally, absolutely. As a consumer, I love social media. It's fast, always updated and I can rely on it for just about any type of research. As an entrepreneur, I believe social media is a growing importance. At Santoni, we have adopted specific strategies and now have a dedicated team just handling social media. I believe that with the right tone and a proper strategy in place, social media can be fundamental for luxury brands.

What's the best part about working at Santoni?

Being a part of a team that creates real masterpieces, objects of rare beauty and quality that will last for many, many years.


If you were to explain your job to an 8-year-old, what would you say?

I would tell him that we make very special shoes by hand, and there are over 600 people working for us every day. My job is to guide those people, and help them sell the shoes they produce all over the world.

What person has had the most impact on you as a leader?

My father Andrea. He is my only hero.

What has been the biggest decision you've ever had to make?

To start producing a women's line of shoes. Santoni traditionally just made men's shoes. Women's shoes are a world apart, and an entirely new business. That decision was certainly impactful.

If I worked at your company, how would you explain the culture of your organisation to me?

I would emphasise the 'du ut des' concept. At Santoni, we ask a lot from the people who work for us. We require passion, care and ability. On the other hand, we offer so much satisfaction in what they do for us; we offer uniqueness, and the chance to be a part of a big team who creates beautiful objects every day.

Let's say you're faced with two equally qualified job candidates. How do you determine which one gets the job?

Besides skills, I look for passion, dedication and the ability to understand beauty. They must also know what perfection is. This would make the difference.


What are three things every leader should possess?

All good leaders must have decision-making, the ability to listen and a motivating quality that makes people want to do their best work.

Is there any advice you would give to someone just going into a leadership position for the first time?

I would say they need to maintain the belief in themselves; not to second guess their own decisions.

What's one mistake leaders commonly make?

Not listening to their managers. If you are a real entrepreneur, you obviously can choose very good and skilled managers. It baffles me then, why someone would not trust them.

What's your greatest fear in business?

The general global insecurity. Fortunately, Santoni has always kept to its roots, provided a clear message of what we do, and is consistent. That's how you prepare for uncertainty.

What's one thing most people don't know about you?

That sometimes I love mixing water with my wine. That's quite unusual for an Italian man, by the way!


What's one productivity tip you wish everyone around you would know?

I believe in sustainable growth. Our company is 100 percent owned by my family, and what we've built over the years was based on the resources around us, on the work of our staff, and our strong business philosophy.

What does a typical day look like for you?

When I'm not travelling, I wake up in the morning, go to the gym, and then have some breakfast with a newspaper or iPad. Then I hit the office non-stop until 7 pm. Sometimes I will have a quick lunch with my wife, a guest or an editor. If it's the summer time I go swimming before dinner, and then I relax with my family and friend.

If you were to give someone just starting out one piece of advice, what would it be?

To have a clear strategy in mind as to what they want to do. And to carefully select the people they work with.

Is there any advice you would give to your 18-year-old self?

I would tell myself to follow in my father's footsteps – which is exactly what I did.

What's your most prized possession?

Without a doubt, it's my Mercedes AMG S63


What's the biggest luxury in your life?

Spending time with my family.

How do you find the time to manage a large company and still find time for things like family and relaxation?

I believe that with good organisation you can do both. Both are vital to me, and so I make sure I have time enough to enjoy them. When I'm not at the office, I enjoy swimming, travelling and listening to music.

If you were to step outside the office and find a lottery ticket for a million dollars, what would you do with the money?

I guess most people would say they would leave everything behind and travel to amazing destinations with their family and friends. But not me, I love my job too much to leave it all behind.

Finish this sentence, "the world would be a better place if only…."

Everybody loved beauty and looked for it in every money of his life.

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