Leadership in Crisis: Final Score is Entrepreneurship 1, COVID 0

Vikas Joshi
February 12, 2021

Saluti Gianfranco! In March 2020, when Italy was worst hit with COVID-19, I wrote about Gianfranco Sorasio, an Italian entrepreneur and his leadership in crisis. When thousands were dying and the country was at a standstill, this bold leader took the extraordinary step of assuring full employment to all staff. His leadership decision has paid off. On December 30, 2020, his company went public on the Italian stock exchange. In a struggle between the entrepreneurial spirit and the pandemic, the game ends with entrepreneurship 1, COVID 0.

Last year, when the pandemic hit suddenly and with full force, Gianfranco, founder and CEO at eVISO, a company in the Italian province of Cuneo, shot a video of himself saying to his employees, “Each and every one of you will be paid a full salary as long as the crisis persists.” He decided to do whatever it would take to protect the people, the clients, and the volumes. Even commission-based salespeople would be paid a commission based on their pre-COVID sales, regardless of their current sales.

The gratitude he received in return was overwhelming. People doubled down on work, his trust in them resulted in greater motivation, and within a very short time sales bounced back despite lockdown. Deliveries resumed, billing sustained, and the office work continued from peoples’ kitchens. As weeks progressed, competing companies fell behind. By the end of the year, something extraordinary happened. I will share it in his words.

I want to share with you that eVISO, the company that I founded in 2012 and that I currently run as CEO, was successfully admitted to the Italian Stock Market on the 30th of December 2020. Thanks to an outstanding team, the IPO project was completed during a lockdown period, while I was quarantined at home, sick with COVID-19. As a color note, during my opening speech, on the IPO day, I thanked Harvard Business School for "educate leaders who make a difference in the world." Here [is] a picture on the bell day!!!

According to a leader familiar with Italian markets, what Gianfranco and his team have achieved is a truly astonishing feat, given the severe headwinds of an adverse macro-economic context. The bureaucracy of the Italian financial services and utility markets made his job harder. But finally, the entrepreneurial spirit of the young company prevailed.

Congratulazioni Gianfranco! What a proud moment for you, your team, and for all your classmates! You truly walked the talk and supported your employees in hard times and your decision to retain people has paid rich dividends. I salute your leadership. A great success, and many more to come.

Every business has its own unique challenges. What works for one business may not work for the other. However, Gianfranco’s story does strike a chord, doesn’t it? What does it take to lead in times of crisis? What do you think? Curious to hear your thoughts.