On the occasion of the Master’s Degree Graduation Ceremony at MIP Politecnico di Milano, Roberto Marani, CEO and Founder at Sorgente Group, Founder and Partner at Milky Way, tells his story.
Could you please introduce yourself, giving us a bit about your background and describing your current business?
Certainly. My name is Roberto Marani and I am 42 years old. In terms of education, my university degree was in Civil Engineering, but before that, I was a soldier.
Over the years I have changed jobs several times, so actually, change has rather characterised my life.
At the age of 18, I joined the Military Academy. All went well, in that my studies paid off and I was accepted for training, after which I undertook a number of missions abroad in various post-conflict zones.
As an officer, I learned how important it is to inspire respect and trust in the people you are leading in order to get the mission accomplished, so this was a very important phase in my training. However, after ten years, I realised that my learning curve was flattening, I was no longer growing and I needed what I’d call a more informal and meritocratic environment.
So, taking my courage in both hands, I gave up my lifelong tenure and six months after being in Iraq, found myself sitting in an MIP lecture theatre, putting all my efforts into my Master’s degree in Business Administration.
During the MBA, I was completely convinced that my future career would be consolidated by entering a management consulting firm, so I approached the placement office for advice. However, they felt that because I was 30 at that time and had no relevant experience, the top consulting firms would prefer a candidate with more specific skills, such as finance or logistics, or something like that.
This goaded me into action and, after a lot of work on my CV, I managed to land a job ̶ first at the Boston Consulting Group, followed by another two years later at McKinsey. After four years in management consultancy, the financial crisis hit and, with the downturn in the market, it was time to look around.
I started dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur and, apart from dreaming, I also started looking around for an idea. This idea came to me by pure chance during a party where I met an old friend, who told me that her sister was having a baby and planning to store the umbilical cord blood stem cells, as these rarely carry any infectious diseases and are half as likely to be rejected as adult stem cells ̶ they can be used, if necessary, for the future health of the child.
I decided to investigate this subject further, studying the more mature markets, specifically in the USA where this business already exists.
To cut a long story short, after having worked in all kinds of areas apart from healthcare – I’d worked in banking, finance, the public sector, logistics – I founded the company in the only industry in which I had no experience whatsoever – healthcare!
So – I founded my start-up, working from home, starting from scratch once again with a new adventure.
I founded Sorgente in 2009 and now, after 8 years, it is a group of three companies with a revenue this year of 6 million euros. It is still a small group but has grown 30% compared with last year and we have the vision of becoming an important player in the healthcare industry in Italy in the next few years.
How did the MBA help you in this challenge, especially at Sorgente?
The MBA gave me the basic knowledge to be able to build on my management skills because, with my military background, I was totally lacking in any knowledge about business, economics, planning, business strategy, and so on – all those tools an entrepreneur needs in order to run a company. So actually, MIP was essential for me, it was a unique educational experience enabling me to build up my skill set, leading firstly to a position as a consultant and then to becoming an entrepreneur.
Furthermore, MIP gave me the opportunity to develop a network. I learned to appreciate how important a network is in life, both for improving my social and teamworking skills, and also sometimes for putting me into stressful situations. I had, of course, dealt with many stressful situations in the army before ̶ but this was very different! I had to learn how to manage stress in a civilian and management context and this was another important thing that MIP gave me.
Can you tell us a key moment you recall from your MBA journey? A special moment?
Yes, there are quite a few special moments which I can recall from my MBA journey, but one of the best for sure was doing the outdoor training.
The training took place up in the mountains at an altitude of 3,000 metres and centred how to react and what to do in the case of an avalanche. This helped us to develop our teamwork capabilities and to learn how to deal with a stressful situation. Besides that, of course, there were the benefits of being out in nature, enjoying the beautiful environment.
From a different perspective, another very important moment was when I attended the Boston Consulting Group’s presentation during the final phase of the MBA, when companies came to present themselves. I felt very emotional hearing directly from the company about their vision, their values, what they were doing and what kinds of people they were looking for ̶ in fact, it was just like falling in love with this company, so that’s why I did everything in my power to get taken on by BCG.
Can you give any advice to our growing leaders?
Well, sure – the advice I would give to graduate students is to do what I have tried to do all my life – be ready to manage change in your life. Plan for it, take all the opportunities which life has to offer ̶ maybe try to avoid taking the most obvious path, but aim to think creatively about doing what really matters to you and working with people you care about.
Also, pay great attention to building on your leadership capabilities, as they are fundamental today and never, never stop growing at a professional level, keep investing in yourself. The Master should only be a phase in your growth ̶ I believe that you should learn something new every day and continue to grow your capabilities.
Finally, on a personal level, be ethical in your approach to people ̶ this makes you a better person, as well as a better leader.