GI: Good morning Monica, Cinzia, and Walter, first of all thanks for your time. So, what is the history of Fratelli Perin? (Perin Brothers, NdT)
Monica Perin: Fratelli Perin is a time-tested company, it’s been in the market for 54 years. Our father, Giovanni Perin, founded the firm together with his younger brothers. There have been a few owners in the family, we are the third generation. At the moment Fratelli Perin is 50% Monica and 50% Cinzia. We specialise in stainless steel processing, more specifically in the production of food and catering equipment. We make semi-finished products, mostly basins and containers. We work with big companies for about 90%; they buy single components, put them together and add water, gas, and power circuits. They are vrey high-level companies that work both in Italy and abroad.
GI: How is your customer base divided between Italy and foreign countries?
Cinzia Perin: 90% of our turnover is made by big groups, that assemble products made by subcontractors. We work 60% with Italy and 40% with foreign countries, but given that our Italian customers are multi-national companies, we can say 90% of our products go abroad.
GI: Is the Italian 10% growing or the balance is basically unchanged?
MP: The Italian quote is steady in relative terms, but volumes are increasing in relative terms. Both markets are growing by 10%/12% per year.
GI: I was talking with two of your coworkers, Gabriele Frare and Tiziano Bernardi, and they said that your plant is growing small for your needs.
CP: Spaces are getting tight because we acquired big jobs with voluminous products. We’d need at least a bigger warehouse to store products.
GI: How do you get new customers? Do you have a sales network?
MP: We mostly work as subcontractors. Over all these years we’ve been lucky because customers looked for us: be it because we’ve been in the market for so many years, be it because we’re a strong company, be it because of word of mouth, be it because we work with big companies. Therefore we never felt the need to have salespersons. We do participate in trade shows, both as exhibitors and as visitors.
GI: In other words, big companies and trusted customers give you a steady supply of work, and meanwhile you find new customers through trade shows and word of mouth.
CZ: Exactly, and we also exchange information with suppliers that, one way or another, work in our field.
GI: How did you go through this economic crisis that seems to be over?
CZ: Luckily, being a time-tested company with quality products, we managed to strengthen our relationship with the most important customers. After all, we can say we’ve not been affected by the crisis. This is a transition period for us, a period of change for our company. We are keeping our best-selling products, but we are experimenting in other fields, with different products outside food equipment, like designer items.
GI: So you’re diversifying your offer and adding a new product line. At this time you do not have a product of your own, you don’t have a brand in the market. Why do your customers choose you and put your products in their kitchen equipment? What do you have to offer that your competitors don’t have?
MP: In primis Perin is a trusted name, and our 54 years of activity are a proof. We have a product with great quality to price ratio. The most important added value is that we have short lead times, which is always appreciated. We are also very flexible: if a customer needs an item on the fly, Fratelli Perin can definitely do that.
GI: This is a completely women-owned company: we have two ladies at the wheel. How is your daily working life in the metalworking and metalforming industry, that traditionally is seen as a male-dominated field?
CP: Sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes it’s not. To me it’s natural because I’ve grown up in this company. I used to come here with my father when I was 8 years old. I’ve always been in the stainless steel field, so it’s perfectly natural to me. I have to say that my coworkers and employees are positive and cooperating. It’s not easy for them to have a woman say what they have to do, especially for foreing workers. But having a woman boss is a challenge because she has a different view on the world.
GI: We mentioned your colleagues Gabriele and Tiziano. Tell me more about your team: how many employees are there and how is your company organization? What are your strong points? After all, a company is made of people…
MP: Exactly, we invested a lot in our team. After the handover we focused on having skilled workers. We need flexible, open-minded fresh forces. We also have “old school” employees, that sometimes struggle to keep the pace, but still give an important contribution and share their experience. To us it’s important to have them involved in purchases, we also took them to your company to see the machine we bought. We wanted them to have an active role in the purchase because they will be using the machine every day, after all.
GI: You’re right. How are the younger generations of workers?
CP: They’re OK. You have to do with what you have, but the important is to make them become skilled within the company.
GI: What is your advice to somebody that would want to enter the market and found a company in your field?
MP: If you ask me, I’d say that these are hard times to start a new company even in our field. The only companies that survived the crisis are the ones that have been around since forever. I agree with Cinzia, a company that wants to succeed must have trusted employees, a good working team, and focus on innovation. If you don’t have these things, you’re doomed.
GI: What are your plans in this sense?
MP: We’re starting new projects and new targeted investments, with a yearly planned budget. You need innovation and new technilogies. You cannot have a solid company with old machinery, you have to be on the cutting edge.
GI: This is something we’ve seen in many other companies. And we’ve seen that companies that survived the crisis and now are growing, are those that kept investing and renovating even during the hard times. Now, let’s ask a couple questions to Walter Filippin: what is your role in the firm?
WF: I’m mainly involved in accounting, but I also manage the company investment plans and workflows. We started by optimizing the entire company floor layout, and this led us to see where we had to make the most important upgrades. This strategy also improved the production floor layout, and we noticed that it also helped improve productivity and efficiency. We then optimized single departments, putting a person in charge of each section so that everyone had somebody to turn to. The company owners (Monica and Cinzia) wanted this since the beginning, and also dedicated a significant part of the turnover to new machinery and processes, in order to improve the way we work. They even invested personal finances, because even if Fratelli Perin is a healthy company, they wanted to show their dedication. They wanted everybody to know that this company is future-oriented, inside and outside the company walls. This led to an improved trustability and contributed to increase 2016 turnover by 10%, with a great outlook on 2017. They started a positive feedback loop of investments-growth-investments. We did it all in small but safe steps.
GI: In the past, at the first signs of a crisis, many entrepreneurs stepped down, but “you snooze you lose”!
WF: As soon as you slow your pace you’re lagging behind competitors, you’re out of the games. Monica and Cinzia have been great at understanding the market. They saw niches left empty by competitors, and they targeted these spaces. Both of them have good commercial skills, they are connecting with other entrepreneurs, and it’s paying off. They are joining forces with other people and planning new things. They are already planning the new production flows and resources: the more orders we get, the more space and staff we need. And they also have good communication skills: we meet weekly to discuss, and the things we say get actually done. It’s not easy to find people like this. You often find beautiful words that remain dead letter. On the other hand, here things get done, maybe not within the deadlines, but you can be sure. As we said before, a small step at a time.
GI: Now let’s ask the last questions to the sisters. Who is Monica Perin?
MP: Monica Perin is a simple person, born in a family of entrepreneurs. I’ve always been introverted, in the sense that my position now is different from what I was a couple of years ago. I’m an active and proactive person, willing to do new things, to grow, and to take challenges. To me, deciding to go ahead with Fratelli Perin has been a huge and painful decision. In these days, putting oneself on the line is not for everyone.
GI: Since when have you been at the wheel?
MP: We’ve always been in the company, but we were background actors because our brother was the one in charge. It has been a tough choice because it’s a huge responsibility: the company is our future, for me, for my sister, for our children. Future for 50 people working with us and their families. We have been at the wheel for one year, so it’s a big challenge. I hope I have proved I have the ability.
GI: Who is Cinzia?
CP: Cinzia is Monica’s twin sister. I have always been in the company as well. I was in sales and since last year I took charge of production. I like this position, I feel less “held back”, and I’m glad because our employees trust me, they work hard everyday and the company is growing. Only a couple of years ago one would have doubted that two women could run a company like this, because office work is ok, but the workshop was a job for men. So having a woman in charge of the shop floor was somehow not quite right. But I see that things are going on well, all of the guys are very supportive.
GI: Great, one last question. What are your goals for the next years and what are you going to do to make them real? Where do you see yourself in a few years and how will you get there?
MP: We have loads of projects, but I cannot disclose them now. Our main goal is to take the turnover beyond the 10 million Euro mark within 3/4 years, with respect to 6 million Euro we made in 2015. I think we’ll succeed because we should close this year at around 7 millions. We are sticking to the business plan we set for 2016-2017. We have ambitious goals to make the company grow in food equipment, but also in other fields with different products. Maybe we’ll buy another Gasparini press brake, who knows? The only thing I can say is: see you at the Host 2017 trade fair. You’ll see what Fratelli Perin is doing.
GI: OK, is there anything else you want to talk about?
MP: No, I just want to thank you very much for your time and for being so helpful as persons and as a company. Working with Gasparini was one of our projects scheduled for 2016 because it’s not a plain, off-the-shelf press brake, it has been custom made according to our needs. Thanks for the time you dedicated to our project.
GI: It’s our job, we’re glad you are satisfied. Thanks for your time, see you soon!