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.
We are delighted to announce the hire of Dr Eva Wuellner, Regional Practice Group Leader, MEA - Family Businesses and Technology “Based in Dubai, Eva will support our clients in both Executive Search assignments and Human Capital Services projects (Leadership Development, Assessment Centres, HR organization…). Having worked in multinational enterprises and family groups (Unilever, Amazon, FANUC, Lindab, Wadi Group), Eva has gained a broad cultural and professional expertise while working in Germany, Luxembourg, Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Egypt and Kuwait. Along her career, Eva grew her expertise in Talent, Change and Performance Management and Recruitment/Talent Acquisition. Eva holds a Master degree in Economics from the University of Passau, Germany, and an MBA General Management from the European University of Economics and Management in Luxembourg. She earned a Doctorate of Business Administration from Surrey Business School, UK, with the doctoral thesis titled “Talent Management in Luxembourg”. Eva is a fellow of the University Forum of Human Resource Development (UFHRD) and the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management (EIASM). Eva speaks German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and Portuguese.” Says Cedric d'Halluin, Partner, Emerging Markets - Middle East, Africa, Russia, Turkey. “I am thrilled to join a multi-cultural team of Executive Searchers and HR professionals in a company that is grounded on high ethical values and family spirit with a strong customer-centric approach.” Says Dr Eva Wuellner, Regional Practice Group Leader, MEA - Family Businesses and Technology.
Xenia Becker and Cedric d'Halluin of SpenglerFox collaborate with GoINPHARMA to discuss compliance and globalization changing approach to leadership search in pharma and healthcare. Executive search and recruiting have changed rapidly over the past decade. Most of these changes stem from a deep restructuring of client needs. Whereas, some 10 years ago, businesses were asking executive search firms to fill top leadership and sales management roles, clients, in the past half-decade, started asking for placements in the fields of Market Access or Medical Affairs. The way larger pharma companies approached their business had changed. Many went from a commercial sales view of doing business to adopting a more scientific approach to bringing goods and services to market. Demand for leadership with deeper technical know-how grew. In emerging markets, the situation is not that different. Compliance issues have had a big impact on how corporate HR picks new leadership hires. The expat vs. local approach to hiring has come full circle. Initially, expats were brought in to emerging market countries to mentor and help with transition and economic restructuring, then local talent hires gradually replaced them. However, during the last five years or so, the environment in many emerging markets (i.e. Brazil, Russia and Turkey) has changed. Markets have become more regulated and subsequently ways of doing business have changed. Market buzzwords no longer include “expansion”and “adding headcounts”; instead, headquarters for multinationals in these markets now speak of “compliance” and “rational growth”. Because of new regulatory demands, company leadership teams are generally more cautious and calls for expat-influenced management have once again grown: due to their more extensive experience in handling compliance-related decision-making. Management and Leadership Skills Candidate skills have always been important. However, businesses (as our clients) have gone through significant evolution and this has changed their demands. If you go back a decade, it was very likely that a German company filling an executive post abroad preferred to, and did, hire a German candidate. This is no longer the case. Also, mobility is an increasingly important factor. More businesses seek people for leadership roles who are willing to relocate. This fact breaks with previous industry standards where business executives and upper-level managers focused primarily on career development. They took on a position expecting to advance within that specific worksite (geography). Today, however, markets like Germany are opening up to foreign talent: businesses are putting knowledge and skills at the top of their recruitment qualification wish lists. Key Skills in Demand Soft skills have grown in importance. This is particularly true for the pharma industry, and this stems from the fact that regulatory norms have changed a lot over the past twenty years. Previously, sales teams (and their leadership) had much more freedom in their approach to business. However, this has all been halted by regulations that look to curb potential corruption. This means that companies have had to look for new ways to build relationships with healthcare professionals. Businesses need leaders that keep an eye on compliance and work within the letter of the law and focus on sales team monitoring. Alongside that, pharma businesses now also place greater importance on executives’ ability to manage multicultural teams and to work within so-called matrix organizations. This means leading and providing guidance not only for local business units, but also therapeutic divisions, which can be a challenge. A further critical skill is executives’ ability to optimize production processes. Business leaders now look more at efficiency alongside improved production. This has been the case for the past few years: businesses are looking to minimize waste and focusing on lean management tools. The Great Recession did much to push this trend. Prior to the economic slowdown, there had not been such a big need to focus on efficiency. Now, this has all changed. Clients have excellence centers for lean management in pharma production. This, in turn, has changed pharma companies’ approach to talent sourcing. Previously, businesses had been more conservative, i.e. they hired talent with pharma backgrounds for pharma roles. Yet in recent years, they have switched up their search approach in the quest for efficiency. Now, it is common that a pharma company will look, for example, to the automotive sector to find the efficient leaders it needs. In emerging markets, retention and development of executive talent is just as important as the search process. Businesses increasingly focus on leadership development and use of assessment centers. Executive HR teams have moved from mass recruitment of new employees to intense development of existing teams; businesses are moving away from operational approaches and focusing more on strategy. They put more effort into strengthening the teams they have in place, rather than running external searches. One could say that companies have moved from an expansionist view of doing business to a strategist one. Impact of Technologies and External Influences Businesses increasingly talk of pushing forward with technological advancement; for example, as part of phenomena like Industry 4.0. However, the key ask organizations now have for their leadership at present is greater creativity. Businesses want their executives to be more flexible. You also see a greater push for a bottom-up approach to leadership versus traditional top-down models. Company leadership increasingly feels that customer-facing team members have a more direct relationship to the consumer: they have direct feedback on what the market wants. A specific reality impacting emerging markets involves local manufacturing. This is the case in Brazil, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey. Governments now have requirements that businesses invest in local manufacturing in order to get approval for price reimbursement for medicines and medical devices. Essentially, companies must localize production or they get booted from the market. This creates a further dilemma for multinationals as the talent for managing production is not always readily available on local markets. Overall, this is part of a broader cycle involving the expat/local/expat-hybrid recruitment cycle mentioned earlier. Some businesses have looked to bridge the expat-local talent gap by recruiting via national diasporas. They put together special packages to bring their countries’ expats back to their home markets. This has been a preferred recruitment strategy for emerging markets in recent years: businesses search among talent that has relevant, important cultural ties but who have also worked in different cultural environments and can offer a fresh perspective. The Future Executive Executive talent must increasingly be people-oriented. Businesses are shifting away from hierarchical leadership; these days, the focus is more on the team. This also stems from generational changes within businesses where younger leaders place greater importance on meaningful work assignments. Meeting this need has also become critical due to a lack of talent in many areas: need for retention is a key motivator. Leaders also need to focus on the needs of their teams and what younger generations now expect of work environments. For example, perks like home office have become standard. Whereas, a decade ago this was rare or unthinkable, most businesses now offer a mix of on-site (workplace) presence coupled with home office days. On-site vs. home office arrangements also place a new set of demands on executive leadership. Directors need better communication skills and they have to invest in developing trust across teams that may not be physically present on a daily basis. Executives have to check in regularly with their managers and lower-level teams and agree on reporting schemes that satisfy both sides. In emerging markets, executives increasingly expected to focus on effectiveness and efficiency. For example, you see pharma companies moving to an FMCG mindset. As the market for OTC products begins to grow more rapidly, sales demands a more aggressive approach. Pharma companies are looking for consumer-empathetic (consumer-minded) talent to drive and manage operations. Moving Forward: Take-aways As has been summarized in the text above, global economic forces are rapidly changing what businesses need from their top executive management. Our view at SpenglerFox is that clients must consider leadership placements within the framework of ever-changing business environments. Top executives will need to put together teams that can work within new regulatory structures, run flexible organizations that react quickly to new production needs, and introduce management styles that accommodate multi-generational employee teams. Investment in the development of forward-thinking and strategy-focused executive talent will ensure that your business succeeds on global markets in the coming decade. For more information please contact Xenia Becker Image credit : rawpixel
We are delighted to announce the appointment of Maciej Kotowicz, Country Manager - Poland. “It is with great pleasure that I announce our latest addition to the SpengerFox Group, Maciej Kotowicz, who will assume the role of Country Manager – Poland. Maciej will be based in Warsaw, one of our firms strategic hub locations and drive further growth in Central Europe as part of our overall business strategy.” Says Jens Friedrich, CEO of SpenglerFox Before joining SpenglerFox, Maciek spent the past 12 years as a Partner at Heidrick & Struggles in Poland. His focus has been on Executive Search and Leadership Advisory mainly within the Consumer and Industrial space in CEE. Prior to that Maciek gained substantial experience in General Management as the MD of Tate & Lyle as well as in strategic HR as the HRD of Ahold. “I am delighted to have joined SpenglerFox during this exciting chapter in the companies history and bring my experience to grow and develop the business and team in Poland as well as across wider geographies of SpenglerFox. To succeed in this industry you have to be a true expert and that is the minimum requirement of our clients, the generalist era is over” Says Maciej Kotowicz, Country Manager - Poland of SpenglerFox