Jens Friedrich, CEO of SpenglerFox, Assesses 6 Months After MBO
“Aligned Vision, Trust and Communication, sustained our momentum during the period of change.”
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.
What has been your biggest challenge since taking on the top leadership role in the company?
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 additionally 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.
What did you focus on in particular when setting up your management team?
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 undoubtedly 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 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.
Has the ownership change brought about any changes to the scope of services you provide?
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.
What feedback have you received after having completed the Management Buyout?
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 endeavour. 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.
Where do you want the company to be a year from now?
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.
What issues or challenges will be important to your business in the coming year?
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.