How Ferrari’s CEO Stays Ahead of His Competition
(Bloomberg) -- Benedetto Vigna is the chief executive officer of Ferrari, overseeing a new era as the carmaker — famous for its roaring engine — transitions to electric. Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua spoke with Vigna, an Italian physicist who has helmed the company for a little over two years, about the firm’s road ahead and the CEO’s own journey. (Responses have been edited and condensed.)
What do you think makes you successful as a leader?
Since you are high up in the hierarchy, you may think you know everything. Instead you have to keep your eyes and ears open to what other people are saying inside and outside of the company.
Is there a danger that once you become a CEO, you lose that connection with clients and so misinterpret what they want or what you need to sell?
This is one risk. There is also the risk of not listening to suppliers. There is also the risk of not listening to employees. There is, let’s say, the risk that you start to forget that you have two ears and one mouth.
You believe in smaller teams, right? Because people feel empowered, like they’re part of something.
I believe that when you want to do something new, the smaller team has one more gear. In a big team you feel like a number. In a small team, you are a person that’s contributing one way or another. Also, the speed of learning from mistakes is much faster.
Who do you see as your biggest rivals? For supercars, is it really possible to have a rival that starts from scratch?
Rivals can be everywhere. You always have to pay attention to companies that are nimble and agile because they can surprise the market. It's not as easy as it is in tech because usually, in tech, heritage isn’t as important. When you’re talking about a luxury company, there's this heritage dimension that’s very important. But the lesson is always pay attention to possible competitors that are small, agile and nimble.
So you really have to be paranoid to be a good chief executive.
You always have to be paranoid. Because when you are on the leading edge and you want to stay there, it always comes to the same story: Listen to what is happening around you.
The biggest challenge for the company now is becoming more green.
Becoming greener is important, especially for a luxury company because a luxury company makes an emotional product, a symbolic product, not a functional product. So becoming green is important for the social license. We are highly committed – we want to become carbon neutral by 2030.
My kids that are around 10 years old may not ever know how to drive. Is that a problem for Ferrari?
There will be people that may not know how to drive and there will be people that will take pleasure in learning to drive and driving. Also, there are some skills that you can develop when you're driving. We’re in a world where sometimes things are done too much by computers. We have to pay attention that the new technology — AI, whatever — it's always a tool that must be used by people. Not the other way around.
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