Jens Friedrich, CEO at SpenglerFox, assesses his first six months at the helm of the global executive search firm after successfully completing a Management Buy Out (“MBO”) of the company last summer and outlines the challenges that lie ahead for the business during the remainder of 2018 and the years to come.
One of my most critical priorities, post the MBO, was to ensure that all interest parties maintained trust and confidence in the business and also to ensure the business didn´t lose any trading momentum because of the distractions caused by the MBO process. Given we were building up into the typically slower summer period at the very time of the transaction, it was important the business would not get additionaly distracted. At the same time it was crucial we addressed our team’s anxieties and undoubted questions that they would have relating to the firms changes as swiftly and efficiently as possible. To address the challenges, I spoke to as many employees as possible, listening to their views and answering their questions as best I could.
Additionally, I worked with our marketing team to set up a structured communications process. One of the first initiatives was to conduct a thorough staff survey across the company. After gathering and assessing the results, we followed up with a company-wide virtual town hall (webinar) so that we could discuss important issues as a group. We received a lot of positive feedback from our team. This was a crucial indicator that our staff were responding to and appreciative of our efforts to involve them as much as possible in the transition process. Perhaps not surprisingly, these discussions uncovered additional matters that we hadn’t previously thought of, before concluding the MBO. Such discussions ran the gamut, from how do we address new employment contracts, to establishing governance for internal and external communications. I spent a lot of time with my team working through best ways to address all the aspects related to entering this new period for the firm.
Diversification and utilising our people’s strengths. The key to this has been placing people into the right roles, roles in which they will have the highest impact on the business and from which they will get the highest level of satisfaction. My personal focus has been to carefully select the leadership team, as this group will be leading by example and will undoubtly have a significant impact on the focus and positive involvement of all other team members. Another major aspect was to empower and give key people accountability for critical projects. For example we have developed a new talent management and learning & development programme which was rolled out in December 2017. This initiative is led by one of my partners and Country Managers. I also formed a new executive board to act in both the shareholders’ and the company’s best interest and added trusted independent board advisors for additional constructive and high impact support.
The shift in ownership has clearly reprioritised our focus in creating a competitive advantage for the business while delivering a more consistent and enhanced customer experience. Our emphasis is now on continuous improvement as well as diversification of our services. We are in the process of strengthening our strategic partner network and also widening our global geographical footprint, through exploring opportunities in new emerging markets such as Israel, where we have recently signed a new alliance. Additionally, we have introduced new services and products, such as Recruitment Process Outsourcing and we are building a Technology practice to add to our core vertical expertise.
Overall we are in the process of revitalizing our true core values, whilst at the same time in a positive way challenging the status quo and reinvigorating our firms strong DNA and culture. Given we are now the owners of the SpenglerFox business, such significant change in the business ensures that we are empowered to drive the business and to shape it´s future in the best interest of all stakeholders.
Our client responses have been overwhelmingly positive. We haven´t missed an opportunity to share the positive changes that the MBO has had on our business, particularly when in personal meetings with our clients and have experienced tremendous support and backing for our entrepreneurial endeavor. Very encouraging for the future of our business.
I have also made sure we had a continuous flow of internal opinions and views on the MBO transformation process. That way we could use staff feedback to inform and guide the process and react to concerns in a timely manner. Other internal activities have focused on reviewing our business operations and expenditures. Moving forward we have spent a considerable amount of time rationalizing our business cost profile, planning how best to use company resources as efficiently as possible, while at the same time ensuring that the DNA our entrepreneurial spirit has, continues to flourish.
As a business, one of our key objectives is that we continue to offer services to our clients that are consistent, sustainable and reliable, whilst also ensuring that we retain our existing client base and grow in the future in new sectors and jurisdictions. Ultimately, by ensuring our clients are satisfied, perhaps even exceed their expectations, our future is bright. My focus and that of my partners is to continue to drive the business in that direction.
At SpenglerFox we believe in care, appreciation, understanding and making a positive difference to people's lives through our talent processes. The business is built to serve and add value to our clients organisations. This will always stay at the forefront of what we are doing.
Internally we will prioritise on the personal development, involvement and empowerment of our own people and ensure everyone has a clear sense of direction. In these times of change and beyond, this will be clear success factor. Other aspects will be linked to topics like digitalization, which I believe will have a major influence on how we and our clients will innovate in the coming years.
New technologies will shape and influence the services we provide. We will be ramping up our activities in the Tech space and explore how latest technologies impact our other practice groups. Additionally, I believe the manner in which technologies are penetrating the workplace will overtake cultural and gender diversity issues as a top concern for businesses around the globe. We will certainly be speaking more and more to our clients about their tech transformation.
Besides that, diversification of our service portfolio is on top of my list. The traditional Executive Search service is reshaping and we aim to innovate, leave a mark, and be at the forefront of this transformation.
The Governance Revolution: What Every Board Member Needs to Know, Now! SpenglerFox CEO, Jens Friedrich, invites Deborah Hicks Midanek to discuss her recently published book 'The Governance Revolution: What Every Board Member Needs to Know, Now!' Deborah is a veteran independent director, a pioneer in the corporate restructuring industry, and a serial entrepreneur. Widely respected for her turnaround skills, she has diagnosed and remedied problems for over 60 corporations and facilitated the growth of nearly 30 other ventures, including her own. Described by the late Fletcher Byrom, CEO of a Fortune 25 company, as a “pure thinker” – quickly gaining a deep understanding of complex problems and demonstrating an extraordinary ability to assimilate information and craft resilient solutions. More_on_Deborah_Hcks_Midnek.pdf Size: 161 KB Deborah_Hicks_Midanek_Slide Deck.pdf Size: 920 KB
A White Paper/Conversation with Industry Leaders What GlobalBusiness Leaders Have to Say about Successful Product Roll-outs and Meeting KPIs. The following paper includes insights from executives representing a handful of global companies. These individuals serve in roles such as general manager, business unit head, regional marketing leader and supply chain manager. They have experience working all over the world and represent markets such as Asia, the Middle East and Africa, North America and Western Europe. When speaking with them, the team at SpenglerFox sought to map the current environment for acquiring new leadership and managerial talent. Our discussions also focused on how this talent helps their organizations ensure the success of launching new products on the markets where these businesses operate and how these manager-leaders set KPIs to evaluate and measure the success of said launches. WhitePaper_TheEssentialsOfTalent.pdf Size: 1.07 MB
Rex was hired as a Project Director for a multinational factory in China. He held a similar role with another multinational before accepting this new position. The recruitment process was rigorous and exhaustive with many rounds of interviews with various department heads at regional and global levels. Rex was offered the position and accepted, reporting to his new boss (The Global Head of Supply Chain) who was based half way around the world. In his new role, Rex did not directly manage a team, however, he was responsible for managing several department heads that did not report to him. Rex was also responsible for updating all key stakeholders at headquarters on a project’s status. Sadly, Rex only lasted one year in this role, since he was not able to match the performance expectations of multiple stakeholders. This is a situation where Rex would have benefited from executive coaching. Amidst the daily demands of his job and the expectations of his stakeholders, Rex needed to better manage his focus while making strategic decisions at every moment to achieve goals and make progress. Like Rex, every level of management can benefit from coaching. But the individuals who benefit the most from executive coaching are those who are motivated to pursue growth in their personal and professional lives. In most cases, new hires at every level do not receive enough support for grasping an organization’s culture. Michael D. Watkins, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at IMD and author of “The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels,” explains that all new hires at every level must gain insights into the values, norms, and guiding assumptions of an organization. At the same time, they must navigate the very fine line between working within the existing culture framework and seeking to change it. Executive coaching is a natural next step in working with companies transform their businesses and aligns perfectly with my own life purpose and passion. I have been working as a retained executive search consultant for over 10 years, helping companies succeed by finding the right leaders as a search consultant, and then coaching these senior executives to reach their fullest potential. Transitions are always difficult for any organization. Whether through an internal promotion or an external hire, most senior executives receive only a basic orientation and onboarding. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Onboarding Isn’t Enough,” co-author Michael D. Watkins finds most companies are doing little to support the onboarding process. “Nearly all large companies are competent at the administrative basics of signing leaders up, but that level of onboarding does little to prevent the problems that can arise when working with new colleagues and grappling with unfamiliar cultural norms and expectations,” Watkins says. In my discussions with HR decision makers and business leaders about their biggest challenges, I have learned that many companies are trying to transform their organizations in a marketplace where disruption is constant. In this VUCA environment, some of their strongest business leaders were not performing as successfully as they once had and were having difficulty adapting to change, new market landscapes and new processes. These are very common themes and challenges that I consistently hear from companies in my travels. I realized that as an executive search consultant, my value in impacting a company positively stopped at the recruitment and hiring process. I knew that I wanted to continue helping clients and executives succeed beyond the appointment of a senior leader, and this is why I began executive coaching. Technology advances in the last several years have created a much faster and more complex world. According to the renowned mindfulness expert Rasmus Hougaard, our attention in the workplace is under siege. We are constantly under pressure, always on, overloaded with information and trying to work in distracting environments. Executives today face many more challenges in adapting to change and successfully keeping pace with these complex work environments, compared to ten years ago. Authors Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck in their book, “The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business”, advocate that understanding and managing attention is now the single most important determinant of business success. Coaching positively impacts a company’s bottom line by helping executives remain present, be focused and make optimal moment-by-moment decisions that deliver optimal results. As I look back at my work as a search consultant, my most fulfilling moments were helping executives achieve their goals. Many senior executives in Asia, Europe and the US have reached out to me to explore job opportunities, but also seek career guidance. With every inquiry, I always tried to take the time to share my thoughts and advice. In doing so, I felt I was giving back to those who mentored me throughout my own corporate career. Many search firms like SpenglerFox offer executive coaching and HR consultancy services in addition to traditional retained executive search. To receive further information about the executive coaching services, please contact Mary Kramer at firstname.lastname@example.org. About the Author: Victor Filamor Victor Filamor was SpenglerFox’s Country Manager Hong Kong and Asia Consumer Practice Leader in 2007/8. He is currently a Partner and Certified Executive Coach with a retained executive search & leadership advisory firm in Hong Kong and Singapore specializing in the Consumer & Retail and Industrial sectors. Prior to his executive search career of over a decade, he had 25 years of P&L management, as well as marketing, sales and operations management experience with Consumer and Industrial Fortune 500 companies and Asian multinationals. He has lived in four countries across Asia Pacific.