I represent the 14th generation of the Beretta family
Mr. Ugo Gussalli Beretta you are one of the member of the Henokiens Association, could you please present yourself to our readers?
I am Ugo Gussalli Beretta and I represent the 14th generation of the Beretta family. Starting from the apprenticeship up to the role of President, I have been active in the company for about 60 years.
My family and our company were the first foreigners invited to join Les Hénokiens (in a time when only French were members). I had also the honour to be the first non-French President of the Association.
Can you present your company and its activities?
Fabbrica d’Armi PIETRO BERETTA S.p.A. is recognized as the oldest industrial firm and the oldest gun-maker in the world.
Centuries before Samuel Colt or Oliver Winchester, Bartolomeo Beretta has solved the mysteries of forging, filing and boring gun barrels – the most fundamental and crucial part of a firearm.
At present, the earliest known Beretta, Bartolomeo, is considered founder of our family business, at least as far back in history as the early 1500s in Gardone Val Trompia, Italy.
Beretta today has evolved into an industrial group that holds direct or indirect participation in 33 companies, with more than 3000 employees in the world, and it is a recognised leader in the manufacturing of portable firearms dedicated to hunting, sporting and personal defence.
Beretta Holding Group has increasingly become a markedly international corporation and a global player in its sector, as a result of a growth that has led to a manufacturing presence in all five continents, but even more important thanks to a vision of the World as its natural space of action.
Through its prestigious brands, Beretta, Benelli, Franchi, Sako, Tikka, Stoeger, Chapuis, Holland & Holland, Steiner and Burris the Group has become a reference point for hunting enthusiasts the world over, who are constantly looking for high quality and reliable products, characterized by strong tradition and continuous innovation to fulfil their passion.
In the sporting segment, Beretta Holding Group's products, and in particular the brand Beretta, represent a point of arrival, spanning from amateur to professional and Olympic level, ensuring shooters access to accurate and reliable firearms and accessories that place them in the ideal position to achieve the best results in competition.
Over the years, the Group has progressively expanded its range of products, especially developing a line of clothing and accessories, characterized by the great attention to quality and technology and with items specifically tailored to the world of hunting, shooting and outdoor activities.
In the first years of the new millennium the Group, through two major acquisitions of Burris and Steiner, has also entered in the field of optics, scopes and binoculars. The growth continued in 2012 with the acquisition of Laser Devices (now Steiner eOptics), a company specialized in the production of laser aiming devices and tactical flashlights, and again more recently with the purchase in 2015 of other two companies, STS and Diffraction, active in the high-end night vision and beacons market. The combination of these companies, active in the electro-optics field, constitutes a division within the Group, that can leverage on strong synergies in the development of products and commercial distribution.
At the same time, Beretta Holding Group is considered a key partner of the governments worldwide as it is a supplier of integrated solutions utilized by their defence departments and agencies involved in the law enforcement duty.
Which have been the outstanding events for your company in the recent years?
The greatest success story regarding pistols is the fact that the American Armed Forces and State Police Forces started using the Beretta 92 series in 1985. In January, 2009 Beretta won the largest US military handgun contract since World War II to supply a total of 450,000 model 92FS pistols.
International sports events are also providing great success. Beretta won its first Olympic gold medal in trap shooting in Melbourne in 1956. Since then, Beretta guns have won more international competitions than any other firearm. In 2016 at Rio Olympic Games, Beretta athletes won 4 golds out of 5, 4 silver out of 5 and 2 bronzes out of 5. With these 10 medals, if Beretta were a Nation, it would have been the 20th in the Rio Olympic Games world ranking.
Beretta loves taking on innovative challenges also by involving external artists and designers.
• With Giugiaro Design Beretta developed the first ergonomic guns with a polymer frame.
• In 2010 Beretta convinced for the first time in history a "Japanese national heritage", the Master Engraver of Katane, Izumi San, to work on a firearm, giving life to a masterpiece set, inspired by the Japanese idea of perfection " WA”, which includes a premium shotgun SO6, a tantō sword and a gun cabinet made by David Linley's London studio (https://www.beretta.com/en/izumi/).
• The latest collaboration - still in progress - saw the designer Marc Newson try his hand at a very successful interpretation of the most traditional of sporting shotguns: the side by side. (https://www.beretta.com/en/introducing-marc-newson/)
• In 2014 the director Yuri Ancarani made a short film about the concept of Premium for Beretta: "Human Technology". Within weeks of its presentation and publication on YT, the video gained viral consensus by breaking the 1 million view wall. (https://www.beretta.com/en/human-technology/)
Could you give us some indications about your major projects in a medium or long term?
Above all, we are determined to go onward with the history of a company, that soon will celebrate its 500 years of existence, its first 500 years…
Of course, we want to keep serving our customers in the main hunting, competition and tactical segments, with cutting-edge solutions that enhance their outdoor experience. Thanks to the constant research and testing together with our partnering professional users, Beretta guns and accessories set new standards of performance, safety and resistance that allow enthusiasts of various disciplines to challenge themselves by fully enjoying their day outdoors.
In the Pietro Beretta selection segment, the highest expression of Beretta's gun making skills, a team of gun masters, engravers and leather craftsmen is able to satisfy even the most ambitious dreams, creating bespoke objects that combine performance and beauty in timeless perfection.
In the defense and law enforcement segment, where various brands of the Beretta Group work synergistically, we are committed in providing the armed forces and police forces state-of-the-art equipment systems, from tactical clothing to weapon and aiming systems, providing all-round security solutions. and the operation of the soldiers.
The optic business, in particular, is very promising and we look at digital solutions to be integrated also with the firearm, as a very important field of future development.
How can you explain the longevity of your company?
There are sound reasons why (the Berettas) have not suffered from the normal rise to riches and rapid fall into decadence syndrome.
We have survived until now because we have always lived in Gardone, in intimate contact with its people, working at a trade which we have always loved… Cut off from the distractions of city life, we have concentrated on only one thought – making guns.
At the same time, being a family-owned company, we always reinvested our profit in the company, and will continue to do so.
Could you say that this extraordinary longevity is an asset in your customer relations?
Of course, our customers worldwide are firearms lovers, and our extraordinary longevity is a plus in our customer relations. The devotee of firearms admirers an object with a unique matrix of appeal: art and craftsmanship, mechanics and technology, history, romance and performance.
Do the traditional values guiding the firm constitute an advantage as regards research and innovation?
Yes, for sure. Innovation is one of our main drivers, and we are constantly striving to design and develop new solutions for our products. Fabbrica d'Armi Pietro Beretta currently holds over 180 active patents. A total of approximately 400 patents filed throughout the history of the company. All the research and development, processing methods, production technologies and quality control are internal to the company and are at the forefront, not only with respect to the firearms sector, but also with respect to the global industrial landscape. Beretta establishes partnerships with international universities and companies in the aerospace, automotive, naval, textile and nanotechnology fields.
Which are the most important traps, that your company must avoid in order not to lose its independence?
I would cite the changes which occurred after the end of the Second World War and of course, the last years, very difficult for everyone.
I would say it is of paramount importance that the family remain united, in order to maintain their independence.
Did over the centuries the strong will of your family to keep its independence require very difficult decisions?
Our company policy has been governed by the motto “Prudentia et audacia” – Prudence and audacity”. We have recognized that remaining at the cutting edge of technology is crucial to maintaining a leadership role in the highly competitive field of gun making. We have never had the “it wasn’t invented here” negativism and have always welcomed fresh ideas and thinking – from within or outside the family and the company.
There were difficult moments, but thanks to the unity of the family and common intentions they were overcome.
Is the transmission of the firm to a family member governed by clearly established rules?
There are no written or verbal rules about transmission to a family member other than his/her passion for the product and the willingness to continue in the business.
Is the new generation already working in the firm?
My sons Pietro, born 1962, and Franco, born 1964, have grown up in the firearms world, as my nephew Carlo, (born 1997) Franco’s son. Every day, schedules permitting, we lunch together; through international travel and other means we keep abreast of the complexities of business.
Pietro is President of Beretta Holding S.A., Franco is President of Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A.
Do you have a message to communicate to all those who would like to start their own family business?
My advice is to go ahead and create your family business provided you are passionate about what you want to do, and you are able to think long-term.