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LAURO BUORO: RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ARE NICE'S SECRET
Rome (Ign) - "A pocket-size multinational". This is how Lauro Buoro defines Nice (www.
niceforyou.com), an electro-mechanics company from Treviso which produces and commercialises automation systems for homes and industry, of which he is the chairman. This is a company which has grown with a vocation for internationalisation, and which has managed to earn a place on the global market.
Why this definition?
The first time I used this expression was a few years ago, in an interview in which I was asked to define Nice. The company already had a clear interest in the international market and for this reason the definition has remained valid over the years. Today Nice is a company physically present in various countries of the world, where it works with the support of local resources and is an integral part of the local socio-economic fabric; this is why I feel I can call it a multinational. However, despite marked expansion, we are a medium-sized enterprise, with an agile and slimline structure.
Unlike many businesses, yours was characterised right from the start by its marked international vocation. How did you manage to move onto foreign markets effectively?
When Nice was set up the domestic market was "controlled" by consolidated competitors. We were almost forced to invest in foreign markets if we wanted to achieve rapid growth. Focusing on expanding markets turned out to be an effective strategy, supported by our ability to develop specific products for the various countries. Another effective strategy is that of aiming for a strong sales force presence, also supported by the branch offices.
How important is research and development for you?
"Research and development", together with design and communication are the main driving forces behind Nice's success, factors which have allowed us and still allow us to distinguish ourselves from our competitors. The investment in this division has in fact increased from year to year, passing from 1.8% in 2003 to around 3% of our annual turnover in 2005; this year it will be above 3%.
You have recently taken over Motus S.r.l., a company producing automatic systems for curtains, blinds and solar screens. This move has permitted Nice to offer a complementary line (Screen) in addition to the original Gate line. Will you continue to shop around, maybe looking for foreign purchases?
Our first objective is to increase the depth and breadth of the internal product lines. The Gate line for the automation of gates, garage doors and industrial doors and the Screen line for the automation of curtains and blinds. However we do not rule out the possibility of expanding the offer with complementary products, perhaps through the takeover of Italian or foreign companies.
You turned to a local bank when you set up your business. The problem of many businesses today is precisely that of finding funding and credit. Can you tell us how you managed and what advice you would give entrepreneurs with this problem?
Obtaining funding and credit was in fact difficult in the beginning. Before establishing Nice I had established another small company which worked for third parties. With this company I had relations with banks for the first time, and my parents had to help provide the necessary guarantees to obtain funding for the start-up. Over time I earned a reputation as a serious and reliable businessman and was able to have fairly easily access to funding and loans.
More in general, what should Italian companies do to break out of the vicious circle of "business dwarfism - development difficulties - competition from countries with low labour costs"?
In the past, "business dwarfism" was the fortune of companies above all in the North-East because it was a synonym of flexibility and guaranteed high quality standards and low management costs. Today, in the global market, competing with companies which operate in markets where the cost of labour and raw materials are much lower than in Italy, it is not only a limitation but a risk that may compromise the very survival of a company. It is thus necessary to have a different vision of the market, to focus on the opportunities which may derive from the company internationalisation without abandoning the traditional features that distinguish Italian businesses. And entrepreneurs need to focus on teamwork, motivate, compare notes, discuss production processes, business and strategic choices. Joining forces with companies operating in the same sector in my opinion might be an effective way to increase competitiveness.