D’Amico had humble beginnings back in the 1930s when the family decided to transport timber by sea from Salerno, Italy. Today it is a world-leader in the shipping industry, with businesses on four continents. CEO Cesare d’Amico has been with the company since he left school. It’s still very much a family business, but the d’Amicos have embraced their international connections.
Cesare explains: “Our difference is that although we are a family company we don’t conform to the ways of traditional family-owned shipping companies, which tended to be centralised in the hands of just a few members of the family, or even just one of the family. What we have done is try to delegate to our managers the authority and the autonomy to run the company. It may appear unusual for a family-run business, but we have always thought of the company as global. Even back in the 1970s when I started, people were already using the word ‘global’ when they spoke about d’Amico.
“Also, even though we are a very large company, we try to run things as if it’s a big family. It’s important to treat people in the right manner, as you would your family. In a big company this is not a common approach, but we like to do it this way.”
This philosophy also extends to the way d’Amico deals with its suppliers and key stakeholders as it helps them to establish strong ties built on transparency and mutual respect. “When I joined the company, one of the first things that my uncle taught me was the importance of a good reputation and the need to protect it: never promise something that you could not deliver, never borrow money if you think you might not be able to repay it,” says Cesare. “Once you have lost your reputation and your credibility it could take forever to get it back again. As the shipping business brings you into contact with so many other counterparts, it is essential that you take care in how you deal with these people. Not just financially, but also in your attitude.