Our Journey

Forming the A-Team

The trials and triumphs of making our team.

5 min read

We are now both back to Hong Kong but the forming of our team continues. Last week, we met with the agronomist and oenologist on site and they were on board straight away. Before we left Italy, we also went to Florence to meet the Director of the Coldiretti of the Tuscany region, a major organisation representing agricultural entrepreneurs at a national and European level. We signed up to use their advisory and accounting services, it’s funny that in the agricultural section in Tuscany, everyone knows everyone! When we spoke with the Director of Coldiretti, he asked who our agronomist was, we told him that he's called Marco and he said he knew him well and gave him a call immediately to ensure that things are rolling.

Next, we hired a lovely lady called Elena to help us with bookkeeping. She registered the VAT code for us and set up a company invoice code as well. This code has great significance in Italy as a company. In 2019, Italy moved to digital accounting, meaning that every time an invoice is issued to or from your company, it will automatically send one to you, your account and most IMPORTANTLY one to the tax department! So the tax department knows how much you owe them before you know! Very efficient.

Furthermore, it is with great pleasure to welcome David to the Team - our project manager.

Since we met with a few potential managers last month when we were at the farm, we have been debating and discussing different pros and cons of them. There are a few skill sets that we are looking for and David seemed to be the right fit.

Key factors we looked for when choosing our project manager:

1. Experience in local knowledge and renovation

We thought it was essential that our Project Manager could prove their experience, but showing us what other projects they had undertook around the region and their understanding of local knowledge regarding planning and process.

David has over 20 years experiences in renovation work in Tuscany. Further more he had written 2 books to give guidance to people who are interested in buying and renovating properties in Tuscany, which is available on Amazon.

This was a big tick in this box for us.

2. Communication skills

As we are still living in Hong Kong whilst the renovation is happening and we are not able to be on site too often, due to COVID restrictions, its essential that our manager has excellent communication skills.

Not only to be able to explain to us the details of the design, but also able to listen to us, understand our wants and needs and able to translate that into solutions.

Unfortunately as we do not speak Italian yet, English we though was necessary to be able to understand the details in the design, especially when explaining technicatilites.

David showed us that he was able to give regular updates, not only by email and phone but also taking short videos on site to explain things in Whats App. He is bilingual, speaking fluent English and Italian, so that is definitely useful as his connections are broader.

We are also running another renovation project in France and we understand how difficult it is to communicate to non-English speakers in detail.

3. A good network

Our project will involve a number of people from surveyors, architects, heating engineers, builders, interior designers, gardeners and even safety officers. All of these people need co-ordinating to ensure that everything comes together. If something goes wrong, the project manager has to be well enough connected so they can call up alternative suppliers to be able to come and fix things.

David already had his own professional team, that includes geometras, interior designers, engineers and architects, so there is already synergy which saves us time to look for other professionals.

4. Good references

We thought it important that not only do we hear what the project manager says, we also get to hear what their previous customers also say about them.

So we spoke with three previous clients of David’s who all spoke highly of him and thought he actually saved them a lot of money.

They stated their major problems were the management of the local workers on site and communication. One of the men told us that he had fired three managers until he found David. They all said that David is exceptional with communication and able to give regular updates to ensure that the client is always updated on any findings or changes.

5. Good value

At first, this was difficult to assess, as when comparing we had to ensure it was apple for apples. At first glance David’s quote looked quite expensive, however, after understanding that his fees also include his whole professional team, it then became very valuable. Other project managers were quoting lower fees, but then everything else, like architects, heating engineers etc, were on top. It made us difficult to understand what the real cost would be.

Consequently, after deliberating, we decided to go with David and his company as they met all our criteria, we could communicate better and he had a team ready at hand to help us on our  journey of renovation. It was a huge relief to have finally found our project manager as we really felt that our renovation was moving at a healthy pace.