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Transformation of a non-performing Sales Company

Case study: An international sales and production company had decreasing sales on the Swedish market. Established over one hundred years ago, the company has subsidiaries in many cities across several countries and was planning a reorganisation. An interim CEO was engaged for six-month to prepare for the transformation and to increase sales. However, it turned out that there were other problems at hand too.

To succeed it was important to formulate my opinion, to understand the connection and relationship between people, and to comprehend what the challenges actually are. Following lengthy discussions with staff members, I understood that what actually needed to be tackled, was in part contrary to the opinion of the group management. If the management doesn’t know what needs to be done, I can help in explaining this. But it requires that I question and coach the client”, says the interim CEO.

It is all about people, relationships and respect!

In addition to a poorly communicated production strategy, the problem turned out to be one of cultural nature, and my client refused to view it in that light. There was a big gap between the view of the head office and the state of practical reality. The previous manager had fallen victim to the situation, and the employees at one office were unhappy and not doing great. As a manager, you have to like the people you work with, regardless of origin and custom. If you do not, you must learn how to in order to gain meaningful insight into how things actually work.

It does not have a lot to do with technology – leadership is about people, relationships and respect. The previous manager opposed the institution of ‘Swedish Fika’ and had implemented a dress code and a set of values that were inappropriate. Even if excellent routines were in place, the bad atmosphere was demotivating, resulting in poor co-operation and deteriorating sales. The service organisation was dysfunctional, and customers were left with substandard contracts and unfulfilled promises, and a turnaround did not take long to achieve. My starting point was that no staff member constitutes a problem if merely given a chance. I worked together with the service manager to call on customers, apologised, redrafted the contracts and put my foot down for the future.

The motivation of an interim lies in doing the job

The assignment entailed creating a Nordic organisation and to merge the subsidiaries. Furthermore, during the autumn the group also published poor results which required cuts across other parts of the group. Together with a contracted HR manager, with extensive experience from negotiations with labour unions, the interim resolved several difficult issues. Already after four months, everything was negotiated and settled.

The task was to empower people for the new organisation, and the existing excellent reporting structure required no change. Driving the change as an interim made things easier, and thus the employees did not perceive him as a threat but co-operated in order to identify suitable solutions. People who previously had been identified as problems were now motivated and were assigned new tasks and some of them were promoted to managers.

Safe solutions that work long-term

No one can make a mark financially in six months. For an interim in a short project, the bottom line does not have to be priority number one. Focus is rather on implementation of change-making the organisation better in the long run. After about six months the reorganisation was completed, one-seventh of the staff terminated, and a couple of country managers reassigned new tasks. The platform in Sweden became part of a Nordic one. Being an interim suits me better, as I am focused on operations and want to take on overall responsibility, be in the thick of things, and take action to accomplish results”, the interim concludes.