A conversation with Eugenio Sidoli, CEO Philip Morris Italia

9 July 2015

“Being a leader in an organization – whether a small, medium or large one – requires qualities comparable to those architects have. You must be able to draw: drawing futures, drawing visions, drawing spaces, even if they aren’t physical spaces, but mental, competitive and market spaces”. These are Eugenio Sidoli’s words, CEO of Philip Morris Italia and member of the International Advisory Board of BBS, who attended the 2015 BBS Reunion.

Philip Morris Italia was certified by Top Employers Institute among the Top Employers Italy 2015. What are the opportunities you offer to those working for you?

Top Employers certifies internal processes of human resources management and at Philip Morris we’re very competent at that. A process, for instance, is a career plan. To a 23-24 year-old person joining our company, and motivated to work in a multinational, we offer a career and we build it. We ask them to learn to do their job well and to let to the company the task to deal with their development. We set up a specific plan for each individual. Periodically, we perform checks, we assess whether progress has been made, whether we’re doing what we’d planned, in order to develop that specific profile and to support them becoming managers or functional managers, within the pre-defined time-frame. The processes we’ve set in place are sound, well structured and they help us operate within the big corporate machine. In the absence of processes, it’s hard for organizations to develop both products and people. The market for cigarettes is decreasing in Europe.

How do you think you’ll deal with this drop in the demand?

The drop is due to physiological reasons, in part, and also to policies targeted at discouraging a type of consumption which is knowingly harmful for human health. We’re active in a market where there’s a structural volume drop. Nonetheless, there are consumers who, despite health implications, appreciate the product and have decided to make us of it anyway. There’s a pleasure component in the use of cigarettes that we shouldn’t underestimate. Philip Morris’ vision though goes beyond the market of such products and aims at converting consumers that take a certain risk, into consumers of reduced risk products. How much this “reduced” risk will be, well we’ll discover it over time,  there aren’t measuring criteria yet, but the risk reduction is today an objective that can be pursued. Twenty or thirty years ago, the technologies wouldn’t allow it. Nowadays it’s feasible. Therefore, in our future we see a business of replacement, with a range of good taste, differentiated products, having organoleptic features that help the conversion to a less risky consumption. Philip Morris has allocated €500 million to develop and produce in Bologna a new generation cigarette prototype.

Can you tell us more about it?

In Bologna, we manufacture a product that was developed in our Swiss R&D centre, that for years has been working on how to manage reducing the impact of smoking products on health. The platform we’ve started producing is called “Heat-not-burn”: we eliminated the tobacco combustion, which is responsible for a large quantity of toxins, at the origin of pulmonary diseases. Without combustion there’s no smoke. This “not-for-smoking” product is the first step the company has taken towards a new product category, which is our potential market.

While many Italian companies are delocalizing abroad, you decided to invest in Italy and in particular in Bologna; why?

Bologna played an important role for us even before this investment, as Intertaba, our main facility for the production of high technology filters, is located there. The filter is a relevant component of the new product as well. But there’s more: it’s a rich, industrious, generous and very productive land. All the world envies the competences in the mechanical and electronic technologies that exist in Emilia [the region Emilia Romagna, in the north of Italy, where Bologna is located]. For these reasons, Bologna has featured, since the very beginning, in the list of candidate sites to host the new factory. Also, Bologna has worked hard to win this investment. Today, many tell us that our choice made other companies take Bologna into consideration as a destination; we’re aware optimism is  a contagious affair.

What would you suggest to our students willing to start a managerial career?

The piece of advice I’d give is the result of my professional experience. I’d have liked to study architecture; I made different choices and I stumbled into my interests along the professional path I followed. After a degree in economics, I took my first steps in marketing and commercial activities. Then I had the chance to start working for Philip Morris International and I discovered a vast space where to express creativity and enterprise; a space that allowed me – from brand manager to managing director – to work as a “designer” of brands, projects, strategies and organizations. What I’d suggest to a young person who decides to study leadership at BBS, where one learns how to govern a business and an economic system, is to take the opportunity to understand the interactions between corporate parties and develop sensitivities as for the consequences of actions. Leadership is responsibility and a leader is like a designer: he needs to build new dreams, visions and spaces for the organizations he leads, but also to be responsible for the sustainability of what he does. This is what is needed in today’s and tomorrow’s world: a leading class that has vision and awareness, one that knows how to help Italy and the rest of the planet to grow in a better way.


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