It was 12:25pm on 9 February 2009 when I very excitedly signed the documents in a notary’s office in Montebelluna, in the province of Treviso. And thus, in just a few minutes, Peoplerise was born.
The world was going through a truly unprecedented time of economic crisis, and my career had just suffered an unpredictable setback. In the best year of my professional life at the time, in fact, I found myself in the position of having to end my relationship with the company where I held the position of staff director. After 28 years as an executive, it was a very difficult fact to come to terms with. And so, whilst everyone around me was telling me that I was crazy, I decided to make a disruptive choice, to radically change my life, never to return to my position as an executive. Because I thought that if I was going to take a risk, I wanted to do it on the basis of my choices.
Right by my side in this challenge that seemed crazy and absurd at the time was Mauro Petronelli, my co-founder, who gave me the courage I needed and without whom at the time I would never have managed it, and Marzia Visentin, still a partner and associate of Peoplerise, who then chose to embark on this adventure, giving up a permanent contract, a pay rise and a further rung on the career ladder. A great act of trust, the first of many wonderful acts of trust that in these 10 years the Peoplerise project has managed to garner and that, looking back on them, move me deeply.
In those days, like today, our slogan was: “be happy and feel good together”. But in actual fact, that initial period was also very tough. A volcanic moment of total generativity. That was when a truly important part of Peoplerise’s evolution took root. Because the way we are today is the result of the deep conversations we had at that time and the heated discussions between us, all to define what we wanted to be the DNA of this organisation, which was still in its nascent stage.
We spent the first few months staring at the phone, hoping that it would ring. Our friends, as potential clients, were wary and at first, we had to deal with the disappointment of moving forward thanks to the trust of people who didn’t know us as well. Then finally, the first assignment arrived: €2500! Three of us worked on it for days. From there, the important stages came one after another. I remember that we cried when we reached our first €100,000 of turnover. And in 2014, thanks to the fundamental contribution of Jake Esman, who is now our partner, and Pieter Spinder, founder of Knowmads, Peoplerise has gone beyond the confines of the Italian market, securing its first international clients.
It’s not usual to mention difficulties on birthdays. But of the many fundamental moments over these 10 years, 2015 was a critical year, and Peoplerise would not exist today if Marzia and Alessandro Rossi had not agreed to become partners, along with Flavio Fabiani and Tiziano Capelli. That was the year that I found out that I had a serious disease that I didn’t know if I would ever recover from, and I was considering selling up, as I had received a few offers. But they took on the responsibility for the company and it proved to be an important part of its refoundation.
Today, if I look at everything we have left in our wake, I feel an immense joy and see a history packed with surprising people, strong choices and an incredible resilience which has allowed us to bravely pick ourselves back up and start again, even from scratch, every time we encountered difficulties. And I see a deep enrichment and evolutionary process, both for myself and for all of my fellow travellers over the past years. Because every person who has travelled down this road with us has helped to give meaning to our initial insights and make it increasingly clear just what Peoplerise means.
Today, our way of being consultants is to support the people who work in organisations, to strike gold within them, as if we were miners in a way. Because that’s exactly where we started from: our desire to discover the value in ourselves.
I am immensely grateful to so many people, and these are just some of those who have allowed Peoplerise to get to the point where it can celebrate its tenth birthday: all the fantastic clients who wished to experiment with a new vision of consultancy and development along with us, and the whole wonderful tribe and friends of Peoplerise, both past and present, Adriaan Bekman, Alessandra Scala, Alessandro Rossi, Barbara Donadon, Bruno di Loreto Wurms, Carole Ardigò, Daniela Bottega, Elena Crudo, Elisabetta Mutto Accordi, Flavio Fabiani, Francesca Dragotta, Francesca Natale, Franco Furnò, Franco Tagliente, Giorgia Madonno, Giulia Sammartin, Giuseppe Pasciutti, Ilaria Buccioni, Jake Esman, Kay Waardenburg, Luis Caroli, Marco Abbate, Marzia Visentin, Mauro Petronelli, Pieter Spinder, Roberto Chinello, Sandra Ermacora, Sara Taddeo, Silvia Piccin, Susanna Rinaldi, Valentina Catena.
Finally, a huge thanks to all our partners, family and friends, who have endured and supported our messy life, which has at times taken us very far away from them.
…to be continued
Antonio Di Stefano