Paolo Maccario, COO of Silfab, began his early career path in Italy, along with a stint in the Italian Army Reserve Officers School, which he said, “allowed me to make all kinds of mistakes managing and leading at the Italian army’s expense.”
“I went to engineering school in Turin, (the Polytechnic University of Turin) and as I was finishing engineering school, I was starting to look at what kind of experience could be interesting,” Maccario said in his exclusive interview with PEO. Click here for the full story. “I started exploring the field, in part because most of the work in the field is in Turin and in part because my field of study, Mechanical Engineering, was fitting well with one of Fiat’s metalworking divisions, so my involvement in casting followed.”
With Fiat, he then spent a year near Turin, managing rotating foundry shifts. “This was particularly interesting,” Maccario said, saying that there were people close to “three times” his age and who knew “all about metal’s mysteries and alchemy.”
At the time, he had thought his future might lie in the New World. There was already a Fiat joint venture with a very large Mexican company. It was “offered to Fiat for the proverbial $1.00,” Maccario explained. “They refused but right now that company’s foundries are the world’s largest. So, they ended up buying Fiat’s foundries, not the other way around.”
He then took the leap and moved to Mexico to work for Teksid. “It was an incredibly interesting year, because there was a total difference between the heavily unionized Italian labour, very set in their ways with absolutely nothing to lose, and no way to motivate them. In Mexico, they were self-motivated but just a case of Coca Cola would make production records any time. “
From Mexico, he journeyed to Nashville, starting as Teksid’s quality manager, progressing through the ranks to a quality processes to plant manager to CEO in 1989 to 2000.
“Despite living in the wealthy United States, the workers had incredibly poor personal circumstances,” Maccario remembers. “People working at the plant were maybe 40 km away from Nashville, and some had never traveled there. Some of them had moonshine stills in the backyard and as you can imagine the language was not exactly the Oxford English that I was hoping to learn.” Even so, they were “very incredible people who saw the competition way in advance from China and Mexico,” even to his company’s Mexican operations and “gave their very best” with an “unbelievable” level of dedication.
Soon Maccario attracted attention, saying many other executives visited to “see our different approach.” Some of those incentives like bonuses for performance certainly didn’t make it back to Italy – “it was not necessarily unknown but not allowed within the unionized environment in Italy.”
Toward the end, because he was then earning an MBA, there was much more structure to his tasks — from balance scorecards, “something in Italy that very seldom would have been seen at the time.” Maccario created his own major index, based on the “quality of the customers, delivery status and complaints,” combining them into a number and “monitoring it religiously.”
“There was a particularly good year before we started a more structured bonus plan,” Paolo remembers. “I announced at the Christmas party that there was a bonus for everybody. I recall the guy at the front just dropping his glass.”