ASPIM Europe, giving companies the know-how to succeed
Born in Turin, Mr. Dario Perini, ASPIM EUROPA President, graduated in Political Science & Economics and initially worked for the Piedmont Region. Following his work in Italy he became a member of the Association of European Journalists (Association des Journalistes Européens) and European Member for the Development of Commerce (Membre Européen pour le Développement du Commerce) as well as a candidate in the 2004 elections as Italian Representative at the European Parliament. Alongside his many accomplishments Mr. Perini was responsible for the environmental welfare for the Piedmont Region.
Tell us about ASPIM EUROPA.
ASPIM EUROPA is a non-governmental association that operates within the European Union and in Africa. Founded 20 years ago, it was renamed 5 years later as we know it now. The main purpose is to offer services for small-medium size companies with focus on projects, funded by the EU, operating within Europe and Africa.
What are the objectives of ASPIM EUROPA?
Our association offers services to small-medium size businesses that represent the European economical drive, especially in Italy where they can rely on us. We should not forget that Italian products and Italian innovation are highly requested and searched for all over the globe. Currently we have several hundred associates and in the 15 years that we have been operating, we have surpassed 1000 between associates and partners. They renew their partnership every three years.
Speaking of the economic crisis in Italy, the general belief is that the crisis affects only Italian businesses and not those abroad. Considering the position and insight ASPIM EUROPA has, what is your opinion on this matter?
Italian companies felt the weight of the economic crisis when the sectors they worked for abroad such as automotive, textile, and information technology, were affected by it. These three main sectors in Italy, as in Piedmont, were hurt by the crisis, while a sector that never stopped leading was agriculture and the great distribution of general commerce. ASPIM EUROPA’s activity revolving 360 degrees in offering services to our partners and associates has gained a transversal position in the market, surviving by adjusting to every moment’s needs. The current need is internationalization.
On the ASPIM EUROPA website, you recently published an article about internationalization and how being international does not always signify that everything must be equal or that businesses will automatically succeed because they have become international. Could you tell us more?
Absolutely. There has been a great difficulty in shifting to an international mind-set. Initially, only bigger companies could operate abroad, now the internet has made it possible to expand to an international commercial business. However, one must distinguish between making a product and selling it abroad (as through the internet) and making a product that instead has an actual quality and request abroad. Similar to the way years ago entrepreneurs moved to Eastern Europe to find the Eldorado. Selling abroad does not certify success, rather quality and request does.
What is your advice to young entrepreneurs that would like to found a start-up or have one already?
We must be thankful that these young entrepreneurs exist and have the enthusiasm and will to begin a start-up. Otherwise, we would still probably be a very old Italy with an even older vision within the European Union. We still are, unfortunately, on many things. Once these young people finish their education we must settle and decide what to do next. It is true that globalisation pushes us to see the world, completely different from my youth where Belgium was what we now envision the UK or the US. We still have Italy, a beautiful country to live in, filled with agriculture, tourism, and culture that can be sectors for new productions. There are thousands of patents proposed every year. One of our business associates has the sole goal to overview patents and select those that can be interesting. This is a step further in wanting to truly do something, especially in Italy, with the younger community and for innovation.
Italy is 11th in the World Economy, why is there a general strong sense that employment and businesses are not working in Italy – “the young ones must flee to find jobs”?
I would define this a political concept that originates from the top and reaches the bottom – the concept that bright minds leave the country to go abroad. It is true that there is a general complain even among entrepreneurs with hardships from the Italian trade union limiting entrepreneurs from growing, the Italian State’s taxes are too high, our VAT is not helping, and our banking system does not support young businesses. Often young business, young women who wish to lead and start-ups rely on public authorities like the State, EU, and regional administration to begin their business.
Until 10 years ago a European Social Fund existed – a financial instrument set by the European community for professional training. Italy took advantage of this not only for its second objective, which was reserved for business that needed support, but also for the primary objective reserved for businesses in south of Italy. With the entrance of many Eastern European countries within the EU, and their need of support for many reasons, this fund has been for 90% reserved for them. Many Italian entrepreneurs, therefore, prefer to work in Eastern European countries where they still get to benefit from this fund, pushing Italy back a step.
The majority of headquarters are set outside the EU, why?
The ASPIM EUROPA service and activity works through its own commissioners and partners. There is a network of consultants, who are extremely prepared, and work to develop trainings to present and explain legislations of the countries where a business wishes to operate; which foreign markets are the strongest, and which products are the most requested abroad and in Italy. The current political situation is to not be taken lightly considering the immense impact it is having on the international market and economical/financial reference required by an Italian business to keep in mind when expanding. ASPIM EUROPA works alongside several chambers of commerce and business unions to aid our associated companies to expand abroad.
We have headquarters in Cambodia, for instance, which is going extremely well. One entrepreneur bought several hectares of land in Cambodia and planted pepper with an innovative system. It was extremely successful and he expanded not only physically but also sharing his innovating way of planting. In Cambodia, there is a lot of rain and wind, but this entrepreneur discovered a way of setting up plants that grow through bricks allowing them to survive when other plants cannot. We wish to work with other cultures and learn from them.
What about Brexit?
The general media and public sentiment has depicted Brexit as a negative step for the overall economy, while the market have actually reacted positively. I do not believe that the UK will actually step out of the EU, I believe that it tried to leave in order to reinstate their commonwealth that existed in the past.
Italy and its companies will be affected by it, especially according to the legislation – the UK not being part of the EU – yet there are advantages to set political change. I do not foresee it so negatively as predicted. Actually, I believe Italy could take a similar step; however, our current debt is too high for us to gain benefits if we decided to leave the EU. Politicians are similar in every country they just wear different names and faces.
You have recently partnered with bon’t worry onlus, a charity that fights violence against women, your first partner different from your usual company, why this choice?
The reason behind this choice came to me when I first met Bo Guerreschi, bon’t worry’s President.
One activity I am interested in when I overview a company, before analysing the financial books or the whole production process, is to organise and harmonise all the employees from the worker, to the administrator and the employer to bring forward the balance I mentioned before. There is a serene mental state if there is a serene working environment. A strong element present in our courses is how companies bring forward a serene equilibrium to their environment for everyone essential to the business’s success.
What are ASPIM EUROPA's future plans?
One important plan is to re-open an office and headquarter in Brussels to be constantly updated on the news from the European community. We initially had an office, that we closed, that was set near the parliament whose objective was to collect information to observe and act on the progress made on differing projects, those that worked and those that needed improvement. This bulletin board of daily news, if we may call it this way, was sent to all the public entities in Italy in various sectors such as agriculture, industrial, and professional training. As the internet expanded and progressed this necessity was not required anymore.
Which stand does ASPIM EUROPA take for environmental solutions?
As a matter of cultural understanding I believe that so far it is easier for start-ups to uptake environmental solutions and practices in their businesses than companies that have been operating for many years. At ASPIM EUROPA we wish to cultivate a positive approach to environmental solutions and as we propose to expand abroad, we understand; however, the necessity for a company to function in a way that can let them thrive.
Speaking about the environment, I believe that the step that United States of America’s President Trump has taken to give privilege to manufacturing and products from his country will give strong results. It will happen by strengthening an internal economy and increasing employment.
Why should companies become an ASPIM EUROPA associate?
ASPIM EUROPA puts many services and specialists at the company’s disposal, who have a strong background in their field to grow together and build a business trustworthy relationship. Considering the years that we have been working alongside many companies in different fields, we render it possible for companies to reach the goal they desire with us.
Another consideration to make is that ASPIM EUROPA receives zero funds from public entities or the State, therefore, the only way we can survive is with the companies that works with us making our only interest the company’s success. We allow 3 years for a company to build a project with us and see how it moves forward, allowing them choose if they wish to renew their partnership with ASPIM. By 2018 ASPIM will have over 450 000 members because there are several companies and banks that wish to acquire the know-how to enter the Italian market in several sectors.
One example is when we begun working with a Chinese company. Although their headquarters were in China, the products, materials, and manufacturing happened in Italy because it is “made in Italy” that sold the most. Although it could have been cheaper to manufacture in China the product did not sell as well as when the consumer knew that it was made in our country.