As Business Development Director for Axians North America, the Italian native Federico Foli has a resolutely collaborative vision of management – a philosophy defined through his extensive professional experience.
“Management is like jazz. You have to be able to set aside your ego and connect with other people.” At 51, it has been a long while since Federico Foli forged his philosophy for bringing people “on board” a project. The Business Development Director for Axians North America, an Italian national and a great jazz lover, has even published several works on the subject, including The Mindful Leader. The Sound of Business (2020) and Keep Moving Forward. A Disciplined Approach to Business Transformation & Growth (2022).
He continues: “In a business environment, conditions are often difficult, people are stressed and human relationships can be complicated; all the more so when there are language and culture differences. A manager’s responsibility is not only to ensure that your employees do their work; it’s being able to create a shared dynamic and system of cobuilding that enable everyone to achieve the same objective.”
For Federico Foli, this management approach is particularly suited to the way VINCI Energies operates. This “business facilitator”, as he calls himself, spends the greater part of his time “building bridges between cultures”. In four years at Axians, Federico Foli has devoted himself to three main tasks: to define Axians strategy in North America; to expand the network, both by finding local customers and by forging relationships between Axians North America and the brand’s European business units and expertise; and to pursue the brand’s transatlantic acquisition policy.
“As I report directly to the head of VINCI Energies Industry & IT North America, my area of responsibility extends beyond Axians,” he explains. “I also work on briefs that involve the collaboration with other VINCI Energies business units such as Actemium, both in the USA and in Europe.”
25 years’ experience
In this work, Federico Foli has 25 years of long and rich experience to draw upon in business development, mergers and acquisitions, and business strategy, in some very different business sectors. He began his career at ITW (Illinois Tool Works), a large American manufacturing group.
“A manager’s responsibility is to create a shared dynamic”
“Based on a friend’s advice, I joined that group even though I knew nothing about manufacturing,” he says. “They needed someone in a liaison role as part of an acquisition. For 10 years, I acted as General Manager and a facilitator in acquisitions and also in relationships with suppliers in different countries. I learned a huge amount about how to build a business strategy.”
Then, in 2009 came a complete change of sector and area of expertise. He joined the specialist wellness and fitness investment firm Wellness Holding, soon taking charge of the North American operation for its flagship brand, Technogym, a specialist in sports equipment and technologies: “I helped transform the company’s business model, moving it away from selling products and into selling services.”
The latest career switch for this intensely active all-rounder was into the world of IT, when he joined Axians in 2018. “I had just set up a consulting firm, and one of my clients was Sirecom [an Italian company specialised in ICT-sector services and solutions] soon to be acquired by Vinci Energies. After the transaction was completed, I started working directly with Vinci Energies VINCI Energies.”
Sirecom’s American division was well established in distribution and would form the basis for the future Axians North America, with Essilor Luxottica one its main global retail customers. The new entity took form in 2018, joining in a few years the American arm of the Swiss firm Axians Redtoo, life sciences specialists also acquired by VINCI Energies.
Throughout his international career with its overarching theme of dialogue between people and cultures, Federico Foli has in a way achieved his dream as a student of economics and politics, which was to become a diplomat. He has evidently learned lessons from the complex power systems that featured in his writing for the Italian magazine Afriche e Orienti about polyarchy. In other words, the art of democracy through compromise.