Trying to imagine the future today more than ever can become a real challenge. A challenge, however, that is impossible not to take up when celebrating a significant milestone such as the one reached by the more than 880 graduates of the BBS University Master’s and Executive Master’s programs, who gathered last Friday, 10 September in Piazza Maggiore for the Graduation Masterclass 2022.
We want to reflect on two speeches that were a real inspiration not only for the young people with gowns and touch but also for their families and all those who stopped to listen. Two speeches that we would like to remember and take with us for the academic year that has just begun, born from the vision of one who can count on experience and solid skills, certainly, but finds his greatest strength in having been able to cultivate over time qualities such as humanity, curiosity, and passion.
The first is Bologna Business School Dean Max Bergami‘s speech to the masters; the second is the commencement speech this year entrusted to an exceptional guest: Marco Bizzarri, President and CEO of Gucci. Both opened a window on the future, giving us visions of authenticity, courage, perseverance, and responsibility, qualities without which success runs the risk of becoming a mere receptacle for recognition. “In a world where ephemerality often prevails, I am convinced that characteristics such as authenticity, friendliness, and cordiality are a non-marginal part of a business leader’s success.” Said the Dean, referring to Marco Bizzarri as a perfect example.
Among the images for the future outlined by Dean, the first was precisely this vision of authenticity and interpersonal skills, characteristics to be maintained over time. Because ‘Being authentic people is not only an ingredient for happiness but also the key to success. Max Bergami then traced the outlines of a second image of the future, that of a group of people who have become “Masters'” not only to “achieve their professional goals but also to prepare themselves to exercise a different role, characterized above all by responsibility“. Responsibility towards co-workers, colleagues, and even their bosses. Because a master, explained the Dean, “is the one who takes care of others and their learning and success. A success that cannot be separated from the awareness of the role one also plays within the social fabric where they belong. In recalling “the great civic value of the work of businessmen and women,” Bergami wanted to encourage those present to take responsibility for becoming a guide for their community.
Authenticity and responsibility recall another aspect that makes Bologna Business School different from others: the value of the community. Bologna Business School was born with a DNA oriented towards interdisciplinarity, internationalism, and integration with businesses: three characteristics that express the School’s vocation to connect, integrating different disciplines and cultures and building solid bridges between the academic world and the world of production. These characteristics inspire and outline a challenging but not lonely future for BBS graduates, which Bergami encapsulates in a third image, that of “a living community that continues to learn. A community of people who together can face new challenges, be they sustainability, technology, new globalization, new ways of working, or others.
Community, emotion, and humanity are also in the speech by Marco Bizzarri, internationally renowned CEO for eight years at the helm of Gucci. He is a man and a leader capable of breaking the rules, of thinking outside the box, something he has demonstrated not only in his extraordinary career but also in the way he chose to address the commencement speech at the 2022 Graduation Masterclass at BBS.
The personal story of one of the world’s most respected CEOs has a solid connection to the city of Bologna and is intertwined with themes such as opportunity, perseverance, humility, open-mindedness, many twists and turns, and a lot of luck. Themes that Bizzarri is not afraid to bring to the public’s attention because “life can take many different directions if you give it time to take its course,” he explains, “and many of the crossroads you will find yourself at will be completely unexpected and often dictated more by luck than merit”.
The first fork in his journey to becoming the man who has made the Gucci brand a benchmark for the luxury sector, growing revenues from €3.898 billion to €9.731 billion between 2015 and 2021, was the choice to continue studying. At school, he met his lifelong friend Massimo Bottura, and the memory of the professor who predicted a future of failure for the two of them makes one smile today. After university, another crossroads and another small life lesson for young people: wait for work to choose you or throw yourself into it and try to get the job you want. Bizzarri chose the latter, applying to an auditing company that excluded spontaneous applications a priori. A choice that allowed him to learn another lesson that he wanted to pass on to the graduates: you must know how to combine perseverance and humility, give yourself time to grow, and overcome the temptation to enjoy everything and everything now. “You have to be wary of the idea that there are shortcuts in life,” he said, “you plan and strive,” always having respect for the opportunities we often get because we are born into a privileged position. “Know how to recognize the good fortune that life presents you. Do not think it is always your merit because it is not, and when you can give back what you have received.” This message of deep and sincere humanity is part of the life and experience of Bizzarri himself, who also recalled how the common thread of his experience in the fashion world had been living abroad: from Hong Kong to Sydney via Paris and London. Living abroad allowed him to develop mental elasticity and the ability to listen because nothing like traveling and getting to know different cultures can make “people and professionals better” because “diversity is a value, but without inclusiveness, without listening, it is nothing.”
Another characteristic common to almost every experience in his life, Bizzarri recounted, is that of never really feeling ready to take on new professional challenges. “The condemnation of the curious and the intelligent is that of feeling inadequate in a certain sense,” confessed the CEO, who, however, urged graduates never to give up new challenges for this reason: “If someone offers you a role or an opportunity, perhaps they are seeing something in you that even you do not see.” Because sometimes, it is a matter of encounters, of luck, of crossing paths with people who “care about us,” who trust us, and “are happy to work with people who are better than they are”. Pinault has been this for Bizzarri, and Bizzarri, in turn, has been this for Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s Creative Director, appointed by the new CEO in 2015.
What Alessandro Michele then did for Gucci is fashion history: an epochal turning point, an extraordinary success. Today, telling the story is very easy, Bizzarri explained, but change, in reality, is always tricky because human beings tend to maintain the status quo. And his concluding words were precisely an invitation to manage change wisely and always support creativity: ‘You have to give time for change to unfold its strength by keeping the bar straight even in the face of criticism. It would be best if you made the creative people who work with you feel protected because creativity only lives and is preserved in this way. It is not nurtured in anger and threat but only in joy“.
Marco Bizzarri’s speech has been an exciting lesson in humility, humanity, and joy. The CEO, who involved the entire square gathered and not just the audience of graduating students, concluded his speech by recalling Gucci’s upward parabola through the figure of which he is most proud: having gone from 11 thousand employees in 2014 to 21 thousand in 2021. And, for the students now at the end of their journey in BBS, he left one last suggestion: “Have fun tonight. Although I know that the real fun will begin tomorrow after achieving such a prestigious title.”
Check out the gallery collecting photos of the 2022 Graduation Masterclass here.