Neapolitans toward the future. Interview with Dr. Angelo Antonio Russo.

Dr. Angelo Antonio Russo is from Napoli and he lives in Milan but he has brought everything from his hometown. Together with the legacy he has brought with him, keeping them close, his talent, his determination and the pride of being Neapolitan.

After graduating in Napoli, young Dr. Russo moved to Milan 20 years ago for the PhD in Economics and Business Management at Luigi Bocconi University.

His research activity is focused on corporate growth and sustainability strategies.He has been author and coauthor of numerous academic publications of national and international importance.

Today Dr. Angelo Antonio Russo is Head of Research, Director of the PhD in Economics and Management of Natural Resources and holder of the Chair of Business Management and Global Corporate Sustainability at the Faculty of Economics of the Free University of the Mediterranean (LUM), in Bari.

Dr. Angelo Antonio Russo also teaches Business Economics and Management and Acquisition Management at Bocconi University.

Dr. Russo has conducted in-depth studies on recent business theories and direct observation of management applied by businesses and, in collaboration with Dr. Clodia Vurro, Associate Professor of Economics and Business Management, he wrote the book “Economia e Gestione delle Imprese”(Economics and Business Management), published by Mc Graw Hill Education and available online.

The covid emergency continues and so does the inconvenience of a city that is repeatedly blocked by inconsistent and unexpected regulations by Italian government. Despite the conscious and responsible behavior of the Neapolitan citizens led by the Mayor Luigi De Magistris, Napoli and citizens themselves are repeatedly penalized. During the election period, anything can be expected but every kind of problem ends up , at the bottom, always being a management issue. Napulitanamente interviewed a brilliant Neapolitan academic expert in Economics and Business Management, Dr. Angelo Antonio Russo. In this interview he talks us about Italian Universities and he explains some points about management in a simple and understandable way even for those who ignore this theme. Dr. Russo also shares his thoughts on his beloved Napoli.

 

………………………………………………..Interview……………………………………………… 

Me: People always wonder about the “anima napoletana”(Neapolitan soul). Somebody sensed it in the every day life, the noises and the smells of a typical narrow street of Napoli. One may have read about it in a poem. Others that got a glimpse of it may simply think it is a marriage of “ecstasy and damnation”;

Do you think there is a simple definition that could convey to foreigners what the “anima napoletana” (Neapolitan soul) is about? And if yes what would it be?

AR: This is a very difficult question, perhaps too much. At least for me that never liked to tie myself to stereotypes or identify with them. I have what people say. What often comes to mind is “the ability to get by”. Well, in my opinion the Napoletano doesn’t really get by, he either does things well or it doesn’t do them at all. We certainly stand out for our great creativity. It feels really limiting thinking that creativity is synonymous “getting by”, “living day by day”, “living by gimmicks”…

These are all interpretations that I see almost always used by “detractors” of Neapolitan culture, more than by anybody else. One thing is true much more than many stereotypes, a mere cliché’: Everybody thinks Neapolitans are likable peoples…. However everyone hates us”. Maybe because we are creative and ingenious… I say better to be envied than pitied!

Me: Since how long have you lived in Milan?

AR: It has been almost 20 years, since September of 2000.

Me: What did you bring with you from Napoli?

AR: I would say I have brought it all. I am Neapolitan after all, residence does not matter.

Me: How about Management of a business Vs Management of a family.

AR: I would say they are on the same level. A business is an organization of people, just like a family. Both need rules, responsibilities, decisions to make and action. In my book “Manual of Economy and Management of any Business”, which , not by coincidence, I wrote with my wife, we give a definition of business management understood as: “The most efficient way to mange a business with limited resources, applicable to all kind of businesses, with the aim of maximizing the returned value for all the parties and/or whom ever else is involved, directly or indirectly, in said business”.

 

Here, managing a family means the same thing: having scarce resources that must be used in a wise way to satisfy as much as possible the needs of all those who are part of it or have an interest related to the family. What is certain is that specific roles have to be given to each family member, each with their own responsibilities (including children…)

Me: Recently the number of Americans applying to get in Italian universities is growing every year. Do we still have good universities or this is simply happening because they are more affordable?

AR: I think there are definitely some excellent universities in Italy. In my field I can say that many Departments of Economics and Management have seen an increasing number of foreigner students. This is a good time for our students to face a more dynamic and interesting environment. I am concerned instead with the obsession of Italian Universities to emulate international academic models which don’t always adapt well to our context. That will impact the job market and, above all, our own current academic career models already becoming less and less appealing to younger students. If our Academy is not nurtured, the research and development of our country will stall.

I would say that the results of this are already visible, in fact today the support and resources invested and dedicated to research are slowly decreasing.

Me: Do the courses you teach at both Universities (Bocconi and LUM) have a greater number of foreign or Italian students?

AR: It really depends on the topic of the course. I would say that the slice of Italian students is still the majority. But the trend is starting to reverse. Above all, I see that younger generations of Italians students are much more prone than in the past to confront themselves with foreigners students, if only simply trying to overcome the language boundries. I am afraid, however, that the pandemic will slow everything down. I have already heard that for the next academic year there will be 30% fewer students from abroad.

Me: Are universities where you teach for a limited number of student?

AR: LUM is a private university but it is not for a limited number. At the Bocconi, where I teach different courses, attendance is granted to a limited number of students.

Me: Do those same Universities currently hold or plan to hold online classes?

AR: If as online classes we mean distance teaching due to the pandemic, the answer is yes.

They are working on it. We will see what happens. LUM does not have distance courses for any three-year or a master’s degree. Honestly, I hope that the virtual education that’s linked to the pandemic will only remains for this time of emergency. The contact with the classroom in person is much more beneficial.

Me: Business corporate activities have a great impact on society and the environment. At the “end of the school year” let’s grade “Campania”

AR: It is a bit difficult to judge from outside. Since I no longer live in Napoli it is harder for me to be objective and it would probably be inappropriate. I have family and many friends who live in Napoli and I haven’t heard of any obvious quality leap.

Passed or Fail?

I don’t want to sound critical … But I cannot say “Passed”.

Me: Why?

AR: I have a feeling there people always hides behind problems that surely exist, for heaven’s sake, but they cannot be always used as an excuse. I know many Neapolitan professionals, in different fields, who excel in what they do. However is the system around them that is non existent. Back to what I said earlier , in terms of management, organization and responsibilities are lacking. I don’t see any clear strategic planning with solid ideas, plans, goals, actions and results analysis. It always seems to me that Campania is aimlessly navigating among a myriad of difficulties, and so unable to set clear objectives.

Me: In your career you have surely dealt with many businesses. Are there any companies in Napoli that have succeed at some point or another or that still does today in reconciling economic, social and environmental purposes?

AR: Actually not many, at least among the well-known brands of international success. We can name Kimbo? They are a good company in a very saturated sector such as coffee production. They have adapted to the needs related, for example, to the environmental impact of production activities. But they haven’t in terms of sustainability, which is one of the field I have been dealing with for years and which nobody ever speaks of. I am very meticulous about it. We still need to make that qualitative leap. No Neapolitan company today talks about new materials, process innovation, innovative business models. I maybe wrong and forgetting someone.

Me: What are the basic requirements for a good manager?

AR: A real manager (or even real entrepreneur) is a person that knows how to find solutions to problems. If you are able to find solutions, you are able to overcome the limits of the business and consequently you know how to grow the business. Today, of course, solutions must have not only an economic impact, but above all a positive environmental and/or a social impact.

Me: What advice do you give to those who are about to enroll in Italian

university?

AR: I have a feeling there people always hides behind problems that surely exist, for heaven’s sake, but they cannot be always used as an excuse. I know many Neapolitan professionals, in different fields, who excel in what they do. However is the system around them that is non existent. Back to what I said earlier , in terms of management, organization and responsibilities are lacking. I don’t see any clear strategic planning with solid ideas, plans, goals, actions and results analysis. It always seems to me that Campania is aimlessly navigating among a myriad of difficulties, and so unable to set clear objectives.

Me: In your career you have surely dealt with many businesses. Are there any companies in Napoli that have succeed at some point or another or that still does today in reconciling economic, social and environmental purposes?

AR: Actually not many, at least among the well-known brands of international success. We can name Kimbo? They are a good company in a very saturated sector such as coffee production. They have adapted to the needs related, for example, to the environmental impact of production activities. But they haven’t in terms of sustainability, which is one of the field I have been dealing with for years and which nobody ever speaks of. I am very meticulous about it. We still need to make that qualitative leap. No Neapolitan company today talks about new materials, process innovation, innovative business models. I maybe wrong and forgetting someone.

Me: What are the basic requirements for a good manager?

AR: A real manager (or even real entrepreneur) is a person that knows how to find solutions to problems. If you are able to find solutions, you are able to overcome the limits of the business and consequently you know how to grow the business. Today, of course, solutions must have not only an economic impact, but above all a positive environmental and/or a social impact.

Me: What advice do you give to those who are about to enroll in Italian

university?

1.Studying for yourself (my mother used to tell me and it still

works).

2.Follow the rules.

3.Don’t assume the result is within everyone’s reach.

To be picky about the Italian university system, my real thought is that

not graduating but studying is a right for everyone. And I think

everyone must keep this in mind (especially my “colleagues” parents).

Me: If there is an outbreak of a virus in a company that does not have an infirmary, how does a good manager behave?

AR: A good manager sacrifices short-term results in favor of safeguarding human resources because if you lose those, you lose also the long-term future of the company, provided of course that human resources are the real added value to that company. It is a complex reasoning… Let’s forget about pandemics for a moment, which I hope will not happen again anytime soon. There are other phenomena that can have the same “negative” impact. Think about artificial intelligence.

Easy to say that robotics, software, etc. are destroying jobs and that robots will replace people, etc. I firmly believe that in order to imagine, think, design and (paradoxically) build robots, people are always needed.

This is a matter, as I said before, of changing business models. A good manager (and entrepreneur) must know how to intercept change (even better if he is able to forecast those changes). If you can’t watch what’s going on around you, you’re on the wrong track. In other words, why didn’t they have an infirmary in the first place? Was it too pricey? Why doesn’t the law enforce the inclusion of one? Or maybe other reasons that erode profits? Now you face the consequences.

So better a little less profit today, but be sure to expose yourself to less risk later.

A.D.A.