7 Questions with Alessandro Massa

Name: Alessandro Massa

Current title: Independent consultant

Current organisation: My own company

I have been board member since few months ago after participating to an MBO on March 2018. I am still a shareholder of the company: the widest Italian department store chain. Previously I have been an executive manager for several companies in the retail market from fast fashion to luxury segment

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1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

The board of director was made up of 11 members, representing five different shareholders. Three of the members were managers, representing the management team. The challenge was to keep the BOD's decisions on strategic choice separated from the decisions on the current management of the managers. This difficulty exploded during the covid crises when it was necessary to completely review every strategy. The percentage weight of industrial and financial shareholders has become preponderant with respect to that of manager shareholders, consequently the strategic choices were less free and autonomous.

2. How did you become a board member of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

During the journey to close the deal for acquisition of the company from the previous owner I already had the company's power of attorney. Once we entered in the ownership of the company as executive manager I was appointed as board member representing the management team involved in the acquisition.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Wake up at 6.30, half hour Gym, half hour reading newspaper headlines, light breakfast and starting with meetings at 9.00. light lunch at 1.30 p.m. and continuing with other meetings. From 6.00 to 7.00 p.m. day recap verifying the to do list for the following days. Usually I spend 3/4 hours per week to new ideas to boost the business and/or to improve the activities efficiency. I spend another half hour at the end of the working day to share ideas, vision with other executive even managing companies completely different from mine. right now I'm rediscovering the pleasure of taking time to brush up on old passion and to study new markets and new technologies. I strongly believe in the teaching role that the generation X can play versus the millennial universe with whom I am following some start up. It is an amazing combination!

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

In this Covid time it is strongly needed to be resilient and to be able to reassure workers and stakeholder. At the same time it is topic to have a great strategic vision at least to 12 months ahead to properly intercept the new needs of the clients in coherence with the company heritage and mission. The balance between heritage and innovation have to be a priority. Companies and above all executive have to be authentic and credible in their communication. The reputation will be a rewarding requisite for the resumption.

5. What are some of the keys to doing governance well in a large enterprise?

To have a clear vision, better if into a shared Business Plan, and willing to confront with other directors it is a pre requirement. To schedule properly and to prepare in details the BOD meetings avoiding to discuss issue not in agenda. To separate project or activities that need of a formal approval from those that have to be shown to allow other directors to evaluate their cost/benefit impact. Try to understand in advance what areas of relevance could be for each director in order to grasp the added value and avoid potential annoying internal conflict. Once the discussion has taken place in dept. in the event of differing opinions the management must take responsibility in decision, otherwise the company risk stalling.

6. How do you differentiate between the role of board member and the roles of CEO or executive team member of a large enterprise?

It is by far the hardest thing to do! There isn't a magic recipe... It is necessary to approach the role of director as if one were not working for the company trying to grasp the ideas and opinions of the other directors by analyzing them in cold a lucid way without defending one's own managerial choices. These choices can become executive decisions when the arguments produced in support of the thesis can be no longer reasonably refused.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a board member of a large enterprise so far?

The pat that led to the MBO was stimulating, engaging and exciting. Definitely an experience that I recommend to every manager.