Peter Bäckström is currently the CEO of ATA Hill & Smith Sweden, active in road safety. He started as interim CEO via Nordic Interim when the company had lost its way, showed a bad result and employees began to leave the business.
“Entering a company as an interim CEO in a difficult situation is a complex task as the organization usually does not want or cannot make the required changes, but they must. An improvement journey is based on stopping what you are doing now and starting to do things in a new, more efficient, and profitable way. It is important to be clear about what to do and then make sure to get everyone involved. I work to create security through clear communication and by showing a clear plan ahead.”
Peter has a background as a major in the Infantry and has during his career in several different industries and leading positions taken the leadership from the military with him. In 1993, he took the step into the security industry at Falck and in 10 years he advanced from district level to CEO Sweden.
His career continued at Johnson Control, where he became responsible for establishing a new version of an agreement with a global customer in 28 countries in Europe. This soon grew into a global responsibility. His focus was on developing services based on innovation and cost efficiency, towards large companies such as Ericsson and IBM and his last role within the company was as EFM Divisional Leader with the task of establishing the business in the Nordic region. Before he began his interim career, a couple of years followed as CEO of Cramo.
Why did you choose a career as an Interim Manager?
“I have had long-term employments before and got the advice to try out an assignment as interim to join companies to drive change. Björn Henriksson had a job for me right away, it was a quick process!”
What is the difference between being a consultant and being an Interim Manager?
“A consultant performs a specific task such as a business plan. An interim enters in a line role and is responsible for everything, personnel, financing, customer challenges, implementation, etc. As an interim, you have an operational role.”
When should you engage an Interim Manager?
“It could be when you have a vacancy where you quickly need to bring in someone who has the right skills and experience and who quickly can take over the role and lead the required work. Another example is when you are going to hire a new CEO and first want to create improvements, such as getting processes and structures in place, so that he/she comes to a set table. The most common, however, is that you need a very competent leader who drives a change or business-critical project. If you are going to engage an interim CEO, I do not think that industry experience is the most important thing. If you are a people manager who has driven several changes before, you have the required tools. There is no big difference in driving change in different industries, it is the leadership that is important.”
Peter on the importance of the right leadership
“In Sweden, transparency and clarity are very important, both in what needs to be done and how you say it. You must show that your decisions are followed up. When things have gone wrong, it is important that everyone understands and wants to be part of the change journey – then the challenge is to get them to do it! Let those who know the business best participate. Focus on the future and not on what has been. As a leader, you are a conductor who decides the tempo and melody and will get the orchestra to play.”