Spurred by the presence of friend John Peter Sloan, celebrated writer, author, actor and comedian famous in Italy for bringing to the fore the importance of English (my great passion) and the prospect of getting acquainted with his colleague from London, Robert Dennis, a teacher specialising in Business English, I attended the International Business Day, a seminar organized by H Advice Business School on Wednesday, June 28. The venue was Sicindustria Palermo and the event was sponsored by Giuffrè Fiscopiù.
This was a seminar that really impressed me with the quality of the speakers’ input. Topics under discussion included forming and running a company under UK law, with examples contrasting and comparing the situation in Italy; the international convention on avoiding double taxation in an Italian / UK context; and drafting international contracts where there are some significant differences in language and interpretation (based on the experiences of one speaker, particularly in relation to Asia). Last but not least, the spotlight fell on Business and Legal English with Sloan & Dennis cracking jokes and offering some useful tips, as they shared the main benefits of the “Sloan method” with attendees. (You can read more about this topic in my previous article).
In short, this was a great opportunity to see some familiar faces as well as to get to know many new ones too. And, on this point, I must say that I was really impressed by the overall quality of the organization and the professionalism of the participants. Among these I should highlight Antonello Miranda, professor of Comparative Law who also deals with international institutions. He sketched a very clear prospect of the Italian scene, and especially the situation in Sicily, which still has some way to catch up internationally.
The lack of desire to take on international markets, for cultural reasons as well as those presented by the language barrier (English is still not spoken fluently by everyone), is not a point in our favour. However, it should be pointed out that over the last couple of years the University of Palermo has set up and run a two-year specialization course entirely in English, with a business focus. In my opinion, this can only be a good thing. After all, universities should power the world of work and not merely offer a sterile course of study that does not prepare people for real working life.
I would like to give a special mention here for the very clear and thorough way that Dr. Rossana Giacalone chaired the event and the participation of lawyer Daniele Giacalone, from Giacalone & Partners, the legal and tax specialists, who work in partnership with H Advice. He explained in detail how Sicilian companies who want to break into foreign markets, and in particular form a company in the UK, should proceed. Avv. Giacalone should be commended for tackling the widespread belief that doing business abroad is easier than here in Italy. Of course, he rightly stated that UK business tax rates are only slightly lower than Italian ones (19% in the UK compared to 24% here), even though as a result of Brexit the basic tax rate will probably fall to 15%.
But Daniele also stressed that it would be a mistake simply to rush headlong into foreign markets. Rather, entrepreneurs need to prepare carefully, both in terms of language and from a tax and legal point of view. Being unaware of tax laws or making mistakes in a foreign country such as the UK could turn into a nightmare. I appreciated his plain speaking without making a pure sales pitch. (In fact, H Advice is organising a course to be held in London from the end of August to the first week of September). The event offered genuine and honest information and training for attendees. These points should not be underestimated, considering the fact that, unfortunately, the average Italian entrepreneur, and especially Sicilian ones, want to hear the opposite: i.e. that moving to a tax haven (or its equivalent) and setting up a company is really easy, when in fact it isn’t.
So, I take my hat off to the organisers of the International Business Day and to all those who took part, including those not mentioned by name in this post. I hope there will be more events like this because the Sicilian business community has a lot to offer, but it’s not possible to think about competing on the international stage without preparing well in advance.
Unfortunately, having a degree under your belt is not enough for today’s world of work. Entrepreneurs need to stay continuously updated about the current situation, often at a highly targeted level, with the aim of filling specific gaps in their knowledge and thus being able to operate in key niche markets. I would also add, people in business need to know how to sell – and how to sell themselves – as well as understanding how to communicate using the tools offered by modern technology, in an intelligent way. (I dare say that a discussion of marketing, and maybe even legal marketing, would have make the seminar even more complete.) This is a dream that can indeed be realised, provided we recognise that only by investing in knowledge and training can companies and entrepreneurs really aim high.
Please note: this post is the english translation by Robert Dennis of the Leonardo Cascio’s article “L’International Business Day: seminario “illuminante” per aiutare aziende e professionisti a valere nel mercato globale”.