Paolo Poma is uncertain how many times he met with bankers and investors during the first 6 months of 2009.
The steady string of phone calls and conference rooms that once demanded the management of Ducati Motors Holding’s rapt attention, Poma tells us, have now blurred into a single, heart-pumping conversation.
“I had to go in front of them and calculate for how long we were going be able to service the debt and comply with covenants without breaking any rules—despite the plummeting markets,” explains Poma, who had joined Ducati 2 years earlier as finance director.Read More
An Italian motorcycle manufacturer, the firm had been acquired by a private equity investor in 2008 as part of a leveraged buyout on the eve of the banking sector’s 2008 financial crisis.
Reports Poma: “The debt had been negotiated before Lehman’s collapse and now had to be serviced during this very challenging time.”
On one side of the table, Ducati’s investors were expressing their eagerness to keep things moving forward, while on the other, their bankers were continuing to urge caution.
“At first, the banks were worried about getting their money back, but then it became kind of a strange situation in which they saw Ducati’s KPIs improving despite the circumstances, so they became no longer in such a hurry to get their money back,” recalls Poma, who was named deputy CFO later in 2009 upon the resignation of Ducati’s CFO, who was Poma’s then-boss. Poma would serve two years in the deputy capacity before being named Ducati CFO in 2011.
In 2015, when Volkswagen’s Audi division announced that it was buying Ducati, Poma was asked to serve as CFO of Volkswagen Group Italia, an indication that he had made a positive impression on Ducati’s new owner.
For Poma, no matter what the next career chapter may be, the lessons from 2009 will always linger.
He comments: “Many times, I thought, ‘Why not quit?!’—but after looking back, I would now tell myself, ‘Stay where you are! You are in a place where you are really going to grow a lot.’” –Jack Sweeney
“Dedicate your efforts to understanding the business and always act as a business partner. Focus on your people; they have expectations and you have to support their development. This is the best way to raise the standing of finance inside the company and it will allow you to deliver results,” – Paolo Poma, CFO, Lamborghini
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CFOTL: Tell us about Lamborghini … what sets this automaker apart?
Poma: While Lamborghini is really a unique brand and company, our heritage has had a number of chapters, each one born from an entrepreneurial initiative that resulted in one entrepreneur selling the company to other entrepreneurs. Thus the company moved every 7 to 10 years, from one financial transaction to the next. It went from an Italian founder to Swiss entrepreneurs to French entrepreneurs, and then on to Chrysler, American entrepreneurs, and Indonesian interests. Finally, it was sold to Germans, a change of control that happened back in back in 1998. All of this is important to know because although our brand has been represented by only a few exotic cars, it still represents a milestone in the story of the industry. The theme of our heritage has been innovation.Read More
Of course, this last stage of our evolution began when we became part of the Volkswagen Group, which is now our long-term industrial shareholder. During the past 20 years, the Group has developed and provided stability to our processes and new products. We had just one car line 20 years ago, but they implemented a second one and then a third one 5 years ago. So, it’s been all about building and giving credibility to the brand and the product and the processes. They have built the platform.
During the past 5 years, we have also been leveraging this platform to deliver financial performance as we have continued to work on supporting business development and improving product margins in our business. Our product development lasts from 18 months to 5 years, with a life cycle of another 9 years. That’s a quite a long period of time, so it’s crucial that we work in a timely manner on product marginality at time of delivery because afterward we cannot.
Ten years ago, we were a 200 million euro company. Last year, we broke the threshold of 2 billion, with almost 2.4 billion euros in business, which is amazing. This is 10 times growth in the top line, but it was even more in terms of profitability. It was crucial during this period of time to control our growth, and while we indeed did grow the structure, we did so in a sustainable way and at a sustainable rate.
Lamborghini | www.lamborghini.com | Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy