Walter Sciacca -A Serial Entrepreneur

Evolution is critical to growth and survival. Adapting itself to changing times and tides is crucial, whether for a creature, species, society, or business. Those who refuse to change, become obsolete and eventually extinct.

Without letting go of their original, unique idea, services, or products, businesses must find ways to incorporate the demands of the current trends, technology, and customer requirement. Today, we present the story of a leader, who has always tried to have an inspired vision when it comes to creating business trends instead of following them. This has eventually led him to create innovative development and business models. He is, Walter Sciacca. A brand, a reference point, and an unrivaled leader.

From the Beginning

At the age of 25, Walter founded his first company for the organization of circuit events, computerizing all the organizational steps and therefore being the first company in the world to use such a system. He changed the way in which events are organized and managed. Everything was born from a passion for motorsport and IT, to which organization and management were added. The aim was to innovate and create new trends without following existing ones.

As with other well-known companies in the world, everything started in a garage, inside a small racetrack in the south of Italy, where Walter transformed the garage into an office. His business grew exponentially and achieved a six-figure turnover in its second year. Over the years, he has organized over 1500 events in several racetracks in Italy, in other European countries, and even in other continents, winning over the most important brands of Automotive and Motorsport for the organization of their events.

A well-calculated shift

Walter didn’t want to keep himself limited to the events. So he decided to shift his field of action to management consulting. This was the time when some international racetracks called him directly for a consultant role, initially for the organization of their events and then as a consultant. He was entrusted with implementing ideas to improve racetrack management, setting up a new business model to increase their turnover, profits, the quality of their events and competitions, and thus their national and international prestige.

One of these many consultancies turned into an important role, as he was nominated CEO and Managing Director of the Imola Circuit – Enzo and Dino Ferrari, one of the world’s most important and historical racetracks. His mission here was “time-based”. He was entrusted with the difficult task of boosting the fortunes of a historical racetrack that was heading towards financial decline. He became the creator of the facility’s sporting and economic revival, managing to triple, in his first year of management, the turnover and laying the foundations for the return of the Formula 1 World Championship, an event which then materialized in 2020, after a 14-year absence.

In just two years, Walter achieved all the objectives he was given, and then left the role a year ahead of his mandate, to work on the countless consultancy requests that he had received in the meantime. He subsequently worked in managerial consultancy and the creation of new racetracks or the improvement in how existing ones are managed. In 2020 he founded his eighth and current company, Sciacca International Projects, based in Milan.

The clients of Sciacca International Projects are governments, worldwide investment funds, multinational construction companies, project developers with high economic and technological impact, as well as individual industries and entrepreneurs who, alone or as a group, want to finance and carry out private or commercial projects.

What makes Sciacca Different?

In one word: energy. The energy to transform. The energy to create something new and exciting. Sciacca believes that “traditional” racetracks must change their business models, and they must carry out a real change in direction for the future, over the next 10/20 years. Walter himself developed a paradigm change that allows the concept of a racetrack to change, a structure that increasingly meets the needs of an elite audience, with the solution to obtain benefits in terms of profitability where there are loss-making balance sheets. The sports facility, in this newly developed model, takes on the importance of a business opportunity, with a particular emphasis on efficiency.

Hence the transformation of a sports facility – racetrack – to a real estate operation.A radical change in planning is needed to be able to sustain operations with positive outcomes.

There are two types of projects that Sciacca Projects will present directly to clients: the first is aimed at an elite client: luxury villas that will have a private racetrack, as well as other activities and services.

The second is aimed at a wider audience: a traditional racetrack, and therefore able to host national and international events, but only in appearance, as they are designed to host a whole range of activities that have never been held in a “racetrack” before.

Then they are working on a project that concerns a completely innovative Automotive Mall; a project to build the world’s first completely covered racetrack. They are also working on a project to build the world’s biggest virtual reality and simulators park.

Dealing with Predicament

As a leader, Walter comes across situations every other day when he needs to take tough calls. There also are moments when decisions aren’t as simple as they seem with emotions overriding rational choices. On dealing with such situations, Walter feels whatever condition leads to an altered emotional state, it’s important to know that those who manage to defuse their emotions ‘win’. Experience alone isn’t enough to defuse your emotions, but specific training courses that help you to learn how to manage your own emotions in the most extreme situations also help. “I’ve had the privilege of participating in training courses with the most well-known professionals in applied psychology regarding problem-solving, negotiation, persuasion, knowing how to manage mental traps, active listening, strategic communication, and so on. You need a lot of commitment and continuous learning because in life you either learn or you stop,” shares Walter.

He also feels that most leaders tend to take too much pressure on themselves and find it hard to delegate important or even everyday decisions. On a personal note, he finds micromanagement too restrictive and detrimental to the business and prefers efficient management. His style is horizontal, not vertical or pyramid management, and likes to inform everybody of the business plans. He likes to encourage and reward when the circumstances require so.

“I’ve always said: “if things go well it’s everyone’s merit, but if things go badly, it’s all my fault! It doesn’t matter who’s made the mistake, it’ll be my fault.”

In general, forms of communication are fundamental on all levels, you have to be able to create authentic relationships with true interests, you need to be empathetic, you have to be able to understand others as psychological aspects are important,” says Walter.

He feels leaders should be more empathetic. They have to look at things from different angles and ask themselves what they would do if they were in the other person’s shoes. They need to give people who haven’t got experience a chance and help them to grow professionally with the awareness that they’re working and can make errors, and therefore leaders have to be ready to resolve possible errors, making those who make them see them as a lesson in what not to do, and explaining how to do it better. It isn’t a punishment, but instructions for the future.

Leaders have to indicate the objectives and ask the employees how they intend to reach them, without imposing their way of working straight away. “Sometimes you’ll be surprised and you’ll discover that this objective can be reached in different ways, some of them quicker and cheaper than others, so always listen without interrupting,” shares Walter.

He continues, “Then ask for advice and decide whether to give guidelines or let them do it by themselves. The new recruits that I put in the teams are those who must freely express their ideas, so I like to delegate and I do it continuously. You have to trust young people and at the same time, those who already have years of experience, without creating competition but rather constructive challenges.”

So what other qualities make a Leader?

Being able to listen to understand and not just to hear;

Being able to communicate efficiently and empathetically; and 

Being able to defuse emotions in tense situations in order to manage relationships empathetically and with emotional intelligence. 

The above are the first three that come to Walter’s mind, but obviously, there are many others: empathy, being able to resolve conflicts, knowing how to inspire, knowing how to motivate, being able to put yourself in other people’s shoes, knowing how to look at things from different angles, driving your own team without giving off the impression that you’re commanding them, just driving them, flexibly managing time, modesty, curiosity, the drive to learn and improve, passion, resilience, perseverance, recognizing merits, delegating, encouraging, motivating and being a “psychologist”. This is because one mustn’t think that others will do what they, the entrepreneurs or managers, are willing to do. Emotional intelligence and empathy are fundamental for one’s own team and with clients. “You need to do a bit of soul searching, and when needed, make difficult decisions and have the strength and determination to continue defusing emotions and activating rationality, but always with tact and respect. Raising your voice doesn’t work, punishing errors is another error. Naturally, a good leader must have a vision, he must see where others can’t see yet, and take the whole team with them without leaving anyone behind,” explains Walter. 

Rewarding Moments

Hundreds of press articles around the world have been dedicated to Walter, as well as acknowledgments and prizes. The one he cherishes the most was in 2012, the same year his daughter Vittoria was born. “In October that year, I was awarded an honorary degree in Economics and Commerce with a Ph.D. It was a great surprise for me, but throughout my life, I’ve never paid attention to prizes or acknowledgments because, for me, the best one of all is the satisfaction of our clients, as the success of our business is down to them,” reminisces Walter.

As for the young entrepreneurs who look up to leaders like him, Walter feels that while it’s good to have passion when they start, it mustn’t blind them. Passion must be balanced with rationality and analysis because so many professionals have gone bankrupt following their passion. 

He shares that it’s important to continue learning and one has to travel a lot to see for themselves how others are developing. While one shouldn’t blatantly copy others, one must take hints on how to do things differently and better. “It’s important to never stop updating your knowledge, participating in training courses, conferences, and how useful it can be for continued growth because you never stop learning. You must be resourceful but humble at the same time. Above all, never give up, you need to try and try again until you achieve your desired goal. Don’t be scared to make mistakes and learn from them. In conclusion, I’d recommend being patient and proactive at the same time” advises Walter.

Living with the New Normal

The pandemic has impacted every sector bringing about either sudden change or a fast-pacing ongoing change process. When asked how has it impacted his company and its growth plans, Walter says, “The dreams I had in my drawer I’ve realised them all, now I’m working on the ones I have in the wardrobe and then there are the dreams I have inside the warehouse and it’s a very, very big warehouse.”

He believes that the future lies in the fragmentation and sectorisation of the target audience, in a market where the ability to evolve is the key to success. The recipe for success calls for a fundamental and not at all expected ingredient. It’s the vision, the ability to “see” in advance the evolution of the market in which you work, and to achieve it, you have to be real “visionaries”, able to keep project ideas in your ‘warehouse of dreams’, thought up even 5 or 10 years earlier and destined to become reality in the coming years, where the only limit is to have no limits.

The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t created problems for Sciacca, regarding its future objectives and projects. It’s certainly accelerated some processes, especially in the IT sector which has already reached incredible levels of development. The IT sector has always been a strong point of the businesses Walter has established and Sciacca was already way ahead of the competition. This advantage has proven to be successful because, with minimal effort, they obtained the maximum result. They are able to bring the clients’ projects to life through virtual reality and augmented reality. This is a huge advantage as they can see the project as if it already existed and appreciate its qualities in a “real but virtual” way. “My company has developed projects that won’t be revealed for another 3 or 5 years, and others will be carried out within the next 10 years. These projects satisfy investors and their clients for a long time and in the meantime, I’m already thinking about the next decade, because as I’ve said before, being able to evolve is the key to success but only if you can look towards the future,” concludes Walter Sciacca.