It was a please to discover Enzo Ferrari’s world. It started with the idea to have a short article, but then it grew and at the end became a 370-pages-book; an entertaining, but also informative, mixture between biography and business book. The publication focuses on man & myth, integrity based leadership, client-relation, sustainability and partnerships. Each chapter tells us about Enzo’s business decisions, which in many cases let to one or several particular Ferrari models. Born 1898, he was clearly a leader of the past century. But nevertheless his life stays relevant, as big parts of his business philosophy are shared by today’s leaders as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Richard Branson. Interesting here is that these people not only live and lived nearly half a century later than Enzo, but furthermore have and had been active in complete different cultural regions and types of business.
Thanks to his emotional intelligence and self-education, he was able to handle difficult situations and different kind of characters, comparable to today’s Millennials. We have modern theories and vocabulary, but if you analyze the person, Enzo’s skills and methods still would make him today a modern and successful leader.
Integrity based leadership is not just comfortable for the employees, but it is an important success-factor for the company. Due to the brand evaluation consultancy “Brand Finance”, Ferrari is the world’s most powerful brand today. With an overall ranking of AAA+, it received top scores in the categories desirability, loyalty and consumer sentiment to visual identify, online presence and employee satisfaction; just as Enzo described it as “elite works”. Being leader in these categories allow the company to sell their cars with attractive margins and use the prancing horse further for other merchandising as clothes, watches and even strollers.
The Ferrari Corporation is not the exception, but the rule that integrity leads to profitable and sustainable business. According to research by Simon Webley and Elise More, companies with an explicit commitment to conduct business ethically presented from 1997 to 2001 and 18% higher profit/turnover ratios than the ones without such a commitment.
The mentioned “elite work” is not just a sign of respect from the employees to the employer. Furthermore it is a sign of respect of the whole company towards its clients. By these means are the same trust concepts valid as between two persons. If the client does not understand the offered product, not esteems it or, even worse in the business-to-business-relation, asks for in-proper discounts, the supplier loses the respect for the potential client. When negotiations are only about the money, elite work cannot get maintained. Not only because the invested time does not pay, but because dedication does not get appreciated. Positive recognition is an important motivational factor. Employees need it from the management, but also to receive it from the customer. This is another reason why it is imperative to have an internal control and compliance system, because if parts of the company, as sales or procurement would start doing business in a non-proper matter, for example with giving or receiving bribes, on the long run this behavior would spread out in the whole company and even affect the production unit. As they would see that their products do no not receive any more the wanted appreciation, as the client’s procurement department chooses them based on personal benefits (bribe), it is impossible for these engineers and factory workers to motivate themselves and produce elite work.
Further if we understand his philosophy and actions, we can see that most of this did not lost any meaning and Enzo is still an inspiration for today’s managers and leaders; for the sustainability of the company and the benefit of most employees. For all employees? Definitely not, as history showed that he was indeed a leader with edges. But this is not different from two other celebrated leaders as Steve Jobs or Richard Branson. Enzo was aware of his weaknesses, but could say that he always stayed faithful to his own philosophy.