ECONOMY – INTERVIEW WITH THE FOUNDER & CEO GIOVANNI COSTANTINO

“THE GROWTH? A PASSION AND A RESPONSIBILITY”

Interview to Giovanni Costantino, Founder and CEO of The Italian Sea Group. The group, after an enthralling start-up and a successful listing, with the acquisition of Perini Navi, keeps growing and creating more profit.

“We are the first in Italy for the yachts over 50 meters and fourth in the international ranking. But these ratings refer to sales data of last year. Looking at the 2022 forecast, I can say that not only we will confirm our international leadership, even climbing up one step in the global ranking”.

Giovanni Costantino is certainly proud but as entrepreneur, self-made-man of Apulian origins and cosmopolitan citizenship, Founder and CEO of The Italian Sea Group, he is never completely satisfied.

He always wants more. And so far, he has succeeded.

Moreover, giving to our magazine a preview for the second time, he shows us the next program of the Group that he has created in a few years, starting from scratch.

In July 2020, in full pandemic, Costantino showed us his growth strategy based on the excellence of the made in Italy in the yachting.

All growth projections were met, so much that nine months later, in March 2021, in a new interview with Economy, the entrepreneur announced the leap forward of all his economic parameters and the decision to go public, to launch a new phase of qualitative and infrastructural growth.

Today, after 12 months since then, it is clear that the financial inflows achieved by landing (June 2021) on the capital market – about 47 million euros, of which 5% invested by Giorgio Armani and 11% by the Alychlo fund – could not have been better used.In the interest of the company and its partners.

In fact, in 2021 the Group revenues reached 186 million euros, with a 60.3% increase compared to 116 million in 2020; the EBITDA was 28 million, that is two time the one of the previous year; investments were 26 million, the net financial position was positive for 41 million and, above all, the net backlog of orders – between the ship building (i.e. the production of new yachts) and the refit of yachts already in operation – totalled 536 million euros, compared to a total order book of 827 million euros as of December 31st, that is 37% more than 31 December 2020.

Today, in its shipyards, The Italian Sea Group is building 27 yachts, including some megayachts.

And for 2022, the expected revenues are indicated between 280 and 295 million euros, still up by about 55%, with an EBITDA margin which in turn will rise by about 15.5%.

And it should not be overlooked that all this happened also thanks to the acquisition of Perini Navi, a flagship brand that touches the emotion, the taste and the enthusiasm of all international customers, a Company with an inimitable history, acquired by the Group as the first post-market investment, and immediately revamped with surprising creative, productive and commercial readiness.

Costantino, Let’s go in order: but how did he do it?

I have always had clear ideas and I have always shared them with my reference team. Once my ideas were accepted, shared and made their own by management, only then we have organized and transformed them in actual phase. Each step up was perceived not as a development method but as a certainty of development.

Behind every milestone achieved, there is constant,pressing and transversal attention, mine and of the great team that follows me, with a strong sharing of intentions and an absolute harmony of operating methods.

What modalities?

We pay a very big attention to details. In this company we work with a capital “W”. We are meritocrats: that is, we are ready to and capable of helping, of teaching, and if necessary we are not afraid to point out the mistakes with authority. And we never lose sight of the duty to reward and promote those who deserve it. In our growth path we have always used three leverages at the same time: doing today while thinking about tomorrow and managing the growth respecting our DNA. Our DNA means not only quality of the product but also quality of the company, in everything and for everything, from the relationship with the owners-customers, to productions and documentations, to respect the commitments and the word given. And then reliability: we are also a case history because we have never delayed the delivery of a single yacht, in deference to the handshake we exchange with  the owners, therefore well beyond the mere requirement of a contract.

Is a handshake worth more than a contract?

Contracts are important, we write them well, flawlessly and we apply them rigorously. But the handshake counts, it’s something different and valuable, which pertains to compliance with any commitment made: with customers, suppliers, collaborators. In our culture pacts are respected, always. The fact that in 2021 we managed to rise from 116 to 186 million revenues, and that today we can confirm the further growth of 55% this year, and 60% on the EBITDA … they are only the logical consequence, I would say almost natural, of what we do, how we do it and how we implement all our work. With these grounds, the result could not have been different, a logical and obvious outcome.

It is not difficult to congratulate you, Mr. Costantino. It is our mission as a magazine to look for business models to be presented to the market. But we don’t indulge in compliments: we would like to talk, as well, about the sacrifices that are behind it.

Of course, yes: keeping commitments costs a lot. It costs a lot of sacrifice, even pain, sometimes, and some stomach ache. In the morning my alarm clock always rings at 4.45, and not only mine but also that of the top managers. And the evening … last night, for example, I came back home at 10.50 pm, my wife was already sleeping and she didn’t have the strength to wait for me, and so it’s every day and not just for me. But passion drives us, we put our soul and heart into this project, we get involved with enthusiasm and we gladly pay this price. And it is a big price as, for example, both I and many of my collaborators we have not seen our children growing. I am personally starting to get more acquainted with my eldest son now that he’s 21.

But when the passion and willingness to sacrifices are so felt and so applied the results, I repeat, cannot be missed.  

” I ALWAYS HAD CLEAR IDEAS AND I HAVE ALWAYS SHARED THEM WITH MY TEAM AND THEN PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE “

It is almost like a … missionary vocation.

Entrepreneurial mission, yes! The respect that me and my team have towards it is huge. It is also a social mission.

When we have a problem, we do not sleep at night, but the next morning we have a solution. If I had to point the key to our success success, in one word I would say: responsibility and accountability.

Huge sense of responsibility. It is the responsibility that drives us to aim to ambitions results, for the Company and for all its stakeholders, starting from the employees, suppliers. A territory in which more than 1500 families depend on this very project.

And there’s more than that.

What?

There is our Italianness, an Italian pride that through our brands – and through many others as well – makes our Country and our know-how the seal of quality and absolute, transversal, professional beauty. Today also enriched by a great managerial attention to sustainability, now a pillar for all our industrial projects.

Tell us better …

We have coined the formula of circular sustainability, in our group, working on seven transversal excellences: sustainability with respect to production methods, to plant design, to the reduction of emissions both in atmosphere than in water; social sustainability towards our employees, which we also express in constant attention to the beauty of workplace, so that our thoughts are more beautiful and harmonious, and in training too, in collaboration with universities; sustainability in maximum safety at work; sustainability in inclusion, also in gender parity in terms of wages, with 20% of women in company, including top management, and in a traditionally male sector; and sustainability of relationships with suppliers, especially in the area, which we help to grow with us also in relationship with the banking system; and finally sustainability in the overall relationship with the territory, from events to social activities, sports arts…

This year all of this will be reported in the first social yearly report that we will present to the market. Always under the banner of responsibility. Convinced as we are that behaving well always pays off, as well as that when you misbehave the bill always comes, because history and nature do not forgive …

Perini Navi in ​​this context?

For us it was not a dream, but a big development project. We also felt the responsibility – again responsibility! – to give life and let grow a company born from the vision of an enlightened, serious and innovative entrepreneur as Fabio Perini, the founder of Perini Navi, with whom I feel very much in line.

And it is beautiful for us to carry on the dream – that it was! – of a  man who was so innovative in our world, and so deeply coherent with the values of the Italian spirit.

The boost that Fabio Perini gave to the business in those years, will continue just as strong and innovative, with a consistent momentum. We got the company keys since the latest two months and we already have 11 new orders to be realised between Viareggio and La Spezia; we have hired the former workers back as well as other 40 employees.

A cheeky question: any problems with Russian customers?

Very relevant, instead: we had the answers even before the market could ask us.  

Well, I can tell you we only have one Russian client today, with a yacht near the completion, almost entirely paid with the exception of the latest work in progress. Furthermore the owner is an entrepreneur out of the black-list of oligarchs.

We then have another Russian-owned yacht in refit, a 140-meter mega yacht that someone reported to belong to Putin: the Guardia di Finanza (Italian authorities) has inspected the yacht and its documents, together with – I believe – the national intelligence, and it seems that nothing has been discovered. Problems with regard to Russian customers, therefore: zero.

Written by SERGIO LUCIANO

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