My Story, Our Story: Anna Maria Artoni

14 July 2015

BBS alumni talk about themselves: what was before, what came after and the memories of life as a student, to offer a personal story and a narration of one’s own professional experience, to form a history of our Community.

The protagonist of the sixth episode is Anna Maria Artoni, CEO, Artoni Trasporti S.p.A., Executive MBA I, class 1997-1999.

Anna Maria’s soundtrack is Clair de Lune by Debussy.

“I remember when as a young girl, I used to walk my dog on the river embankment, in the fog. Those were moments of intense freedom”. Anna Maria is trying to take her memories with her, and there’s a good deal of them. She recalls them in couples, always, as if only two limbs could bear the weight of memory. She starts by narrating the facts, then how she felt in the specific situation. On second thought, though, the storytelling itself is never just one, but always double.

The story so far
“My professional life is made of two parallel paths: one within my company, in the family business active in the transport industry, where I started working very young; and the other as a representative, after joining the group of young entrepreneurs of Confindustria [editor’s note: the Italian Industry Federation]”.

While her mother was working, little Anna Maria played with the black keys of an old Olivetti typewriter. Then she started reading, writing, she learnt her arithmetic  and was able to devote herself to the first bank slips. How was it, growing in the business?

“Not easy, often what is missing is the exchange of views. If you’re born with a silver spoon in your mouth, which might look like an advantage because you already know where you need to go, no-one challenges you. At first I thought I was owed things. It was unacceptable.”

Also as a consequence of this, Anna Maria became active with the Group of Young Entrepreneurs of Reggio Emilia, of which she was the national president between 2002 and 2005. “I was afraid I’d become myopic. I wanted to be in an environment among peers, where to demonstrate what I was worth and what I was, talents and faults included.”

When she reached 30, working for the family business and being active within the Group of Young Entrepreneurs was no longer enough. “I wanted a different approach. I enrolled for the Master in Business Administration at BBS on the last possible day. It was very hard to resume studying and focusing, but it was a fantastic experience for me.”

Conditional clauses
According to Anna Maria, the excitement in what she does comes from being at the service of others, within the company as well, because “transport today is a commodity”.

She sees everyday life through a convergence. On the one hand, the day-by-day, meetings, dealing with people. On the other, the need to understand what can or could be done, thinking at the scenario rather than at the individual activity.

“What can be done, what could be done, if Italy were a different country? Nowadays, a business plan stretches over a three-year period, there’s never a real perspective. The best thing about representing entrepreneurs, about my experience, is the hope of doing something, having an impact, doing politics”.

Agenda setting
“The three years in my capacity as President of the Confindustria Group of Young Entrepreneurs were very exciting”. Anna Maria has many memories of the period between 2002 and 2005. In those years, she can identify several of her moments of crisis and the most interesting challenges.

The head-to-head electoral campaign, the victory at the second round by six votes, the creation of a personal organizational model for her tenure, bringing strongly social themes inside the industrial association political agenda. If immigration was dealt with proposing to take fingerprints, the Young Entrepreneurs started talking about the theme in terms of attracting talents. When the conflict on Articolo 18 [editor’s note: Article 18 of Italy’s labour code, which requires companies that employ 15 or more workers to re-hire (rather than compensate) any employee found to have been fired without just cause (ref. Wikipedia)] and the national collective bargaining agreement raged, the first proposals of events having as a theme “Participation in the operating results”, bearing a logo linked to Confindustria, started to come up.

“It was the typical role for which you have power not managing money, just through words and ideas. It’s such an exciting sensation because it feels like you can change the world. Perhaps we all feel it at that age, between 25 and 30”.

(Editor’s note)
There are two parallel paths, like embankments. Then a taste for the indefinite, like her passion for Impressionism in painting and music, with Debussy.
Those who grow up in foggy areas, like Reggio Emilia, perform, since the very beginning, an exercise of imagination that will keep them company. Exploring the layer of humid air before you, you try to overcome with the mind all the hindrances of the eyes.

Could the continuous formulating of hypotheses, which Anna Maria talks about, be the evolution of just that? With a sharpening tension to see beyond, that becomes a moral imperative, that gets transformed into a practice of political imagination.

A piece of advice to a student
“I mostly regret one thing: if I could go back, I’d try to spend more time abroad.”

Do you want to read more stories from the BBS Alumnae and Alumni Community? Click here.


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