“God writes straight on crooked lines;” we only need to abandon ourselves to his love, despite spite of our limitations.” These were the concluding words of business owner Livio Bertola from Cuneo, Italy during an interview of September 30, 2013 with journalist Gabriella Facondo on the Nel cuore dei giorni show on Italy’s TV 2000.
Livio tells how as a young military man in Rome, he felt a calling in a meeting with a priest from his area, a subtle call which later he felt even stronger when he met the Focolare in 1995. From that moment the spirituality of unity became a way of life for Livio, which spread to his family and also relationships at the company that from then on operated according to the principles of the Economy of Communion (EoC) , leading to unexpected and often surprising results.
Founded in 1946 by Antonio, Livio’s father and two uncles, Bertola srl is a leader in the chromium plating industry. It has about 30 employees and its customers include: Ferrari, Volvo, Kia, Nissan, Ducati, Guzzi and Piaggio. In 1991 Livio took the helm in running the company and four years later, in 1995, there was a big change. Livio recounts: “In the 90s when I heard talk of the Economy of Communion, I wanted to understand it more deeply.” Livio went to Loppiano, a Focolare town near Florence. There he met Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement: “I heard her speak to a group of people composed of non-believers, agnostics and Christians. “The most important thing in life,” she said, “is to love. Love everyone; be the first to love; put yourself in the other person’s shoes. But most of all, love without any ulterior motives or self-interest.”
Livio’s life changed and the centrality of the human person urged him to look upon employees, suppliers, customers and even competitors, with different eyes. Even the firm’s internal operations no longer remained the same. “A genuine friendship was formed with each employee of the company,” Livio affirms, “which continued after working hours.”
Several employees are Muslim. Right from the start I had also proposed to them that we live the Golden Rule, which is respected by all religions and people of good will: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I often visited them in their homes, showing concern for their personal situations. “Before knowing you,” they told me, “here in Italy we felt like strangers. Today, after coming to know this evangelical love through you, we fell like we are in a family!” One time Livio came to learn of the situation of two non-Europeans. There wasn’t much work in his company at that moment, “but I wanted to trust in God,” he recounts, “and I hired them. For Siamo we were also able to find him a house and some furniture. For these young men life has changed for the better; but also for the company things have become better: almost inexplicably, someone placed a huge order that has enabled us to increase personnel.”
And the crisis? “Naturally, try to find work alternatives in order to acquire new clientele,” says Livio, “but mostly I try to trust, focusing on fostering brotherly human relationships. Trying to do things right for others, you also end up doing them better, and the market notices. An example? One large company that had decided to leave us and give their production to a foreign company because of lower cost has now returned to us because it realizes that quality always wins.”
Bertola has been linked for many years to the network of businesses that adhere to the EoC and, in 2012, several EoC business people spread throughout Italy felt it would be opportune to found the Italian Association of Business Owners For An Economy of Communion (AIPEC). The group is open to anyone who adheres to the EoC. Livio Bertola was elected president of the Association (for information, www.aipec.it).