Connecting with customers is just the start

Pietro Di Zanno of Di Zanno and Associates talks about the importance of delivering on promises

Pietro Di Zanno is president of Di Zanno and Associates, Inc.

Pietro Di Zanno

Can you explain your background and what you do?

Di Zanno: I’m grateful for what I’ve been able to experience personally and professionally my whole life. I was raised by a loving family, one that pushed me to develop my curiosity and to strive for personal goals.

I have been married to my first love for the past 33 years, and Anna and I have raised two great (now adult) children. I graduated from McGill University, with a bachelor of engineering – chemical, class of ’85. I was able to get a process engineering position with Shell Canada at their Montreal East Refinery (1985 to 1995). I was promoted to process specialist and sent to Shell’s international headquarters in The Hague, The Netherlands (1991 to 1992), and completing my MBA (McGill, class of ’92).

In 1995, I began a new phase of my life, becoming a business development manager, in London, Ont., and later Calgary for Air Liquide Canada. I was promoted to the company’s international headquarters in Paris, France, in 2000, affecting the company’s corporate strategies and commercialization initiatives on a worldwide basis.

Air Liquide purchased Lurgi GmbH, a process technology in Frankfurt, Germany, in July 2007 and I was sent there to help in the cultural acclimatization. Sales successes in methanol and Fisher-Tropsch projects deepened my appreciation for such investments.

We returned to Calgary in 2014, experiencing the full shock to Calgary’s economy.

In May 2018, I started my consultancy, Di Zanno and Associates Inc., leveraging my technical, marketing and sales experience. My first-year successes include helping three startups, one modular construction company, one large petrochemical company and two engineering companies. We will remain in Calgary, a city we’re proud to promote.

What’s your sense of how the economy in Calgary and Alberta is doing?

​Di Zanno: Calgarians are resilient and entrepreneurial. I see them developing new technologies, new products or services, as they help redefine the city’s core identity. I am well aware of the city’s link to the oil and gas and petrochemical industries. These are still suffering from a dearth of ​investment, although I am appreciative of the decisions Inter Pipeline Ltd. and Pembina Pipeline Corp. have made for their propane dehydrogenation and polypropylene projects.

I have seen an uptick in the industry’s mood; asking questions on how to develop petrochemical projects, however, these will take a few years to get to a final investment decision. I do hear that investment managers, be they from Western Canada, Toronto or New York, are worried about Alberta’s access to markets and they have been conditioned to think of our strengths as being dirty, carbon dioxide spewing or passé. We need to change their perceptions.

The clean-tech industry here is determined to develop technologies that will help society while making money. Many of these will not walk through the “valley of death,” but some will and hopefully will be well financed.

My biggest worry is reserved for the engineering companies. The lack of projects is exacerbating a brain drain of experienced people, while younger engineers are not mentored.

Larger companies could weather this period by accessing international projects.

However, as oil and gas and petrochemical companies outsource their engineering requirements out of Canada, the ability to deepen and broaden Calgary’s expertise is affected negatively. This may be a difficult trend to reverse.

How important is networking and personal connections to the success of a business?

Di Zanno: Networking is an absolute necessity. This is a process that needs to continue with all hierarchical strata or levels of expertise. Calgary is a large enough city, requiring one to maintain a professional process to nurture friends and past customers and to meet new people.

The quality of one’s network and personal connections is more important than the quantity of people one gets to know. Social media can lead to many more connections than one can truly cultivate or work with.

Finally, connections can only provide access to people or projects. A consultancy such as mine needs to ensure that any work developed meets customer’s criteria for completion or success, otherwise networking or personal connections will not help obtain future referrals.

What are the best ways for businesses to connect with others?  

​Di Zanno: There’s no one way to meeting people or customers. There are many social media platforms that can be used. Some channels are specific for different industries.

Whether one uses conferences, promoted networking events, public industry meetings, social gatherings or one on one meetings, it is very important to be authentic and trustworthy. Behaving differently will not be in the best long-term interests of all involved.

What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? What characteristics and qualities do they need to have?  

Di Zanno: One needs to have confidence in oneself; that they are contributing to their customer’s successes and to achieving one’s personal needs.

Perhaps a cliché, but entrepreneurs must be adaptable, learning from unexpected events or mistakes and developing new products or services or entering new markets as required.

There’s a need to ensure detail to execution of a project; that it’s not forgotten or relegated to others who don’t share the same vision or values.

Operational attention to the profit and loss statement of the company is necessary to making a business long lasting.

Finally, entrepreneurs must also have an ability to push forward even when the valleys of the business are much longer and deeper than the heights and frequency of its peaks. A good support group, professional and personal, is necessary to help one weather the darker days.

I’ve been a consultant for just one year and the joys of providing a service or of achieving a sale, of meeting a customer’s needs and getting home with a profit has been one of the most personally rewarding adventures of my life. I look forward to many more successes in Calgary, in Canada and beyond.

© Calgary’s Business

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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