Interview with Marco Castiglioni

Chief Sales Officer at Schwarz Druck GmbH

Schwarz Druck is strengthening its management team. Marco Castiglioni has been in charge of overall sales as Chief Sales Officer since the beginning of April and has many ideas and visions with the aim of successfully driving the Hausham-based security printing company forward. We are curious and would like to know what impressions he has been able to gather so far, what strategy he is pursuing and, moreover, we would also like to get to know him a little better personally. That’s why we asked him a few questions. 

Tell us something about your career.
I have been working in the printing and paper industry for over 30 years. I had the great fortune to learn in a renowned large company, Mohnmedia GmbH as part of today’s Bertelsmann Printing Group, where I received extensive training as a printer and great mentoring. After the apprenticeship, many internal training courses followed, as well as the master school and the successful completion of my industrial engineering degree with a specialisation in mechanical engineering. The company has always supported me extensively. I was able to gather a lot of know-how in various departments – early on, away from the three-shift system, to the first responsible project management. But I was also able to gain a lot of experience in the areas of quality management, investment projects and internal sales service. After more than 16 years, I was driven out into the world. I first moved to Bolzano to work for a medium-sized printing company with around 200 employees, where I was able to take on my first extensive management role as plant manager. In this role I was able to learn an incredible amount, sometimes also through the one or other mistake that one makes as a young manager. A fact that I always look back on with pleasure nowadays and about which I am just as happy to report, especially to young junior staff.
I still live in South Tyrol, but in the meantime I’ve been abroad for a while. Among other things, I spent almost 2 years in Saudi Arabia, where I managed a relatively large printing house and was responsible for the entire textbook production in the country.
My lateral entry into value and security printing came with the exciting task of managing a paper mill in Slovenia for an investment company. It was a big challenge, because we had bought the company out of insolvency, reorganised it from the ground up and positioned it in the market. The paper mill operated one of the few existing large-scale paper machines for security and banknote paper.
At the time, we were extremely successful in this task, but I had to deal intensively with the production processes of security and banknote paper production. Of course, this included above all the banknote – still the most complex printing product with its many security features. For 1 year, I stood next to the daily business at the machines and had everything explained to me in detail by the skilled staff – from stock preparation to finishing. An indescribable enrichment for me personally, which simply fascinated me. So you can say that I got stuck in value and security printing……

What drew you to the upland in Germany now?
I have known Schwarz Druck for a few years. I already had indirect contact in the context of my previous job. It was about the joint implementation of some projects. The idea of moving to Schwarz Druck has grown over the last two years. During the pandemic, there were always good conversations, which became more intensive and concrete towards the end of last year. At the beginning of this year I decided to make the switch. Yes, and now I am here and know about the challenges, but also about the opportunities and the great potential.

What fascinates you about Schwarz Druck?
The untapped potential. The current situation is exciting. How is our market environment developing? How is the supplier market developing, especially in terms of price trends and material availability? Energy costs? Changes in our habits? All this keeps us busy as a team. We work on and shape this, and prepare ourselves strategically as a team.

Where do you see particular potential in the company?
We now have a very extensive and valuable network. Whether it’s certain new customers, suppliers with whom we work more closely, certain business partners with whom we can and will be stronger on the market together. In this context Schwarz Druck is sometimes the door opener for a business, sometimes the partner. That’s where we come in, and that’s how we’re going to position Schwarz Druck more broadly – and on a global scale. We want Schwarz Druck to regain its international presence and leave its footprint. Mass is not the decisive factor here, but how we serve different markets that we have not been able to serve to such an extent before. Now we are in a position to do so, and we will not be held back.

Where do you see particular potential in the market?
The market itself is the potential for us. There is definitely a right to exist for companies of the size of Schwarz Druck. If you look in the trade press, there are a handful of “big players” in the world. But the potential on different continents is so great in value printing and a medium-sized company like Schwarz Druck is quite capable of producing it – regardless of how big the order is. We have already proven this many times. There are so many countries that have a high demand for ID documents, security documents, tax stamps, visa labels and so on. By focusing on our competencies, we can take our business where it comes from and take it where it belongs.

Are there core products for the global market?
Schwarz Druck’s overall portfolio consists of 3 pillars:
PT in the DACH regions is one of our supporting pillars. The second pillar is value printing in the government sector – especially in the international market. And the third pillar is industry. Here, we are joining forces with our sister company Dynamic Systems, which deals with intelligent (smart) labels, mainly in connection with track & trace solutions for the industrial sector. These three pillars have different challenges, especially with regard to the major topic of digital transformation, which we are also dealing with very intensively.
Which products do you see increasingly in value printing?
Tax stamps, passports, visa labels and ID cards. There are a lot of countries around the world that still have a great need for birth certificates, certificates, diplomas and other security documents. This is what sets us apart: We hold the Intergraf certification at government level – the second highest certification awarded by Intergraf. Therefore we are the right contact and service provider.

Do you already have a strategy that you can and want to talk about?
We are currently working on that. The company needs a clear strategy and a clear formulation of goals for the future. The first working meetings with the management team have already taken place. I am confident that we will have our new corporate strategy by the beginning of the third quarter of this business year.

Are you more the strategist or the operative?
It would be a bit presumptuous to see me as a great strategy developer. I know how to do something like this and what an adequate approach looks like, but I also know that everything only works if you have the right team around you. That’s why I had extensive, preparatory discussions with each team member beforehand. And yes, we have the right team, which is committed to the project and fully “burns” for it. On the one hand, this gives me the certainty of achieving a goal-oriented result and, on the other hand, of implementing the developed measures in a sustainable and continuous manner. This is the great art of monitoring the implementation in a self-disciplined manner at all times, setting milestones and controlling them on the way to the goal.
The biggest enemy is often time. Sometimes it is unavoidable to run certain things in parallel. I am already writing a sales strategy on how I envision global sales. That is certainly not just part of the corporate strategy, rather the sales strategy builds on the corporate strategy. But I can’t wait until we have finished developing the strategy and can derive the necessary measures from it. Especially as far as key account management is concerned. Travelling is possible again, so we take an active approach. We already have a clear structure in sales, so we can organise our current capacities well and precisely and go to market efficiently.
In 5 years you will read a press release from Schwarz Druck. What should it say about the outcome of your strategy?
It should say that Schwarz Druck is the most attractive employer for young people in this region.

How do you manage to motivate yourself again and again? And how do you transfer this power to your team?
I have an extremely high level of self-motivation. Just because I am lucky enough to be able to do what I really enjoy. I am an optimistic person. But I also know that I don’t fall into blind optimism, but always have the numbers, data and facts present and am realistic enough to say that it can or cannot be done. You also have to be able to say: It won’t work! You have to have the backbone to stop projects that have been started, if necessary, and to stand behind this decision. An indispensable quality of good leaders.

So you are not afraid to lose face when you say: “We focused on the wrong thing”.
This is one of my credos and a fundamental part of my personal philosophy. You simply cannot assume in real (entrepreneurial) life that out of 10 decisions to be made, you will make 10 right ones.
I love entrepreneurial work. I love being able to create things. I also love to change things, to build things up, to work on turn-around management. But that doesn’t always go smoothly. For me, it’s already enough of an incentive that I’ve been given these areas of responsibility up to now.
I am a manager with heart and soul. I love working with people. To accompany and coach people. Just as I was allowed to experience it. I am happy that I can pass it on like this.

Do you have the feeling that your team is just as motivated?
I don’t allow myself to evaluate this myself or to answer this question. My answer is: Ask the team itself. My team’s voice is more important and valuable than mine in this.
However, I am a very emphatic person and can quickly sense when something is wrong in the team and I have to act.
I have my own leadership philosophy: My staff over the last few years have given me a lot of credit for this and have given me encouraging feedback, so that my path so far could not have been so wrong. I attach great importance to feedback, which I have always received. Sometimes with poignant, positive emotions that I will never forget.
Every day I try to give my team clarity and direction. Where we want to go is not the crucial issue. Why we do something is important for the team. If you live this orientation in your daily business, you have already achieved a lot. And what is very important: Encourage. Challenge. Give feedback. This motivates employees to give their best. They must have the feeling that there is clarity and transparency, that the door is always open and that they are not afraid to come to me with problems.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
The creative and entrepreneurial task. I am a leader and entrepreneur with heart and soul.
You can feel that too. Of course, we would also like to know a little more about you as a person. What do you appreciate about the people around you?
I have learnt a lot in my foreign assignments. I worked with different cultures, which was sometimes quite challenging, both interpersonally and in day-to-day operations. For example, when you come as a Western European to the most conservative Islamic country, Saudi Arabia. There are framework conditions that we are not familiar with and that are sometimes difficult to comprehend. The intercultural factor in such projects brought me to the following realisation: mutual respect is a very important value, although not the most important one. In connection with other cultures, it is of course a completely different dimension. But if you take a look at the history of these cultures, you get a completely different understanding and then your respect grows. All in all, this experience was an enormous enrichment for me as a person. I have learned to be very careful with evaluations or judgements.

What don’t you like at all?
I always say to my team: My door is always open. Come to me even if there are problems. Covering up, postponing, sitting out can mean great collateral damage. My culture is to deal openly with mistakes. We never look at why something happened and who is to blame in the first place. No, we are always solution-oriented. First the solution, first the client. And when that’s done, we talk about how we can improve in the future so that the same or similar mistakes don’t happen again. From this we derive appropriate measures, implement them and monitor ourselves. I don’t like it at all when mistakes are covered up. Otherwise, unpunctuality annoys me. I also don’t like disorder. For example, my desk always has to be tidy, otherwise I can’t work.
What have you always wanted to do in your life?
To sail through the Mediterranean Sea for a whole summer without having to look at the calendar or the clock.

What does your perfect day look like?
At work, I have a scheduled day with no idle time. With an effective portion of meetings. I have the opinion that one should be economical with meetings. Too much talking automatically leads to less implementation. A certain degree of implementation is always part of every meeting. At the end of a meeting it must always be clear: Who does what by when. Then the whole thing is rounded off for me. In addition, the day should be team-oriented. I want to have the necessary time to communicate with my staff. There always has to be a little space for that. It can also be small talk sometimes. This interaction is very valuable. As a sales manager, I also go for a walk through the production at least every 2 days.

So now let’s leave work out of it. What does a perfect Sunday look like for you?
The perfect Sunday takes place in South Tyrol. It starts with a morning walk through the vineyards around Lake Kaltern. After 16 years, that’s still as much fun for me as it was in the beginning. I look out into the mountains so often and am grateful that I get to live there. Of course, coupled with a stop at a cosy South Tyrolean hut with traditional delicacies and a good glass of red wine. In summer I like a good Pinot Blanc, in winter a good Lagrein.

Is there a motto in your life?
It’s right here on my desk: “Happiness comes to those who are prepared.” That has always been my motto. A former co-worker immortalised the motto for me as a farewell in the picture with the sailing ships (my passion). A very nice gesture and a very precious gift for me.

And last but not least: Do you have anything on your mind that you would like to share with the readers?
I would like to invite everyone reading this to notice us again! To realise that Schwarz Druck no longer has a sleepy face, but that we have a lot of positive things going on.

Mr Castiglioni, thank you very much for the exciting insight you have given us in the last minutes. We are very happy to have you on board the Schwarz Druck team and are already seeing the first results that we are on the right course and will achieve great results in the long term!

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