The phone rang. It was Simonetta, Vittorio Merloni’s secretary. Cristiano, can you please come upstairs? Mister Merloni wants to talk to you. Nothing strange, so far. Except for the fact that I, Cristiano, am an apprentice, being in Fabriano from less than six months. I look at my tutor, Lea. I don’t say a word, she just says go. I walk to the elevator and I realize that – in this elevator which I use everyday – the button with the number 4 is missing. As if mortals weren’t allowed to reach Chairmanship so easily. I rush back to the Communication & Image office and I ask Nadia how to reach the forbidden place. I’m taking you there, she says. She’s an institution here. She finds all the doors open, even those to the Chairmanship. She loves me, she cares for me. She cares about my stay in Fabriano, my distant love, and about how I can carry on with a 500 euros’ reimbursement.
So much the better, for me. The experience I’m making here is more important. And I would be lying, if I said I grew up in hunger. Nadia makes way for me. Simonetta, here’s the boy. Treat him well. I wear a tailored suit. In Indesit’s Communication & Image office elegance is always appreciated. Come in, sir, I make way for you, one of the three secretaries says to me. Please have a sit, Mister Merloni is coming soon. I look around. There are expensive paintings and photographs telling the story of this country. Vittorio Merloni in Confindustria, among politicians, on the other side of the world, receiving awards. My hands are sweating and my legs are shaking. What am I doing here? I nervously browse the bundle I carry with me. From Fabriano to the world, or something like that. The history of the pocket multinational, the history of an entrepreneur who turned a family business into a multinational just by investing in advertising, without ever forgetting dad Aristide’s culture and values. Words by heart. There is no entrepreneurial success without social progress. I focus on a key passage of the manuscript.
Aristide Merloni is speaking: “My son (Vittorio, ndr.) spends in advertising all the money I earn. What is he doing with all this advertising?” We’re on the edge of Seventies and Vittorio Merloni is one of the first entrepreneurs to get the importance of communication. I see him coming in. I spring up. I arrange my jacket’s fold. Please sit down, please sit down, sir. Thank you for coming. Vittorio Merloni, the president who arrives at meetings with a helicopter, is saying “Thank you for coming” to an apprentice. And I’m used to guys of my age giving orders. I called you, sir, because I wanted to check the book’s draft with you. They told me you’re good at writing, aren’t you? He says. I get by in it, I reply. We spend a couple of hours together. Simonetta brings us a tea. While we examine the drafts, Vittorio Merloni asks me if I know foreign languages, if I like reading and he tells me about 2015’s economic scenery. You see, there’ll be six of us. He shows me a scheme. He tells me the names of 6 producers of household appliances and I can assure you that they are those left on the present market. I don’t know if I’ll still be there, but Indesit will. He moves me. He makes me understand what it means to believe in a project. He could go anywhere to enjoy his retirement (maybe in Cuba or Santo Domingo), but he still has great aims.
And the hunger he had as a boy. His family business, and the town’s business (Fabriano, who’s not been there, there may be fine, like my friend – and fellow citizen – Luca Errico says) must be among the 6 players sharing the market in 2015. And he already has it all clear. How it will evolve, its difficulties, the price to pay. I muster up the courage. Sir, I’d write differently, here, I say. Very well, nobody ever contradicts me. He accepts the correction I made and then, at a certain point, he looks at his watch. Maybe you have to go – he says, looking into my eyes – I don’t want you to be late. I think I still have a lot to do in the office but I feel fine with him, in that library. No, Sir, I stay very gladly. I’m fascinated by his personality, by the way he relates with the last of his 15.000 employees. An apprentice with a piercing on his right eyebrow: a guy who, six months later, is no longer going to work for him. I stay until 8. I don’t know why I kept this story for so long in the closet. Maybe because you can find it in the book “Merloni, da Fabriano al Mondo”, history of the pocket multinational.
Maybe because I never felt such a strong desire to tell it like I do now. The starting point was the article in Linkiesta, in which they tell about Merloni family willing to interdict the one who created one of the most virtuous business of our country. I don’t know the implications of this story, it’s been a while since I’ve been out of Indesit, and I must limit myself to take note of the facts told in the post, looking elsewhere for cross-examination. I don’t really care a lot about it, honestly. I’m much more worried about Vittorio Merloni’s health; he’s a kind man, and an illuminated entrepreneur. He’s a man I owe a lot to. Well, I would like to take the opportunity given by this post to thank him once again for those afternoons spent together. Even though he won’t be able to read me, I hope my thought reaches him somehow. His story should be told and handed down to all young entrepreneurs.