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A War Memoir Revisited: “The Death of the Julia Division”

August 31, 2017 Leave a comment

A TRUE WAR STORY BY GIACOMO FATUZZO

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In late 2014, we published the English translation of Giacomo Fatuzzo’s war memoir, “The Death of the Julia Division, Memoirs of an Officer.” This true story is the devastating chronicle of the destruction of the 3rd Alpine Division Julia in Italy’s war against Greece in 1940. It is an emotional, first-hand, day-by-day description of the challenges, the suffering endured, and the battles fought.

Giacomo’s moving words show the agony of a man who doesn’t believe the war he is fighting is justified but fights as hard as he can; the anger of an officer who knows that his superiors are making poor decisions from a remote location but still must follow the resulting orders; the commitment of a soldier who does his best in impossible circumstances and who suffers tremendously, as do all of those involved.

In Giacomo’s own words, on a lonely Christmas Day in the middle of a battlefield:

“I have sad thoughts. Who said that war is the mother of all things and of all things the queen, which sifts out the gods from the men, the slaves from the free? Heraclitus?

Here war does not sift. It mows indiscriminately, especially among the poor devils, and it is not the mother of all things. It generates only blood, pain, tears, and despair…

War sifts and devours the best, the most generous, the bravest, the most patient. But among those spared, there are still many who are generous, brave, and patient. They will remain in their positions and still will be the first to be engulfed in the furnace.”

And there is more. The reader journeys alongside Giacomo as he raises questions of loyalty to one’s country and to his men. The book forces the reader to grapple with haunting questions such as: “Who is responsible in time of war—the nation’s leaders who declare the war or the soldiers who fight it?” And, “As I look at the carnage I begin to wonder how hatred is born.” 

As you can see, “The Death of the Julia Division” isn’t a typical book about war. It is a beautifully written, emotionally moving work of art that raises timeless issues. If you are interested, this book is available from amazon in both paperback and kindle formats at http://amzn.to/2jAi45r.

For more information about “The Death of the Julia Division” and other books written by Giacomo, Ennio, and Carol Fatuzzo, visit our website: fatuzzobooks.com.

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Thoughts on Business Leadership

January 18, 2017 Leave a comment

 

Thoughts on Business Leadership

by Carol L. Fatuzzo and Ennio Fatuzzo

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There are all kinds of leadership found in all walks of life, and much has been written about what comprises good or exceptional leadership.

For example, our book “The Death of the Julia Division1” is a moving memoir illustrating the struggles of military leadership. It chronicles the agony of a man who doesn’t believe the war he is fighting is justified but fights as hard as he can; the anger of an officer who knows that his superiors are making poor decisions from a remote location but still must follow the resulting orders; and the commitment of a leader who does his best in impossible circumstances for his soldiers and who suffers tremendously, as do all of those involved on the battlefield.

But what about business leadership? We provide some of our own views in our newest book “Creating New Superstars.”2 Following is some background and an excerpt from this book. Not everyone will agree with our opinions, but we hope this provides some food for thought.

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, companies developed strategic plans, in some loose fashion inspired by the strategic plans of the military. These corporate strategies commonly were reviewed only once every year because change usually occurred at a very slow pace, and gradual change is very seldom disruptive. In this peaceful time, certain practices became the norm and accepted as the standard for good management, including things such as:

  • New product definition based totally on market research
  • Extreme delegation to subordinates and teams for prioritizing and implementing programs
  • Decisions through consensus
  • Forecasting the future based on an extrapolation of the past

The general idea seemed to be that a “dull” and predictable company, managed well, would be a good and successful company. However, today the world is undergoing an explosion of disruptive change, driven primarily by rapidly advancing technology. And in these unsettled times, many dull but successful companies are struggling.

However, there are outliers or rebels—very successful, once small but now large companies where the “rules of traditional management” have generally not been followed, at least for significant periods in their lifetimes. These are the companies we call Superstars.

What is a Superstar

There is a new phenomenon emerging that we call “Superstar” companies. These are the few, extraordinary, publicly-traded, Fortune 500 companies that have managed to sustain exponential growth over more than a decade, even as they became giants. The list of Superstars and almost Superstars includes Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Genentech, Amgen, and Gilead Sciences. What has driven these outliers to such extreme success in the face of explosive change?

Our Views

Although not the only important factors in creating Superstars, the repeated flashes of insight, out-of-the-box thinking and acting, and powerful personalities of the leaders are critical. Such exceptional individuals are not bound by tradition and thus can rapidly adapt to and take advantage of a changing environment. They have passionate beliefs, are intensely focused on their goals, and take pride of being the best in their industry or maybe even the best in the world. And they are dedicated almost beyond reason to building their companies. These unique business leaders are rebels and often considered dictators, and they are shaping our future.

Exceptional Leadership (Excerpt from “Creating New Superstars”)

“Much has already been written about the importance of leadership in general, and the leaders of today’s Superstars more specifically. We highlighted some of this information in our brief histories of the Superstars in Chapter 2. Drawing on this information and our own experiences and research, we provide here a short summary of some of the common leadership characteristics that we believe are essential for Superstars.

First, an intelligent, strong-willed leader whom people will follow (not necessarily like) is required. This leader must be a risk-taker who is unafraid of making mistakes, and who enthusiastically embraces the unconventional, ranging from unusual management styles to untested business models. This leader also must be able and willing to rapidly reinvent (or support and partner with those creative individuals who can reinvent) everything again and again as circumstances dictate—from business models and business definitions to entire product lines.

To say this in a different way, to create a Superstar a leader must be able to think and act “outside of the box.” Does this mean that these leaders have to have that nebulous ability called “vision?”

Our answer is: not always. Remember that some of the “visions” of leaders like Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos led to actions that were clearly mistakes. But these same leaders also made correct decisions repeatedly, year after year. Clearly, in some cases the vision of a strong leader can create and drive markets.

One last commonality among Superstar leaders. The leaders must have exceptional commitment, persistence, and stamina to be able survive seemingly disastrous occurrences in their business and personal lives without declaring defeat—incidents we highlighted such as getting fired, ending up in hospital for stress, or having to work impossible hours, sometimes for no compensation. How many people are willing and capable to endure all of that to end up winning in business? The answer, of course, is only a few—those few capable of leading their enterprise to Superstar status.


 

 

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1. Giacomo Fatuzzo, The Death of the Julia Division: Memoirs of an Officer (USA 2014). Available from amazon in both paperback and kindle formats: http://amzn.to/2jAi45r

 

 

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2.  Ennio Fatuzzo and Carol L. Fatuzzo, Creating New Superstars: Businesses that Soar above the Sea of Normality (USA 2016). Available from amazon in both paperback and kindle formats: http://amzn.to/2hAn6dy

 

“The Death of the Julia Division―Memoirs of an Officer” EXCERPT

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The Death of the Julia Division

Memoirs of an Officer

by Giacomo Fatuzzo


available in both paperback and kindle formats from amazon.com

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BOOK INTRODUCTION by Ennio Fatuzzo

This is my father’s book―the true story of the fairly unknown “local” war between Italy and Greece, located in time in the early days of World War II. It is the compelling, day-by-day chronicle of the personal suffering of soldiers and officers commanded to make war on an enemy whom they had no reason to hate.

It was a war of mistakes where plans were inadequate, orders were contradictory, maps were wrong, supplies were almost nonexistent, and failure was almost guaranteed. The book highlights the anguish of soldiers going to war for a cause they do not believe in, yet following orders and doing their best even though death was almost a certainty. This is a timeless story of the conflict between beliefs and duty, of moral dilemmas and choices, of conflicting priorities, and of bravery in the face of death.

My father was an Italian Army officer who fought in this little remembered war and was wounded but survived, unlike most of his men. He wrote this book, years later, based on his war diary; and it was published in Italy in 1970 with the title “Storia della <Julia> nella campagna di grecia.” Although the book had substantial sales in Italy and received several literary awards, I never read it. Why?

I was a child in Italy when this war took place, and my memories of that time are extremely unpleasant. As an adult, I did not want to be reminded of those years. I also assumed this was just another war book written by a man whom I viewed as unemotional, and uncompromising.

I WAS VERY WRONG! The book introduced me to a man I had not known―compassionate, even towards the so-called “enemy,” and driven by a sense of duty to his country and to his “Alpini.” They were his family as much as my mother and I were. Although I resented this as I was growing up, I understand and respect his feelings now.

So why did I finally read this book, and why translate it into English now? It was my daughter, Laura Maria Fatuzzo, who convinced me this book was more than just a factual, daily account of troop movements. She insisted it was a well-written and moving memoir that I needed to read. Moreover, she insisted that others, whose lives have been touched by war (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq…), would find it equally riveting―if they could read it.

Therefore, I read the book. Laura was right. I was amazed by the literary brilliance of my father and the book’s emotional impact on me. I encouraged Laura to translate the book into English, with my support. As the story in English unfolded, my wife Carol and Laura’s husband Michael MacLaughlin became mesmerized and provided proofing and editing help.

The translation is finished, thanks to my daughter Laura, the main translator and motivator behind this work. Now the English version of my father’s book is available to those English-speaking readers who are ready to take an emotional trip into the reality of war.

Ennio Fatuzzo


Categories: Leadership

Leadership and Survival – A New Book

November 21, 2014 Leave a comment

 

A NEW BOOK ABOUT LEADERSHIP AND SURVIVAL – A TRUE STORY

Leadership in a chaotic world. It can be found in many different places and circumstances. It is sometimes difficult to define, but it is easy to recognize and learn from.

“The Death of the Julia Division,” the newest book published by NHBV, is not a business book. It is a true story of leadership and survival in the midst of war; and it offers thought-provoking insights about the challenges a leader faces.

Interested in survival in today’s stormy business seas? Want to better understand the kind of leadership and leadership actions that it takes? If so, you may be interested in our newest leadership book.

 

BOOK DESCRIPTION

 The_Death_of_the_Jul_Cover_for_Kindle

THE DEATH OF THE JULIA DIVISION: Memoirs of an Officer by Giacomo Fatuzzo

This book is the devastating chronicle of the destruction of the 3rd Alpine Division Julia (an elite group of army alpine soldiers, once 10,000 strong) in Italy’s war against Greece in 1940.

Based on Fatuzzo’s actual war diary, the book provides an emotional, first-hand, day-by-day description of the challenges encountered, the suffering endured, and the battles fought by these proud alpine troops, of which he was one.

These pages tell a timeless story―the agony of a leader who doesn’t believe the war he is fighting is justified but fights as hard as he can; the anger of an officer who knows that his superiors are making poor decisions from a remote location but still must follow the resulting orders; the commitment of a soldier who does his best in impossible circumstances and who suffers tremendously, as do all of those involved in the campaign.

How different is this from stories of soldiers in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan? Are their thoughts and actions and suffering so very different from Fatuzzo’s? Ultimately, his book is an anguishing journey by a survivor into the ugly realities of war―any war. And it provides a powerful statement on the courage and the strength of the fighting men and their leaders.

MORE INFORMATION

“The Death of the Julia Division” is available in both paperback and Kindle formats from amazon.com.

For additional information and other business leadership offerings from Carol and Ennio Fatuzzo, visit our authors’ Web site fatuzzobooks.com.

 

Categories: Leadership

Recession Survival through Business Leadership

November 4, 2011 Leave a comment

A NEW BUSINESS LEADERSHIP BOOK

Economy in turmoil! Businesses in crisis! The new normal for the 21st century.

For a practical guide to recession survival we suggest our new book “SURVIVAL IN THE SEA OF ECONOMIC CHAOS.” Written by business executives for business executives, this book is all about timely and effective leadership actions for business stabilization and survival in a world that is continually changing due to disruptive external forces. Following is an excerpt from the book introduction that gives you an idea of what to expect.

BOOK EXCERPT

SURVIVAL IN THE SEA OF ECONOMIC CHAOS: Perspectives on Leadership Actions for Businesses in Crisis by Carol L. Fatuzzo and Ennio Fatuzzo

OUR SUBJECT? Perspectives on different possible actions that the leaders of businesses struggling in the midst of economy–induced chaos could take. The causes of the chaos can range from recession to political revolution to tsunami to some other major disruptive event. But that doesn’t matter. These are broad external forces beyond the control of any single business. What is important is that these forces can (and often do) have widespread economic impacts that cause crises for businesses. And these crises are likely to end in disaster without leadership intervention. So the focus of our book is business survival in difficult economic times, and we explore various leadership actions for achieving that goal.

OUR APPROACH? We start by describing results–oriented actions for quickly shoring up and stabilizing struggling businesses to help them “stay afloat” and cope with the financial crises created by external forces (i.e., recession, depression, or some other significant economic disruption). Then, as the turbulence eases and the economic environment improves, tactics and strategies for longer–term business survival and turnaround in performance are explored.

OUR “RECIPE” FOR SURVIVAL? There isn’t any one “best” way of coping with the types of business crises caused by economic chaos. Therefore we: 1) suggest different types of leadership actions for different timeframes, 2) provide examples and easily accessible references that illustrate each type of action, and 3) describe different leadership, methodologies, and tools for optimizing decision–making, strategic and business planning, and implementation of chosen actions. In other words, we suggest approaches and alternatives…..Then, all things considered, we leave it up to you, the business leader, to choose the path that is most appropriate for your specific situation.

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                                  from “Survival in the Sea of Economic Chaos

MORE INFORMATION

“Survival in the Sea of Economic Chaos” is available in both paperback and Kindle formats from amazon.com.

For additional information and other business leadership offerings from Carol and Ennio Fatuzzo, visit our authors’ Web site fatuzzobooks.com

Categories: Leadership

Apple and RCA: A Tale of Two Companies

September 9, 2011 Leave a comment

ONCE UPON A TIME

Once upon a time, companies developed strategic plans, in some loose fashion inspired by the strategic plans of the military. These corporate strategies commonly were reviewed only once every year because change usually occurred at a very slow pace, and gradual change is very seldom disruptive. In this peaceful time, certain practices became the norm and accepted as the standard for good management, including things such as:

  • New product definition based totally on market research
  • Extreme delegation to subordinates/teams for prioritizing/implementing programs
  • Decisions through consensus

The general idea seemed to be that a dull, predictable company would be a good, successful company. However, once in a while there was disruptive change, like a recession. In such unsettled times, many of the dull but successful companies disappeared. That was to be expected according to “case studies” that looked at these failures after-the-fact. The reasons given for failure generally boiled down to “the rules of good management were not followed”.

But there were outliers or rebels – very successful companies where the “rules of good management” were not followed at all, at least for significant periods in their lifetimes. Two such companies, separated in time by almost a century, are RCA and Apple. What made them so successful in the face of disruptive environments?

 APPLE

Let’s start with today’s company first: Apple. A recent article claims that Apple’s amazing success in our recessionary times is due to putting their customers first instead of profit (“Jobs made Apple great by ignoring profit” by C. Christensen and J. Allworth, Reuters, Aug 29, 2011). Well, it’s not that simple. It seems to us that Steve Jobs, with his visionary leadership, unconventional management approach, and strong personality is the fundamental reason.

How did Steve Jobs lead/drive Apple to create not just revolutionary new products but entire new markets during times of economic chaos? It was NOT by blindly relying on marketing research. Instead, Jobs blazed a new trail of disruptive products and radical marketing approaches based on his convictions about customers’ unmet DESIRES, not needs. From these convictions, he developed his own innovative product/platform ideas and then drove Apple mercilessly to commercialize them. He did this by dictating to the engineers what to invent and, at times, even how to engineer the products. Jobs made all of the key decisions and was blunt and painfully direct in communicating them to his employees. Yes, he was a dictator and he wasn’t always right, yet most of his people respected, “loved”, and followed him. Steve Jobs ignored many of the “sacred” practices of “good” business management and yet Apple has prospered far beyond expectations in our difficult economic times.

 RCA

Next we turn back the clock to the first half of the 20th century and focus on RCA (Radio Corporation of America), the then great (but now defunct) electronic company. In its time, RCA was a large and vibrant manufacturing company whose world-class laboratories invented many disruptive new technologies. And the company used these radical innovations to reach great heights of success. With its revolutionary radio and television products, RCA created an entire new industry – consumer electronics. Innovation clearly was the driving force and the key to success. However we are not talking about unbridled innovation. As in the case of Apple, RCA also had a powerful and visionary leader – David Sarnoff.

It was the clearly articulated “visions” of Sarnoff that started RCA on its quest to create the future. Sarnoff passionately believed in the revolutionary potential of three not-yet-invented products for markets that didn’t exist at the time: commercial radio, black-and-white television, and color television. There was essentially no market research to support these product concepts, and the technologies needed did not exist. But that didn’t faze Sarnoff. He told his laboratories directly what specific product was to be invented. He did not specify how to design it, but he did dictate exactly what the final product had to do for the customer. None of these directives were questioned by the organization. After all, times were different then; and Sarnoff was the President.

To say it another way, in the early days of RCA, David Sarnoff made most key decisions with only minimal input from his organization or management team. He alone decided the direction of the company and which programs would be funded. This visionary leadership approach led to great successes for a while – when RCA was the primary developer of the disruptive technologies and when management missteps and program inefficiencies were not important because there was no meaningful competition.

BACK TO THE FUTURE

For RCA, the future is today and RCA is no more. What happened? Well, David Sarnoff did have a vision for another disruptive product – the video recorder. And he communicated this vision to his company just before he retired. But then, new leadership that “followed the rules” took over, and RCA became a different and more traditional company. Many management “mistakes” were made (no clear direction, unwise financial investments, poor technology choices, etc.) leading to disaster and eventual death of the company. In the words of A.D. Chandler Jr.: “If RCA had resisted the lure of the computer and avoided the curse of the conglomerate, if it had continued to concentrate, as did its Japanese competitors, on the consumer electronics market, the one that it knew best, then it might have remained the industry’s path definer.”  (“Inventing the Electronic Century”, 2001, p 49).

And what about Apple, where the future is tomorrow? Did Steve Jobs communicate a new disruptive product vision to his company before stepping down? Will his successor, Tim Cook, be able to preserve the culture and “technology user” focus created by Jobs? Will Cook be more of a traditional CEO or a charismatic leader? Will Apple become a more “traditional” company or will it remain a rebel and industry leader? Can Apple continue on its amazing growth track?

Through hindsight and history, we answered the question about what happened to RCA. But there are no sure answers to our questions about Apple. However, the sagas of these two “rebel” companies provide some important insights.

INSIGHTS

What is the key to the extreme success of a rebel company in disruptive times? It is NOT corporate structure or the experience of the management team or the strict discipline of the employees. Instead, it is the creativity, visionary leadership, and powerful personality of a few key individuals. These are individuals that are not bound by tradition and thus are able to rapidly adapt to a changing environment. They have passionate beliefs, are focused on their goals, and take pride of being the best in their industry or maybe even the best in the world. And they are dedicated to their company and their organization. These individuals are what we call “Dynamic Business Leaders” and they are shaping our future.

Categories: Leadership

Skinnygirl: A Power Brand or a Fad?

Imagine enjoying a cocktail without having any of the calorie-related guilt. Natural-foods chef Bethenny Frankel did and now seems to be creating an empire for herself, starting with low-calorie cocktails. Her Skinnygirl Margarita, offering up only 100 calories for a four-ounce serving of the bottled beverage, already has made quite a splash. And, by targeting the female consumer, this low-cal cocktail is paying off in dividends. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Skinnygirl Margarita is one of the largest ready-to-drink cocktail brands in the United States. And it’s only been on the market for the past 18 months. Because of this rapid success Frankel has been able to sell her Skinnygirl Margarita line to Fortune Brands Inc. (reportedly for $100 million).

What made all of this happen? The success of the Skinnygirl low calorie cocktail clearly is tied to Frankel’s success as a reality TV star. After her first successful appearances on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,” she became a popular cast member of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York.” It was during an episode of this series that she first introduced the Skinnygirl cocktail concept. And she continued to promote her brand as she moved on to star in “Bethenny Ever After.” The result is that the Skinnygirl brand has become a household name, thanks to her fan base.  According to the May 17 edition of Forbes Magazine, “Frankel has become one of the most well-known entrepreneurs on television by making her business everyone’s business.”

However Frankel’s success is due to more than a loyal fan base. It took commitment and hard work. Frankel relates that when she initially tried to find an investor for her Skinnygirl Margarita idea, each of the major alcohol companies turned her down saying women don’t traditionally buy “hard alcohol” products. Others may have seen this as a closed door, but Frankel was convinced that the adult female consumer was an emerging market for low calorie cocktails. So she decided that if no one would back her concept she would find a suitable partner and develop the business herself. And she did.

But Frankel doesn’t intend to stop with drinks. Reportedly she has retained rights to use the Skinnygirl brand for everything other than liquor and has big plans to do so. Will she be successful? Is Skinnygirl a power brand or just a fad?

Some food for thought (“Can Bethenny Crack A Billion?” by Meghan Casserly, Forbes.com, May 18, 2011):

          “Bethenny’s hit on some megatrends with Skinnygirl that are incredibly attractive right now: premiumization, convenience, low calorie and the targeting of the female consumer.”

          “Strategically, Frankel’s plan looks sound. Now it’s about execution. She’s created a marketable brand in a number of favorable sectors all seeing global growth. Even if she can capture just crumbs of each category she can create a very successful business (Douglas Lane, an analyst covering consumer goods at Jefferies & Co.)

Categories: Leadership