NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The honeymoon period that typically serves to transition an employee to a new job has been more like a never-ending ride at an amusement park for Paolo Ferrari.
"It's been a roller-coaster ride as you can imagine," Ferrari said.
He was named president, CEO and chief operating officer for Bridgestone Americas Inc. on Jan. 15, replacing the retired Gordon Knapp.
About 90 days later, most of the U.S. was on lockdown, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread through North America. Then the unthinkable happened: Bridgestone, like almost every other tire manufacturer, idled production at each of its North American plants.
"It's not the beginning you would want to have," Ferrari said recently during an interview with Tire Business.
Ferrari has spent time on three continents during his career. He joined Bridgestone in January of 2016 as CEO of Bridgestone Europe/Middle East/Africa, and was given the additional title of chairman of Bridgestone Americas in September 2017.
Ferrari's experience in automotive, tires and mobility began in 2012, when he was hired by Pirelli & C. S.p.A. to be chairman and CEO of Pirelli North America and later CEO of Pirelli Latin America. Prior to that, he worked in telecommunications and investment banking.
His experience and background served him well as the crisis first took hold. With family in Northern Italy, where the pandemic hit hard, and friends and former co-workers in other parts of Europe sharing their experiences with him, he said he had a sense of how dangerous the crisis would be.
"I have been ahead of the curve because of my personal experience," said Ferrari, who is fluent in English, Italian and Spanish. "That helped me in a way to steer the team, to be ahead of the curve from Day 1 as opposed to catching up."
Even to the surprise of his new co-workers.
"Of course, initially, I did sense from the team, that, hey, maybe we're overreacting," Ferrari said. "I can understand where they were coming from, but (my experience) gave me a sense of how real and how dangerous this was a little bit ahead of the time."
Ferrari had to bring the team together by focusing on priorities, agile decision-making, cutting costs, initiating remote working and creating a safe environment for both employees and customers. In short: He managed the crisis with a clear plan.
"It's been a little crazy, but looking at what we have done, I am quite pleased," he said. "Clearly it shows us how people were ready for change, even on remote working and on agile ways of working."