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.
SpenglerFox wraps up the summer with discussions on talent motivation and agility with clients in the Czech Republic On Thursday, 30 August, SpenglerFox consultants led by Michal Vajskebr met with between 20-30 of the firm’s top clients in Prague to wrap up the summer holidays with some good food and drink and exciting discussions. The event took place in the Černá labuť (Black Swan) Gallery with its splendid view of parts of Prague's Old Town and Letná Hill. The main draw for the event was two very successful and interesting speakers, who came to share their experiences in executive leadership teams throughout the region. The topic of the evening was how to inspire and motivate good talent with a focus on retention. The expert discussion panel, moderated by Michal Vajskebr, included Martin Horčička, COO at Wüstenrot and Ján Čarný, managing director at COFACE. Comments by the panelists led to some interesting discussions and delivery of insights on what attendees’ personal leadership experiences and challenges they faced in the past taught them about team-building and motivating managers to perform. Martin Horčička (Wüstenrot): Martin’s experience is specific in that he has done a lot of interim management consultancy and worked in teams where he was brought in to manage a business turn around. His biggest challenges related to building and nurturing trust among members of the teams he managed. He pointed out in his remarks that the best first step, when new to a leadership situation, is to find the commonalities that you have with your team; specifically, when working in multicultural environments. One issue that Martin pointed out is that many managers, workers, team leaders, etc. are looking for a higher purpose in their day-to-day jobs. They want to be part of something bigger. He noted that when discussing difficult operational changes with teams he led in Western Europe, there was greater comprehension and respect from his employees once he convinced them he shared their concerns and passion for the future of the company. He noted that during his time in Belgium, the workers in the team he led had a personal investment, feeling-wise, in the company they worked for and wanted to ensure its viable future. Martin pointed out that one way to involve team members and secure their commitment to business plans was to seek their input in defining the company's business strategy. On the executive leadership side, he recommended taking the time to evaluate managerial talent and measure their personal investment in or commitment to the company vision or strategy. He noted that team members are more likely to deliver better results when they know they are trusted and company leadership is willing to give them the freedom to be creative. He underscored the need for executive leaders to foster constant dialogue with their managers and team members: help your talent understand there is no shame in asking question or seeking assistance. You'll be surprised at the results you can achieve when you set talent free to be creative and engage. Ján Čárny (COFACE): in his opening remarks, Ján reiterated Martin's comments that people really should like their work. He noted that local and regional markets have evolved quite a lot since his first years working in the Czech Republic in the investment banking industry. He pointed out that during that time most business leaders in Central Europe had yet to come across the concepts of corporate vision or company mission. Ján mentioned that, for him personally, one of the key motivators for excelling at work is the challenge that a given job or assignment poses. He had worked on finance-related projects on the Czech market, but then moved on to take on regional roles in Poland and later Ukraine. He noted that managing teams in diverse markets in the CEE region was fulfilling for him, because he got to see how corporate structures function in other regional markets. He also had the opportunity to contrast leadership roles in corporate vs. more family-style businesses. Over the years and across various national teams, Ján has come to see understanding of a company's business model as being mission-critical. He is constantly speaking with managers and their team members to find out what they do and why. He noted that problems most often arise when people do not understand their role in the business. It is important that executive leadership support teams in the creative aspects of defining and implementing business plans: executives should empower their teams by saying what to do, the team then says how to do it. Remarks from the two main speakers were followed by contributions from local and regional business leaders contributing to an open discussion forum. Some key points raised included the following: it’s important for executives to assess and define what existing operational systems work and not just pursue slash-and-burn policies (what to keep vs. what to discard); executive leadership increasingly appreciates how value for the company was achieved over the mere creation of value (teams should achieve results based on honest, transparent business plans); observe your talent, especially among younger generations, and find a way to balance their need to create and achieve with the results your company needs to deliver; focus on inter-personal relationships and building trust and mutual respect among your employees (corporate life produces a lot of unforeseen and sometimes unpleasant situations; you may perhaps have to fire your colleagues but, with politeness and respect, you can nurture those relationships and build new ties in the future); foster an environment that supports openness, honesty and authenticity (even regional cultures that have a tradition of operating based on 1:1 or closed-door meetings can be rebuilt). For further information please contact Michal Vajskebr. Image : Pixabay
Even though the Middle East emerged much later than Europe and the US on the international business scene, numerous conglomerates and multinational companies have established some kind of a set-up in the region. Attracted by the promising growth potential, many multinationals have built large local and regional teams in the main cities such as Istanbul, Cairo, Dubai, Casablanca or Riyadh. Just like anywhere else on the planet, the progress of telecommunication, the increasing interconnectivity of cities by plane and the hiring of the first millennials, have shaken the established organizations to their core. Working space is expected to be friendly of modern design and even a place where you can have fun in. Permanent email and phone connectivity blurs the boundaries between home and work space. Businesses in the region are now challenging the traditional office space, where employees worked a rigid 9am to 6pm shift sitting at their desk. Video conferencing, informal meetings, and work on a project-basis require additional facilities. One of the growing trends in the Middle East, which is gaining popularity day by day, is the flexibility for employees to work from home. Some of the cities in the region, more particularly Istanbul and Cairo, face horrendous traffic. It is not unusual for employees to spend 3 to 4 hours a day commuting. It is thus no surprise that home-office flexibility becomes as important as remuneration, benefits and job content, when it comes to attracting or retaining talent. In the recent years, multinationals have started to adopt an open space set-up to reflect their values of transparency and teamwork. Directors and Managers are now invited to join their teams in an open space. Meeting rooms offer the required confidentiality for conferences and sensitive conversations. This is sometimes hard to digest in a region where a private office stands for position and status. An even more advanced form of this trend is desk-sharing. The idea came as a solution to reducing office costs, which may well be the second largest expenditure after payroll, while desks are often underutilised. Consultancy firms whose teams often spend most of their time at client sites, lead that initiative, which enabled them to improve their P&L significantly. Newly-founded businesses are early adopters of nomadic work habits. Co-working is booming in cities like Dubai, a hub for regional start-ups. Flexible desks and meeting areas are offered by well-known global players in flexible workspace solutions, however independent co-working spaces are flourishing. Even the government-managed free-zones are now offering workspace to newly registered companies. This whitepaper attempts to highlight trends on the workspace evolution in the Middle East region, and how the latter impacts on international businesses. We believe the best way to explore these trends would be through testimonies of people that have led and/or coordinated their implementation in their business environment. We selected key note speakers, each one representing one of four key markets in the region: Dubai, Egypt, Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia(KSA) and asked them the same questions for consistency. We hope that our exercise will provide you with interesting insights and perhaps some food for thought. Africa_MiddleEast_FLEXIBLE_WAYS_OF_WORKING.pdf Size: 2.98 MB
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.