With extensive experience as Interim CEO, Sales Manager and CFO, Owe Wedebrand has run several turnarounds and growth projects. Supporting companies in acquisitions and integrations is one of his strongest competencies. His first contact with Janeric Peterson (co-founder of Nordic Interim) took place already 20 years ago when Owe had plans to run change and integration projects as an Interim Manager. But the market in Sweden was not yet mature and the career as an Interim Manager had to wait until 2012.
Why did you start working as an Interim CEO?
“I had been thinking about it for a long time as I wanted to get an exchange on my experience of driving change based on my leadership. The requirement profile for a permanent CEO is often based on a long industry experience, but I had a broad background from several different industries and know that leadership is the main key to success in change journeys.”
One of Owe’s first assignments was as interim CEO of Nordic Vehicle Conversion AB, owned by Karnell. In 2013, the company had lost 25% of its sales volume and showed a loss of almost 10% of the turnover. The problems could be summed up in wrong strategic choices, lost market focus and an overly complex and costly organization. Owe successfully worked out a partially changed strategy, initiated a much clearer focus on sales and market, and implemented organizational and cost adjustments.
In 2019, he returned to Nordic Vehicle, this time with the task of increasing sales, profitability, and quality. “We have succeeded well and increased both sales and EBITA significantly. It was a lot about setting the right strategy, the right leadership and communicating regularly and clearly. The organization needed clear goals and milestones to work towards. As an interim, you cannot be afraid to make tough decisions and replace staff where it does not work. You have to go out into the organization and listen, often they have not understood the whole picture and then you have to explain why the change must take place and how their individual contributions support this.”
Two other examples of how Owe have solved the customer’s problems
- Venture capital-owned group, Interim Group CFO: The group had broken the covenants in the loan agreement at the turn of the year and a forecast showed that this would happen at the turn of the next year as well. Owe was given the assignment of rescuing the situation. The solution to the challenges was to take an iron grip on cash flow, control the necessary parameters to be able to meet the requirements of the loan agreement, but also to find synergies between different parts of the business. The rescue operation was successful.
- HAKI, interim CEO: The business had stalled in terms of development despite making money. Owe was hired to review the company’s strategy and organization. Almost the entire production management was replaced, and the positions were successfully replaced by internal recruitments. Operations in Poland and Sweden were merged into one functioning unit in Sweden. The big transformation was managed without the business losing momentum.
What value does an Interim Manager add to an organization?
“By hiring an interim leader, you get an over-qualified resource for a limited time to carry out something that you would otherwise not be able to do. For example, I have several times had assignments in the countryside where it can be difficult to recruit the right skills. A team cannot be good enough without the right leadership, and an interim builds the team and sets processes and structures. When the permanent manager is then recruited, the interim has paved the way so that the new role holder comes to a well-functioning business. You must be triggered by delivering results, according to schedule and budget! It is not about building your own position or career, but it is full focus on solving the client’s problems. You must also want to use your experience operationally at both high and low level. As an interim, you are a chameleon!”
Owe’s three best tips for post-merger integration
- Engage a person who has made the same journey before. You can be a successful CEO in a company, but if you have never merged two or more companies before, there is a great risk that you will fail with the integration. A post-merger process requires experience.
- Be visible in the acquired company and communicate clearly about the changes that will take place and why, and what the consequences will be if you do not do so.
- Create a common goal and a common plan – establish a common integration plan and create a Program Management Office if necessary. Clarify areas of responsibility and take an active role in the process.