The meeting of Confindustria Serbia’s Assembly was an opportunity to interview its new president, who assumed this position last December. Patrizio Dei Tos (age 57), the proprietor of the Labor Legno Group, Italian leader in the parquet industry (with the ITLAS and Legni del Cansiglio brands), is the new president of Confindustria Serbia.
He’s been in Serbia since 2015 with La Labor SRB which acquired 50% of the oak processing factory in Serbia. Dei Tos is an extraordinary example of an entrepreneur who started from nothing and managed to internationalize his company thanks to Serbia, at first only to acquire the raw material and then becoming increasingly aware of the potential of having a factory capable of producing a finished product in Serbia.
Being appointed president of the association of Italian industrialists in Serbia is a sign not only of entrepreneurial success, but also of esteem and prestige bestowed by colleagues and institutions. Tell us about your path.
I opened a sawmill in 1985. The following year, I founded Labor Legno, my first company of which I am still administrator, in Cordignano, the province of Treviso, the Veneto region, which produced solid wood floors. In 1990, I founded Itlas and started to produce pre-finished wooden floors. Over the years, I always looked ahead, anticipating the needs of the national and international market and becoming the leader in the respective sector in Italy.
In the same year, I started to travel a lot in search of quality wood. At that time, the market was particularly attracted to exotic wood, hence the choice. By 2002, I visited Nigeria, Congo, the former Zaire, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.
Today Itlas, which has about 100 direct and 200 indirect employees with over 300 active clients, produces wooden floors in line with ecological and sustainable standards.
Why did you choose to invest in Serbia? What are the positive and negative aspects of this choice?
Initially, I came to this country because, just as I had done in my first years of business, I was looking for a quality certified raw material for my products. And the oak of this land is unique. So, in 2015, I opened a sawmill in Sremska Mitrovica which first processed oak logs purchased directly from the state forestry authority. Three years later, the sawmill was flanked by a production plant that is now the reference point for the market of pre-finished wooden floors in the Western Balkans, with over forty employees.
This is a choice that I consider to be very positive, especially with regard to the warm welcome I received in this country from day one. Serbia looks with great attention to Italian entrepreneurs, to our regular commitment and our seriousness in planning. Of course, there are some obstacles. Let’s say that the greatest difficulty is the sacrifice of having to be away from my family.
What directions do you want to take during your presidency of Confindustria Serbia?
I presented an ambitious but fully achievable programme, spanning until 2022. First of all, I am trying to strengthen our territorial representation, creating direct contacts between Confindustria Serbia and Italian trade associations through monthly meetings in the Italian embassy in Belgrade in order to better coordinate ourselves. Also, in terms of representation, one of the priorities is establishing increasingly concrete and broad relations between the entrepreneurial worlds, with the interaction between Confindustria Serbia, Confindustria Italy, Confindustria East Europe and the Italian territories.
I also believe that, in this historically important moment, it is of fundamental importance to establish direct and exclusive contacts with customs, with the Tax Administration and with all the line state bodies in order to facilitate the operations of our companies, especially from a bureaucratic point of view.
Other strategic points are, which we need to do to quickly and effectively achieve the objectives we set, are “networking” and training.
Last but certainly not least, the collaboration with the institutions and the line ministries is very important, especially for the protection of the workers of our companies, for the tax protection of our associates and for their development. My commitment starts here – from the facilitating personal relationships and promoting of public-private partnerships.
One thing that greatly concerns Italian entrepreneurs in Serbia is the dreaded risk of political instability. What are your thoughts on this?
Political instability is certainly not a problem that particularly affects Serbia. As an Italian, I would point out that Italy has the primacy in political instability.
As an entrepreneur who “bet” on Serbia and won, what do you want to say to those people who plan to invest in the country but still have doubts?
Not to be afraid to choose to invest abroad, even if it is not an easy choice. And to be aware that, despite the fact that here too we are often called to unravel the bureaucracy, Serbia is a country capable of appreciating and supporting our business.
This post is also available in: Italiano