Nada Serafini: “A gentleman once foretold me that…”

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Nada Serafaini

(By Chiara Risolo, translation by Enrico Sibilla) She holds her ground like a last-generation Merkava tank delivering Formula One-grade performance: meet Nada Serafini, or The Nada, that ungrammatical yet intimate and genuine “The” anticipating, summarizing and marking the impossibility of finding another quite like her. Her mould was cast in Pesaro on the 26th September of a year old good manners dictate not to specify, and then discarded.
Language studies (she speaks English, French, German and a decent self-taught Spanish), an unbridled passion for modern dance and music, Nada is of the kind the best entrepreneurs want by their side.
She’s Head of Sales & Marketing at Pershing (Ferretti Group): a major role she worked very hard (and deserved) to achieve after staying at their shipyard since a very young age. For the record, her career started by chance. “I was headed to the Istituto Olivetti in Fano to pick a diploma I had got after an IT course and decided to drive through the industrial area and look for an occupation: my father had just lost his, a job all my family depended upon” she recalls. “Some didn’t even came to the door. Others were kinder, but told me they didn’t need me. Eventually, after trying at Cantiere Navale Bellocchi, a lady told me to give it a shot at Cantieri Navali dell’Adriatico di Castelvecchio (now Pershing): they were hiring and I might have a chance”.
Needless to say, Nada turned her (father’s) car over, fate-bound. Not knowing what a ship is, for that matter. But she was in good company, though: a strong willpower and a good practical sense were her passengers.
A colleague welcomed her: “Come in” he told her, gently waving his hand. He immediately put her to the test, as if he’d been waiting for her all along. “On my first day I answered five different telephone lines simultaneously. The founding partners were Fausto FilippettiTilli Antonelli and Giuliano Onori and I was instructed to always say they were not on the premises. My task was only to note down names and messages. I was summoned on the following day for my second test, a 8-hour task. They wanted to understand what I was exactly able to do. I could do nothing, actually! I could neither type nor write in shorthand… I could do none of the things they wanted from me. In the end, they asked me what my skills were”. “So, young lady, what can you actually do?”. “I speak a few languages “. “Good, would you go to trade fairs?”. “It just depends, how many?”. “About a couple a year “. “I’m in”.
And she did accept the job indeed. In the course of 26 years the trade fairs have grown into two a month, often held on the opposite sides of the planet. To be precise, her professional experience began with her request for a one day leave. “I had to meet a very kind gentleman, who owned a hotel in Marotta, and tell him that – contrary to what I had promised – I would not begin working as his receptionist and interpreter on the following day, a late-May Saturday of 1991”.
This may sparkle some smiles. Nada went there in person, (probably) unaware how inappropriate it is to ask for a leave on your second day of work, but her intellectual honesty made her do it. She even had a solution in store: she suggested the hotelier to hire a friend of hers. Moved, the gentleman foretold her she would make a career in a company that he believed would break big.
People listen to “The” Nada”, they trust her. You develop a kind of empathy with her, that is later confirmed by her actual deeds, day after day. Her career has been no easy walk, sure, but her obstinacy, honesty and determination have repaid her.”Throughout the Nineties I kind of struggled, notably because I was a woman. I would meet a client and feel the skepticism. Some, before I could even speak, would pose me tricky questions… I had a name for those situations: “admission tests”. They would ask me if I knew what a motor is and what horsepower is needed on a specific boat. I only earned their respect because I knew all the answers”, she recalls. “Today things have changed, a woman in the nautical industry is not an exotic creature anymore”.
In the beginning she would take home all the faxes the company was receiving from abroad and learn the technical terms in English, German, French, Spanish… Plus a lot of study and determination and the privilege of learning from some real masters: Antonelli and Filippetti, among the others, and her current management. “They taught me everything. They passed their passion on to me. They showed me the world. Still today, when I meet Tilli, I laugh and remind him that he’s the one who made me the monster I am”.  Nada did her part, too. For instance, her ability to adapt to change is uncommon: “For 26 years I have been experiencing changes in management teams, marketing directors, passing through so many different worlds, economic and financial scenarios. I have been constantly tuning in to different frequencies, without neglecting my moral principles, my honesty, my loyalty. If I’m still working at Gruppo Ferretti it’s because you never get bored here. There’s so much work to do. For instance, Pershing’s potential reach into the Far East is so huge it can’t be quantified. We’ve started working in Africa too, and we must bring Latin America back. Out there is a world still to explore”. One year ago, she was also put in charge of Itama, a brand that she deems as valuable and “able to broaden its business horizons”.
Nada cannot be stopped
, she’s a woman who has learned not to get upset: “In my twenties I would get angry at everything. Now I’m different. I only scowl when energies are wasted because people work against a goal: finding a solution together should be a common ground. I develop a passion for things, I dive into them. But I don’t hold grudges: once I have spoken my mind, unfiltered, I only look forward”.
She has a great dedication to ship owners and she knows that, if a client is really interested in a boat, the only possible failure point lies in agreeing on its price: everything she does is done to satisfy her client’s wishes. “I pay attention to what Pershing clients need and do my best not to disregard their expectations. I’m not interested in a cold and detached sale of a ship. The skills I have developed over the years and my ability to listen, for which I have to thank Stefano de Vivo (Sales Manager at Gruppo Ferretti), are true drivers for success”. They are key weapons in the nautical industry, which has experienced a “first and after” divide, due to the economic crisis. Nada, however, believes that such crisis also did some good“Somehow it sanitized the industry”, she admits.
“Between 2004 and 2008 the nautical industry was like science fiction to me. We were working in a hyper-excited environment. Clients would argue for a one-day difference in a ship’s delivery. The Italian lease system allowed those who could afford a 50 feet ship to buy a 80 feet. The Lehman Brothers collapse changed everything. That system collapsed, too. And what was the first thing that ship owners did? They returned their ships. These gentlemen’s companies were undergoing a deep crisis and they first had to save themselves and readjust. It was even morally inadvisable to own a boat. Everything was downsized. Now is much the era of BtoC sales, that is selling to a passionate end user, rather than BtoB deals. The nautical industry has become healthier and less than a status symbol. Those who buy a boat today are doing it because they truly love it and can afford it. 90% of our ship owners buy using their own money. Cash payment deals have increased, under the clients’ request. Everything is more real now. Once the shipyards used to have a crammed order portfolio, but everything was actually in the dealer’s hands. Today our portfolio is 98% retail, meaning an end buyer really exists. It’s quite satisfactory”.
Nada has had many satisfactions in the past 26 years, but one especially stands out. “Last year, at the Marina dei Cesari in Fano, I delivered a Pershing to Piero Ferrari (now a Gruppo Ferretti stakeholder). Later, on a Sunday he invited me onboard: just me, him and the crew. His chef cooked for us and we even watched a Formula Uno Grand Prix. He told me a lot of things about car races. It was such a privilege!”.
Another great thrilling moment Nada will always carry in her heart is meeting another giant in person, Carlo Riva, who recently passed away, on 10th April, in Sarnico. She wants to salute him with these words: “Thank you, Ingegner Riva, for your passion, strength, determination and wisdom, but mostly for teaching us your blunt humility. You used to say: When you watch the star-filled sky, you feel like a millionnaire. Thank you, it was a true honour meeting you”.
Nada knows what “humility” means. She’s aware her industry may not be “for everyone”, but she stands with her feet on the ground. To her, true luxury is having some spare time for herself, her son and her friends. To her, luxury is being free to choose, or help those who are less fortunate, without boasting about it. So, full steam ahead, “The” Nada!

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