Alessio Franco, 40
Communication manager, Ford of Europe
Name: Alessio Franco
Title: Communication manager
Company: Ford of Europe
Location: Cologne, Germany
Family: Wife, Stefania; daughter, Alice, 1
Born: Naples, Italy
Languages: Italian, English, learning German
Education: Master's degree in marketing and business communication, European School of Management, ASET, Rome, Italy; bachelor's degree in communications, La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
It was during the summer in 1999 just after I had finished university when I sent out job applications to several big companies. Ford called me in for an interview – in August. At that time I was helping one of my friends working in an English pub, and so I did the interview in jeans and a T-shirt. I never thought that that day would have changed my life. I was offered a position as a product brand manager's assistant. That's when I started to appreciate the automotive sector.
My greatest personal achievement is my daughter, Alice. I completely fell in love with her the moment she arrived. My greatest professional achievement was building a strong, positive and productive relationship with members of the media when I was press officer for Ford of Italy. Another important achievement was when I got my sailing license.
Biggest failure and what it taught you?
Several years ago, I thought that reaching a goal was an end point. Since then, I have completely changed my approach. I have started to consider the achievement of results as a new beginning, as the perfect time to set fresh goals.
What is your current challenge at work?
The launch of a new product/customer experience in Europe called Vignale. Ford wants to surprise customers and transform the perception of the brand. Vignale is Ford's interpretation of the premium tailored experience. This is not only about the car itself, but also about improving the entire experience of the customer, for whom time is very important. At Ford we say time is a jewel. One key aspect of Vignale is helping customers save time because we recognize how important this is to really meeting our customers' expectations.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The fact that every year in the world more than 80 million people buy a car. Unbelievable!
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I have had several "teachers" who have given me guidance over the years. One of them used to remind me every day to fight for my ideas. If I thought I had good reasons, I had to convince others of my vision and my plan.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Think like a customer. Buy like a customer. Look at a customer. If you are too focused only on product features, you may lose the opportunity to think in a different way. Of course, we are all "customers," because every day we buy a variety of things, but we do not routinely (as people working in the automotive industry) go out to buy a car, because the company provides one for us (and we are lucky). We have to think about how customers approach the purchase of a car. For me it is important to explain this vision to all stakeholders working with me.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
I would ask everybody to take a day off, go out, do some thinking, and then write me a letter identifying one idea that they think would really impress me.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I would like to use my experience to run for public office because I would like to contribute to the welfare of my country. I believe enhancing our overall sense of community is crucial to securing our children's future.
What do you do to relax?
Think about what to do next.
2014-present: Communication manager, quality & design and safe pillars, Ford of Europe, Cologne, Germany
2013-2014: Brand manager, B-car marketing, Ford of Italy, Rome
2007-2013: Head of press office, Ford of Italy, Rome
2005-2007: Sales zone manager, Ford of Italy, Bologna
2003-2005: Aftersales zone manager, Ford of Italy, Verona, then Milan
2002-2003: Marketing customer service, parts program coordinator, aftersales, Ford of Italy, Rome
2000-2001: Brand manager's assistant, marketing, Ford of Italy, Rome
1998-1999: Communication manager, diplomatic trade consulting, Paolucci International, Rome
1997-1998: Head of press office at the music organization CET (European Centre of Toscolano), Avigliano Umbro, Italy