Dino Fino is both a man and a brand; a name synonymous with furniture retail in Malta. He started his career in his well-known family business, C Fino & Sons Ltd, as a sales consultant when he was 17, and he loved the sector instantly. So much so that he was hooked from the get-go, quickly relinquishing any former ambitions to become an architect.
Dino worked in that business for over 20 years and, while he learnt volumes, he admits it had its ups and downs. “Working with family isn’t easy,” he says. “Especially when things are complicated, with a large number of shareholders and Board members. In such a fast-moving sector as retail, I felt that decisions needed to be taken quickly as, otherwise, opportunities would pass us by. Eventually I knew I had to move on. The switch to setting up my own business was a search for freedom, and I believe I have achieved that.”
Dino made that move three years ago, originally going into partnership with another investor. But he finally bought them out a few months ago and is now sole owner as well as CEO. “I am elated that the company is finally all mine,” he smiles. “Of course, I now have full responsibility, which puts some added weight onto my shoulders. But I also love the fact that I am able to drive all aspects of our strategy and guide my fantastic team. It’s a very exciting time.”
Describing his role today, Dino says he considers himself a colleague. “Above all else I like being on the ground with my team, rather than in an office giving orders. I love that I get to be the leader of an amazing group of hardworking people.”
He’s also very strategic about his use of time: Monday is always dedicated to internal meetings and setting the agenda, while Tuesday to Saturday he is on the ground with the sales team. Dino believes in structure and says it has really shaped the way things have developed across the company. And it certainly seems to be working, as Dino Fino Home + Contracts has grown quite substantially in the three short years since it was launched.
The CEO describes the brand as ‘young and fresh’, with a vision that is attracting younger clients. His showroom’s location on Valley Road – following on from its original base in Hamrun – has also been a plus-point. “Today we cater for those clients who are doing up their home, as well as for contract clients working on a hotel or commercial project. The sectors are quite separate; we have a residential sales department, and a contract office for B2B work. We have eight salespeople in total, supported by admin staff and management, and I am thrilled with the strong team we have curated.”
Together, Dino says this team focuses on customer satisfaction above all else. “If we are quoting for something, then our goal isn’t to take our client’s money but to ensure they have a very positive experience from start to finish. Everything we do has to reflect our name and reputation. I chose to use my own name as the brand because I wanted it to feel personal, and for our clients to know there is a real person behind it who wants them to be happy. I believe this commitment is paying off because, while we started from nothing, we have reached a level of turnover that shows just how much of the market we have managed to capture in three years. I am very pleased with the results.”
In fact, despite the obvious challenges of the year, Dino says his company has achieved considerable growth in 2020. While the pandemic has created undeniable misery for so many – a fact he hugely regrets – he says it has also made businesspeople aware that continuous economic growth isn’t sustainable. “Just because last year was good doesn’t mean next year will be too,” he continues. “It’s taught us to be ready for everything. We realised the value in having time to sit, think, restructure and plan. We have learnt a lot and it has made us stronger.”
The CEO’s own role changed too, with him spending fewer hours in meetings or weeks overseas and more time in the office or showroom. “I spent more time with the team and got to know them better,” he goes on to say. “They knew I was there with them, working through the crisis when it hit and not sitting in my office upstairs. I think that was important.”
One surprise of the period came from an operational shift that saw the showroom open for shorter hours: 10am till 6pm, as opposed to 9am till 7pm. “We shortened our hours during the pandemic and have decided to keep them that way. Our clients have adapted, and it’s actually helped our bottom line. Plus, our staff have more time at home, which makes them more invested when they are at work. It’s a win-win.”
Online opportunities were also created. For instance, clients were able to have online consultations with the Dino Fino staff even during lockdown, and this has continued. “Beyond that, our staff were also able to receive training online from our foreign suppliers, which meant they could keep up-to-date on the latest product developments. On top of that, the company also launched its online shop, giving customers the choice to both plan their décor and buy their furniture online. Our significant digital development has been a definite plus,” the CEO says.
Dino predicts this development will be important for 2021 too, as the world continues to adapt to recent changes, more people choose to telework, and less offices are built.
“Contract work will be reduced, but there are opportunities in other areas,” he enthuses. “People are looking for quality more than ever and we are able to provide it. We have so many plans in place – both for our own growth and development as a company, and for the clients we service. It’s definitely going to be a busy and exciting year.”
So it seems there’s no holding the young and vibrant Dino Fino Home + Contracts brand back, and the CEO’s own plan is to forge ahead with more energy and determination than ever. “Since 2017, my vision for this company has been to make it one of the top three furniture retailers in Malta by 2022. We’re now two years away and there’s lots to be done, but I believe it can be done. 2022 is firmly in sight,” he says with a smile.
This interview is part of a serialisation of 50 interviews carried out with Malta’s top CEOs, featured in the bumper edition of MaltaCEOs 2021 publication, which was recently released. Despite the many challenges of 2020, this is the largest edition to date.
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