A Swedish industrial company had been operating in a European country for more than 10 years without making money. The owners decided to appoint an interim CEO to investigate whether they had the potential to achieve profitability.
The interim CEO started his mission by meeting all the employees to get their opinion on how they saw the situation. “I told them I was new to the business, but wanted to get the situation and the problems explained to me. It was a great way to build trust and I was told what was missing. It turned out that the confidence was low and that they were not at all aware of the poor economic situation. The customers were also dissatisfied.”
In step 2, a two-day workshop led to more relaxed conversations. Everyone agreed on the need to recreate the permanent service centre with its own warehouse, which had previously been closed down, and to recruit staff with the skills that were lacking.
“In the next step, I visited about 40 customers together with a salesperson. The product was considered good and the price was decent – but the company did not keep its promises and the trust was low. I explained our new strategy and got the feedback that if things really turned out as we said, they would come back. They gave us a couple of months.”
“We”rebooted” the way of working at the same time as they opened the new premises – with a service unit, training facilities, workshop and warehouse. Orders arrived on time, and were now delivered the next day instead of 3-4 days later. The trust in us increased and soon sales were multiplied and the ball was rolling. This led to increased motivation and engagement among employees.”
“It’s like changing coaches. I had a different management style – I socialized with the staff on their terms. Today, one third of the staff has been replaced and the necessary skills are inhouse. Customers came back and several new ones have been added.”
He says: “An interim CEO must be result-oriented and able to deliver in a limited time. You have to have a strategic ability and know what’s important in the long run, not just saving money right now. Equally important is People Management, the ability to build trust by being humble, listening and not believing that you know everything – because you don’t… In a time-limited assignment, you have to be more direct and be able to make tough decisions.”