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Even the feet breathe


Even the feet breathe Rome-(Adnkronos Multimedia)-"How is it possible, in ten years, to build up a company with 5 thousand staff and a turnover of 250m euros a year? It isn't difficult. All you have to do is really believe in your idea. If you do, you're a worldbeater." Mario Moretti Polegato is the founder and main shareholder of Geox (www.geox.biz), a world-leading brand of lifestyle footwear, Italy's number one in the sector and the eighth-biggest brand in the world ranking. An incredible success story: in just a few years Geox has become one of the most exciting developments in world business, with turnover growth rates of 40% per year, reaching a 2003 production level of over 6 million pairs of shoes. All of them, without fail, have soles dotted with perforations so as to let the wearer's feet "breathe". Geox is now present in 68 countries, and is the only brand on sale at dozens of Geox Shops, the latest of which opened in the heart of New York on March 22nd, 2004.

This has been the secret of success for Geox and its creator, Moretti Polegato. Born in 1952 near Treviso, in the heart of Italy's North East, the part of the country with the highest concentration of industrial companies and the starting place, over the years, of other big names in business, such as Benetton, Diesel and Luxottica, Mario Moretti Polegato had been expected to continue the family tradition, going back several generations, of working in the vine-growing and wine-making business. Everything pointed him in that direction: a diploma in agrarian science, a law degree, then management of the family firm. In the early 90's, one scorching summer, Mario Moretti Polegato went to Reno, Nevada in the USA for a business conference for vine-growers and wine-makers. To let off steam between conference sessions, he decided to go jogging. But the awful heat meant he couldn't: the rubber-soled shoes he was wearing made his feet so unbearably hot they hurt. So he came up with a drastic solution to the problem: he used a knife to make some holes in the soles so that his feet could breathe at last.

Back home, Mario Moretti Polegato got to work on his idea in the workshop of a small footwear firm in Treviso province. He developed some prototypes and proposed them to some major industrialists in the sector, but without success: none of them saw the potential in the idea. There was no other way: he had to do it himself. He went ahead and started making shoes that "breathed". That's how Geox got started.

Mr Moretti Polegato, what's the way to create a successful business?

"As I said, you have to believe in your idea, like believing in a religion, the way football fans believe in their team. Then you have to make your faith catching, so that everybody who can help you make it a reality gets involved."

A yearly growth rate of 40% would create management problems for any company. How have you been able to cope?

"What I've been trying to do is create a new way of running a business. It isn't all about hierarchy, with orders coming down from the top and everybody else just carrying them out. Instead of that, I've been trying to build a team. It's a new kind of teamwork where each member has their functions, obviously, but where what counts is always the way a member contributes to the team effort."

Always following through with your original "big idea" ?

"Of course. That's what it's all about. But we're also looking for further applications in other fields. We invest 4% of our turnover in research, and that's an enormous amount for a company in this sector. We have a lab with dozens of engineers and technicians working on all the possible ways this idea might be applied to other products too, and studying the complex mechanisms of human body heat dissipation. That's the point: Geox is not just a brand of shoes. It's a company that produces technology for shoes and dozens of other products that are being developed

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