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Leif Mårtensson gives his best advice for driving change

With experience from roles as global CFO and Controller in widely differing industries, Leif Mårtensson has a long experience of driving change, quickly changing the strategy, and adapting to new conditions and situations. We have talked to Leif about his career and thoughts on Interim Management, both as a client and as an interim.

“I have engaged Interim Managers within HR and finance and do not think that there is such a big difference from a permanent employee, but you can demand more from an interim. An interim must be very competent in his/her field, be used to changing environment often and deliver from day one. As an Interim Manager, you have no learning period.”

When is it a good idea to hire an Interim Manager?

“When the business is facing a change or is in the middle of a change that is not going forward. It is also wise to bring in an, for example, interim CFO if the regular CFO has left the company very quickly and you must have someone in place until a new recruitment is made. It may also be the case that the new owners after an acquisition want to change the strategy and need to bring in a different type of competence. Sometimes the organization does not have the capacity to carry out a change, neither numerically nor in terms of competence.”

Leif Mårtensson, Interim CFO

How do you lead an organization through a period of change?

“Being straightforward, clear and ensuring at an early stage that everyone understands where we are going and how. Everyone must feel involved and understand how they contribute to the change. Set clear goals, give constructive criticism, and ask questions. I quickly get an idea of who can act as ambassadors for the project, and it is important not to be afraid to move people where it is needed. As an interim, you can question old decisions and ways of working differently.”

Which are your three most important pieces of advice for successfully driving change?

  1. Analysis – what happens in the company: where do you make money and where do you lose money?
  2. Listen more than you talk. Learn from the organization!
  3. Be fearless, but with respect and humbleness.

His career has taken Leif around the world and constantly been offered new challenges

His career has taken Leif around the world and constantly offered new challenges. After graduating in economics from Lund University, Leif immediately got a role as factory controller at one of Bilsom’s factories. As a recent graduate, he stepped directly into a role with five direct reporters. He then spent 5 years as CFO at Lars Jönsson, with responsibility for finance, HR, and IT. The next step in his career led to another industry as he joined Trelleborg Group as Finance Director UK with a position in England and later as CFO Business Area Automotive in the USA where further acquisitions and integrations were on the agenda.

Leif went on to a CFO role at the listed company XPonCard in Copenhagen and advanced to Director Business Control, based in Paris, after the company was acquired by a French competitor, Oberthur, in 2008. After just over 4 years, he switched from the digital security industry to the MedTech company ArjoHuntleigh, a subsidiary of Getinge Group. During his time as CFO, the results were significantly improved by, among other things, moving the production to China and changing the strategy so that the focus was on the profitable parts. The company grew through acquisitions in China and the United States, and he once again moved to the United States. When Leif’s manager left for the private equity-owned company Hilding Anders, Leif joined as CFO.

When Leif left Hilding Anders after 3 years, he decided to work as an Interim Manager. His first interim role was as CFO at Transcom, and he entered an industry that sold services instead of products. The assignment was to drive structural changes, cost reductions, financing, and implementation of shared services. The assignment was extended from 6 to 22 months, and he left a well-functioning business to the new CFO.

In 2020, Leif came to Karolinska Sjukhuset as interim CFO via Nordic Interim. Karolinska Sjukhuset attracted him as it was an industry, he had already worked towards during his time at Getinge, and it was interesting to see the business from the customer point of view. When Covid-19 broke out shortly afterwards, it was not possible to drive the change that was intended. Now it was all about buying face masks and other protective clothing and getting the finances in order.

“I am very impressed by Karolinska’s organization and of the management team. Everyone was focused on their tasks, and we rearranged the entire hospital to deal with the pandemic. They were flexible and willing to change and gather strength towards a goal that was not clear.”

Why did you choose a career as an interim CFO?

“In interim assignments, I get personal development while contributing with my experience and skills. It is important to be in agreement with your client, analyze, set the agenda, and then act. You must not be afraid to step on people’s toes – but always with respect. The team usually understands that you are not there to make a career and threaten their positions, but that you are completely loyal to the assignment, you are never a threat. In my role as CFO, I get insight into the entire organization, and I need to be able to be straight and tough when needed. The important thing is to create sustainable results that live on even after I have left the assignment.”


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