At some point, every start-up company has to prove that it can hold its own in the market. Working closely together, the founders, the management team and an experienced interim CEO, with a great deal of sensitivity and the gift of listening, managed the transition to an established company.
Start-up bought up, ambitious growth targets set
A successful start up software company has been acquired by a large US corporation. The company offers popular banking products and has therefore grown very quickly.
It was sold by the two founders, the CEO (Technical and Finance) and the President (Sales), who wanted to leave the company to create a new start-up company.
The sold company should be continued as an independent business unit within the group and achieve an ambitious growth target. In order to do this, customers had to be won in new countries, a product expanded and customer support expanded. It was also necessary to develop and implement a business continuity concept, to triple the workforce and to establish an additional hub in Ireland.
Many discussions led to sound fundamental decisions
In order to cope with these complex tasks and to set up the future management team, the group management decided to appoint an interim CEO. The elected CEO first had extensive discussions with the outgoing CEO and the management team in order to understand the previous recipe for success and to discover the potential of the company.
The three most important findings and corresponding solutions were as follows:
Both customers and employees were very fixated on the outgoing CEO. It was therefore essential to gently loosen this focus and to show that the company's recipe for success would remain in place despite the change in management. The outgoing CEO agreed to advise the interim CEO for a period of six months in order not to alienate customers and employees.
Data protection and its unconditional compliance (with sometimes considerable differences in different countries) is essential in this business. This is the only way to acquire customers, which is why the interim CEO decided to set up a dedicated support team.
There were many internal ideas to increase sales, but there was a lack of management experience and processes. Both had to be built up gradually in order to be able to implement the good ideas.
The next steps summarized
Once the basic direction had been decided, there were many tasks to be tackled. The interim CEO
• built up a sales team in several countries and created a sales manual,
• carried out a market study and a proof of concept to check the expandability of the product as an IT enterprise solution,
• conducted individual coaching and career interviews with employees to decide who would be suitable for further tasks in the company and where new employees needed to be brought on board,
• hired experienced managers and new employees where positions could not be filled internally,
• established new structures and processes
• and built the technical expertise that enabled the company to go global.
Crucial success factors and a positive conclusion
The interim CEO succeeded to maintain existing social structures in such a way that the workforce felt safe and could therefore participate in discussions, give feedback and engage in the changes in a positive mood. Although the transformation was sometimes hectic and triggered tensions, it also revealed a lot of potential of individual employees and teams and made it possible to fill positions correctly in the long term.
In the first six months, managers and employees learned what it means to develop from a start-up into an established company. In the following year and a half, the interim CEO and the workforce jointly implemented the necessary steps. The ambitious sales success came about as planned, although some planning assumptions had to be adjusted. The German-speaking area in particular proved to be challenging due to high local data protection requirements, but progress in Japan was faster than expected.
After two years, a business unit manager took over the management role. The interim CEO accompanied him on a part-time basis for twelve months in order to make the new management change agreeable for everyone involved.
Large-scale projects like this require a great deal of experience and intuition. We provide you quickly and easily with experts who are familiar with your industry and have proven themselves as interim managers.
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