Global Executive MBA alumnus
What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?
Professionally speaking, two things have had a great impact on me. One was the sale of my family’s business when I was just 24 years old—the event was significant particularly because it was my first M&A process and by selling the business I also sold the career path I had been expected to follow. The other was my job as a managing director at Böhler-Uddeholm/voestalpine group, which was very international in nature and thus shaped me a lot. I guess it was this position that taught me the most.
Did you originally want to pursue a career in a different field? If so, why is it that nothing has come of your plans?
Well, I grew up knowing that my parents wanted me to take over my father's wholesale establishment and continue his work. However, things did not work out as originally planned, and so, at the age of 24, I had to make a career change. In hindsight, I am very glad I was faced with this challenge because it allowed me to choose my own career path—and now that I am an entrepreneur, my career has come full circle.
How and why did you come to found knowhau2?
After 7 years in the IT/telecom business, I felt the need to work in a field that was more "tangible", which was why I eventually moved into the steel industry. However, after another 7 years—and 2 years after voestalpine had taken over Böhler-Uddeholm—I found that too many of the things that make a job worthwhile in my eyes had changed.
Therefore, after taking some time out from my career to engage in a phase of deep reflection, I decided it was time to start my own business, which had always been my long-term goal. After 17 years as an employee of corporate groups, I simply wanted to open a new chapter in my professional life.
Today, I focus on doing things that I enjoy and that allow me to use my expertise and skills to help others. It goes without saying that my theoretical training, including the MBA, forms the backbone of the services I offer, but my on-the-job experience is also crucial—and by now I have quite a lot of it. My areas of specialization are M&A, corporate succession, international sales structures, crisis management, supervisory-board services and specific HR services. It is important to me that I myself achieved positive results by doing what I advise my clients to do. This clearly distinguishes me from most other management consultants.
What has changed in your career as a result of your MBA degree? How did the program support you in reaching your career goals? What concrete career opportunities have opened up for you?
The MBA was my stepping-stone to Böhler-Uddeholm. I would not have been given this job—back then, I was responsible for corporate strategy—had I not taken the MBA. Though the program is no training course for managing directors, the knowledge and skills acquired were very helpful in coping with the challenging task of managing 24 companies, 2,000 people and a turnover of half a billion euro. As I was working in an international environment, I also benefited from the fact that the EMBA was taught in English.
What was your biggest professional/personal success?
Winning the trust of the Böhler-Uddeholm board members, who appointed me as managing director of the group's second-largest division in terms of turnover, thus making me the "youngest" managing director at the time, irrespective of the fact that I had not previously worked in the steel industry.
What are your goals for the coming year? Your goals in general? Is there still something you absolutely want to do?
Professionally speaking, my number one priority is to reach the development goals I have set for my business—and I am glad to say that, having won my first major contract with a German private equity fund, I am on track with my plan.
My paramount goal is to be happy!
There is still a wealth of experiences I would like to have and things I hope to do, ranging from heli-skiing in Canada to diving in Palau to being able to spend a lot of great time with my children ...
What do you consider a “great luxury”?
Taking the liberty of living your life on your own terms as far as possible.
What was the last book/film you really enjoyed?
"Economics of Good and Evil" by Tomas Sedlacek—I have not included the many accents in the author's name ...
How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership? Has it been influenced by a leadership role model?
I am a proponent of supportive coaching, expect people to act on their own, and apply the "Highlander principle"—there can be only one who takes the final decision and accepts responsibility for it. This combination has worked very well for me—and the fact that many of my former co-workers and I still have very good relations, and have come to be on friendly terms, shows me that I was not too bad a leader.
It is my firm conviction that as an executive you need to develop your very own leadership style—otherwise you will not be 100 percent authentic and credible. That is why I have always been more interested in "negative role models" and made an effort to learn from their mistakes so as not to repeat them.
How do you recharge your batteries when you are not pursuing your demanding career?
My children, the very harmonious relationship I have and the fact that—in my spare time—I strive for the right balance between being active and happily doing nothing at all help me to recharge. Moreover, I have retained the childlike ability to "dream dreams"!
If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
I would not want to change places with anyone. I love the life I live, and all the difficulties it involves, very much.
Why would you recommend the Executive MBA (Global) of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?
This program, which you can complete within a foreseeable period of time without interrupting your career, enables you not only to broaden your knowledge in a clearly structured way but also to interact with an international faculty of the highest caliber. Its international orientation and the fact that it is taught in English add additional value. Peer-to-peer learning is an important aspect of the knowledge-acquisition process.
I especially liked the case-study based approach to studying, which is highly practical and allows you to learn—during class work in general and during group work in particular—from your fellow students working in other industries and positions. As a result, the learning experience is perfectly multidisciplinary.