Italian Chamber Investment Analysis Interview (2018)

20th November 2018

Questions:

Experience in the UK market, business strategy and advice 

Why did you decide to invest in the United Kingdom?
There is a long-standing relationship between Italy and Britain.  During WWII our village was destroyed by German forces.  It was the British who came to our aid, who saved our people.  That is the first and very important reason – cordial relations, an understanding of the culture and a desire to help create jobs and contribute to the UK economy.
Tratos’ founder left Italy to set up a business in Argentina. He was later forced to leave the country as the result of a coup and lost everything.  It taught us a valuable lesson.  It is that it is better to build business in developed countries where there is stability. One of the most important elements for successful investment overseas is the knowledge that the country is stable, the rule of law is consistent and, consequently, outcomes can be more accurately predicted. Our base in the UK is our first factory outside of Italy.  There are multiple benefits around our choice.  We have stability, a good skills base and we are in one of the world capitals for business.

What insights and strategies have you introduced in order to thrive in the UK market?
We have paid attention to the economy, to politics and to the challenges and desired advances of the UK’s domestic industries where we seek to forge strong relationships.
We have also looked at competitors’ strategies and approaches and at the performance and technology barriers facing Britain’s infrastructure projects and services beyond what’s happening now – so looking medium to long term.  
In addition, we have invested time in analysing the best routes for advancement across a range of industries where a fresh look would help enhance Britain’s performance as an economic force.  One example would be moves to speed up the country’s broadband.  We have been vocal about the obstacles and the choices around how best to clear them.  We have positioned ourselves as true contributors to the UK economy, and the position is a genuine one.
We have been at pains to connect with people at every level and to move the debate forward – our strategy has been to push for a better Britain, whether that’s through tougher safety standards or higher performance levels.
Along the way we have taken control of our own raw materials supplies – centrally – so of course our UK manufacturing base benefits from that.  It means we control cost and there is no middle man.
Alongside all of this work, and through it, we have ensured that people know who we are, what we stand for and that we know and understand their markets.  We are always at pains to present ourselves as ‘more than’ our roots as industrialists, although we have benefited from the global experience we bring to the UK’s domestic markets.


What is your company strategy in the face of Brexit?
We invested in Britain in 2007.  Nearly 12 years on the UK faces its biggest changes in terms of trade.  Businesses like predictability and Brexit has brought with it extreme caution.  We are fortunate.  We have one foot in the UK, one foot in Europe and a presence across the globe so that we can work shoulder-to-shoulder with customers.  We have a firm foundation for trade; for import and export.  
I make no secret of the fact that I was a Remainer.  However, I am also a pragmatist.  We are where we are and some of the best and most innovative business concepts and technological advances come out of constrained circumstances.  As yet we’re still not sure what Brexit will look like, and how it will evolve.  There will be an economy shock, but it won’t be a re-run of the financial crisis of 2008.  How far and with what impact the shock waves will progress is hard to predict because we’re in uncharted territory.  We are focusing our commercial and development efforts on the things that are a constant, the things that have to progress; and we’re thinking about how we can offer the best way forward to our customers. Our over-arching strategy is to stay informed, stay ready and stay nimble.  Deal or no deal, our strategy won’t change.

How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
Tratos has a number of innate differentiators.  We are independent, we are family owned, we are Italian owned and achieving success in the UK – and our growth is driven from a culture of innovation.  So already we’re doing things differently.  We have become the ‘go-to’ supplier for solutions to the unsolvable; we simply work with our clients to find a way.  That ownership of bespoke is a powerful differentiator.
We are also market disrupters.  When we innovate to a place that far outstrips current technologies’ performance, we are creating space between ourselves and our competitors but, don’t forget, we’re also creating a leap forward for the infrastructures we all rely on.  We innovate within a market – overhead conductors for example – and we become game-changers.  Suddenly power losses during transmission reduce dramatically, production costs look more favourable and so the up-front investment in advanced performance solutions realises its potential as smart expenditure.
Whether it’s with fibre optic, super flexible or super-fast reeling cable Tratos is a future-proofer, a pioneer and a boundaries breaker.  It’s a position we work hard to uphold every day.

What insight would you offer Italian organisations in order to become internationally successful?
There is so much more to being a successful international company than the territories within a business’s order book.  To export well you have to understand cultures, countries, communication.  We start by getting close to the local communities we work within.  There is no substitute for boots on the ground in every territory we sell to – and provide national customer care and technical support for.  So, we have a real presence in each location, we have local talent and we use a common language – English – because it’s widely understood.  We have respect and understanding for the nations we are working with.  So, while we observe our own culture’s religious and cultural holidays for example, we are at pains to ensure we respect and observe those of our host nation.  Diversification is a wonderful thing and incredibly enriching.  Taking the trouble to explore and understand what is important to our global customers and Tratos colleagues worldwide is the first step and a constant partner in the journey toward being a successful international business.