Turn-around of a non-successful sales company

An international sales and production company’s sales’ fails in Sweden. It is a venerable company founded over 100 years ago, specializing in high-tech, with subsidiaries in several countries and planning for a reorganization. An interim manager is commissioned for 6 months for the transformation and to increase sales. But there were other problems.

– I must completely stand behind the changes I suggest, and do them right. To be successful, it is important to have an opinion of your own, to understand the interaction between people, and to understand what the real challenges are.
After long discussions with most of the 50 employees, the interim manager came to a conclusion about what would be undertook, this was partly the opposite opinion of the Group Management.
– If the management doesn’t know what needs to be done, I can help by talking with them about it. But it requires that I question everything and coaches, even the client.

It’s all about people, relations, and respect
Apart from a vaguely communicated and sprawling production strategy, the problem proved to be culturally, even if the client did not want to see it. It was a great distance between what HQ thought was the problem and how it worked in reality. The previous manager had been the victim of the situation, and the employees in an office were dispirited and felt down.
– As a manager, you have to like the people you work with, regardless of their origins and customs. This you need to learn if you don’t already know it – to get a good understanding of how it really works. It has not so much to do with technology, but leadership is about people, relationships, and respect.
The former head was against the Swedish tradition of coffee breaks, had different dress code, and had values that did not fit in. Although the routines were excellent, the low mood was demotivating and led to lousy cooperation and sales. The service organization was non-functioning, and the customers were left with poor contracts and unfulfilled promises.
– It did not take long to turn around. My starting point was “no employee is a problem, if only given the chance”. I accompanied the service manager to customers, apologized to them, rewrote the agreements, and put down my foot about the future.

An interim manager’s driving force is to carry out the task
The assignment was to create a Nordic organization and to merge subsidiaries. The group presented poor financial results for the fall, which required cuts in other sectors of the Group. Working together with a hired HR manager – with extensive experience in union negotiations – the interim manager addressed a number of issues. Everything was negotiated and done in 4 months.
– My task was to “build people” for the new organization. The reporting structure was healthy, and did not require any changes. Being an interim manager made the journey easier. Something I was clear about – I did not wish to stay after the job was done. Therefore, the colleagues did not see me as a threat, but cooperated to find appropriate solutions. The previously identified problematic employees was now motivated to do a good job. They got new assignments and some became managers.

An interim manager must ensure that solutions also work the long term
– No one will make a financial impact in under 6 months. For an interim manager on a short term project the figures at the bottom line does not need to be the first priority. Instead, focus is on the implementation of the improvements that the organization then will work with long term.
After about 6 months the reorganization was complete, one-seventh of the staff laid off and a couple of country managers had been given new tasks. The platform in Sweden were laid for being part of a Nordic organization.
– It suits me better to be an interim manager rather than a consultant, because I’m operatively prone/inclined and want to take the full responsibility, be in the centre of things and act.

Johner Bildbyra AB +46 8 644 83 30 info@johner.se sales@johner.se

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