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Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

Michele Zanor

2nd chance entrepreneurs in action


Michele Zanor

Italian restarter


IT - 33078 San Vito al PN

Setting up in business - lots of enthusiasm and little seed capital

In 1987, Michele Zanor and a partner founded a company producing and selling wooden gift articles. They set out with enthusiasm but little seed capital, and success came quickly. They started out producing exclusively for one large Italian firm, but soon acquired many other customers, including some large international firms. They strengthened their international business relations by taking part in fairs all over Europe.

From conflict to crisis

The honeymoon was soon over, though. After an increase in the firm's capital stock, the partners began to disagree about business strategy, in particular financial management. They were unable to find any mutually acceptable solutions and strategies. Three years after starting out together, it was decided that Michele's partner would withdraw and Michele would take over his stake. Since the prospects were good, Michele was confident that he would cope with the financial burden. But he was rocked by a series of blows in quick succession. In the early 1990s, Italy went through economic stagnation and a financial crisis. Important customers cut back on their orders or stopped them altogether and the company fell short of its projected returns. At the same time, the banks stepped up their pressure for debt repayment and suppliers also clamoured for faster payment.

Insolvency - social death?

The pressure increased and Michele desperately tried to save the business. He negotiated with partners, banks and other financing institutions, but they all wanted collateral - and Michele had none to offer. He had invested all his personal assets in the company, the cost gap was widening and the market did not look up. Finally he could see no way out and ten years after starting his business, it was declared insolvent. "Business failure is a kind of social death, with every little aspect of your life badly jeopardised," Michele recalls. "I really felt abandoned by everyone, it was a nightmare." The constant pressure and the repeatedly frustrated hopes for rescue were an enormous strain.

Fresh start with a new partner

At first Michele felt as if he had lost everything - even his trust in his surroundings and other people. But within a few months he had gathered new strength and regained his self-confidence. In 2000 he started another business with a new partner.

Lessons learnt: a business partnership is like a marriage

Especially if the company gets in a squeeze, it is crucial to get expert support for negotiations with banks, customers and suppliers. But even in everyday business, you should not do and decide everything on your own but should call in trustworthy experts. Michele has been more cautious in his arrangements with his new partner, having realised that a business partnership is a bit like a marriage - together for better or worse.

Michele Zanor's advice to entrepreneurs in financial difficulties:

"Don't be afraid to ask for help. This is the first step towards finding a way out. I don't just mean help with operational matters and negotiations but also psychological support. Never underestimate the mental pressure at this stage."

First try

Company founded in: 1987

Business sector: production and sale of gift articles

Core business: manufacture of wooden gift articles, mainly for business customers

Maximum numbers of employees: 5

Insolvency: 1997

Fresh start

New start: 2000


Business sector: Import -export

Core business: Import from Eastern Europe of raw materials for the production of plastics and export of printing machinery. A subsidiary in Hungary recycles plastic rejects.

Number of employees 2007: 10


Alfred Lanfer

Hervé Lecesne

Manuela Mutschler

Cristian Rovira

Friedrich Stummer

Jacqueline Dubernet

Josef Zotter

Michele Zanor

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