Alessandro De Felice of Prysmian fears what today’s economic problems mean for his childrens’ generation

What are you thinking about right now?

Is Louis Enrique the right coach for AS Roma? But more seriously, after a major acquisition made by Prysmian in 2011, I’m approaching various renewals for integrating the expiring insurance programmes. The company expects good results and selecting the best option is not easy.

What is your greatest fear?

Without a doubt my biggest fear is something bad happening to my children or my wife. But considering the current economic outlook I’m worried about what the future will be for our sons and whether they will be able to have something more or at least the same as their parents.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

I was the best man at the wedding of one of my best friends and during dinner I used a typical Italian adage which literally translates as “those who go with the lame learn to limp”. I’m not sure if there’s something similar in English but it basically means that a person learns from those he associates with. When I saw all the other diners looking at me silently I realised that my friend’s new father-in-law was sat with us and had an amputated foot. At that moment I wanted to disappear.

What is your most treasured possession?

My sailing boat is not just a possession but a passion of mine. Sometimes I think my wife would actually prefer it if I took
a lover.

What makes you happy?

There’s a moment during summer holidays at sunset when I’m on a sailing boat moored in a Tyrrhenian bay, with an iced Sardinian white wine and good music. My children are playing together and my BlackBerry is switched off. True happiness does exist.

What makes you unhappy?

People who don’t deliver on their promises. Our business is still made by fairness and shaking hands while looking in the eyes.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

My first son came a couple of days earlier than expected. That day I was giving a speech at the ANRA conference in Parma (120km from Milan) and while I was on stage I received a text from my wife saying she was going to the hospital. I jumped in the car and drove very fast (the Italian way of driving fast). Just outside Milan the police stopped me and I explained the situation to them. The policeman didn’t fine me but he did say: “Congratulations, I wish you all the best. But make sure your son has his father. It would be very bad if he were born an orphan.” I was taking a stupid risk. And his words were more persuasive that the biggest fine.

What is the worst job you’ve ever done?

When I was student, a good way to earn money (and to meet girls) was to apply for a token role at Cinecittà, a large movie production centre in Rome. Normally they need a lot of people for certain movies. Once I worked for 12 hours on the same scene on a boiling hot summer’s day.

What is your greatest achievement?

Currently it’s probably the feasibility study, business plan and board presentation that I had to do to launch a captive project. I’m glad to say it’s fully operational today. After four years, the result is more than satisfactory and everyone recognises it was a good idea.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

You can never say you have a done deal until it’s physically concluded: unexpected surprises are always around the corner. Also, in our business, fairness and transparency do really return the investment.

Tell us a secret

For a perfect espresso, try putting one-quarter sparkling water and three-quarters still water
in your machine. Disclaimer: I can’t guarantee the machine won’t explode.