Global Strategy, an Italian management consulting firm, has recently released a study – Osservatorio PMI – that looked at the economic and financial performance of Italian SMEs over a five year period (2008 – 2013).


The study looked at 41,000 enterprises operating in the manufacturing industry.


Out of all enterprises operating across 200 sectors, the study identified 16 main sectors that were subsequently analysed and compared using financial indicators namely, Value of Total Output, ROI and EBITDA.


Overall, the results from the study seem to suggest that in 2013 there were the first, tepid, signs of economic growth after a long period of austerity.


The study shows that the three main sectors that count the highest number of companies are: Energy, Iron and Steel products and Mechanical Engineering, whereas the top three sectors in terms of value of total output are Energy (it accounts for 18 per cent of the total output of all 16 sectors considered), Iron and Steel products (13.4 per cent) and Food & Beverage (8.2 per cent).


In particular, the study also looked at SMEs with total annual revenues between €20m and €250m. On the whole, over the five year period there was a positive, upward Value of Total Output trend. However, when looking at ROI there was not the same positive trend, ROI values were still below 2008 figures.


The study also looked at  “Outstanding” SMEs, the performance of a total of 658 enterprises was analysed. The three regions with the highest number of “Outstanding” SMEs were: Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna.


When looking at the financial indicators over the five year period the gap between SME and “Outstanding” SME performance is clear. On average, Outstanding SMEs showed clear, positive Value of Total Output trend (up 56.1 per cent). They also showed a positive EBITDA and ROI trend (up 94% and 52 per cent respectively).


The study highlights the fact that Outstanding Italian SMEs have a high propensity to grow by entering international markets and this holds true for small sized enterprises too.


Sketchnote project management (credits: Luigi Mengato/Flickr)

Sketchnote project management (credits: Luigi Mengato/Flickr)

When looking at those enterprises that intend to enter international markets, the majority (47 per cent) intends to enter or strengthen, their position in Europe. The second highest scoring region is North America (14 per cent) followed by the Middle East and the Far East (both 9 per cent).


Two out of three enterprises say that the most important factor for innovation is “clear understanding of the sector”, the second most important factor is “technical expertise” (59 per cent) and the third is “product knowledge” (56 per cent).


When looking at Italian Outstanding SMEs organisational structures, the vast majority (93 per cent) are family owned with limited managerial delegation.

alessandro fumagalli

alessandro fumagalli

Before moving back to Italy, Alessandro worked for six years as senior research analyst for The Financial Times newspaper. He currently works as a research consultant and freelance translator. Alessandro graduated in Business Studies with a First Class Honours Degree at the “London South Bank University” in England.
alessandro fumagalli