- IMD Business School
Alumni Stories · Strategy

Outpacing the competition

November 2018

Simone Giandolfi’s career in sales took off thanks to his ambition and desire to stand out from the crowd. Attending IMD’s Strategic Thinking program was, for him, a defining moment in his career.

While Simone Giandolfi was contemplating whether to go to university, he was offered his first job in May 2008, due to his excellent spoken English and people skills. At this small company that sells medical devices for dermatology and aesthetic surgery, he was in charge of communication with foreign suppliers and managing orders.

After six months he was promoted to a national sales role, thanks to his excellent customer service skills, and for the next 18 months, he traveled all over Italy. Dressed in a suit and armed with a PowerPoint presentation, he sold products to customers looking to diminish stretch marks and cellulite.

“I was barely 19 and I was meeting university professors, rich plastic surgeons who could have easily been my grandpa,” says Simone. “It was a real street school and I learned so much from every kilometer traveled and every door slammed in my face.”

In 2011, Simone went from car-based sales to a desk and phone-based sales job when he joined Tech Data, an IT distribution company. He went from a six-person team to an office of 1,000 people, and became part of a worldwide workforce of 12,000 employees.

“I immediately realized what my first goal was – to prove that I was not just a number,” recalls Simone. After two years of hard work, he moved from the ‘rookie’ team to the team responsible for large accounts.

Another two years went by, and just as Simone felt he needed a change, an opportunity came up at Infotheek Group, a Dutch IT company with offices across Europe. The firm wanted him to develop the Italian market, and invited him to headquarters for a three-month training.

“I had a fixed contract with a career development plan already in place and all of my friends and family advised me against accepting the new job. Despite the risks and negative feelings, I went for it.” The following year, Simone moved back to Italy and opened the first Italian office. The office soon grew to 10 people and revenue increased 13-fold between 2014 and 2017.

Simone says attending IMD’s Strategic Thinking (ST) program in 2017 was a turning point in his career. “After four years of impressive growth, I had to prepare myself and my team to face a 2018 that was showing increased competitors on our core business, while understanding how and where to grow.”

“What I learned during IMD’s ST program gave me exactly what I needed: tools for running an analysis, finding alternatives, taking action – all to outpace the competition while increasing our profitability,” he explains.

Immediately after completing the program, he applied what he had learned to the Italian market, particularly on the refurbished hardware product lines, where he says, “quality matters given that the products are used”. By developing a go-to-market strategy, the company subsequently enjoyed impressive year-over-year growth.

The ST program comprises of eight weeks of online study and one-to-one coaching. It aims to combine the classroom feeling of real interaction with the flexibility of online learning. Simone says, “The group assignments helped make me feel part of a ‘classroom’, and overall the program’s flexibility was enough to leave room for creativity while maintaining a high level of education.”

Since completing the program, Simone has been promoted to Regional Manager for Southern and Eastern Europe,  which he says, “is thanks to the positive results of his team in the Italian office”. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the knowledge I acquired in the ST program,” he explains.