Interim Solutions Showcase – March 2019

Welcome to my Interim Solutions Showcase for March.

Following the popular CEO Interview with Gretchen Haskins, which I shared with you recently, I thought it might be interesting to find out what makes a successful Interim Manager “tick”.  I have known Allan Brink for several years and he has an interesting story to tell…

 

In the latest of my series of interviews with business leaders, I am exploring what motivates senior executives and how they navigate the modern business world.

Allan Brink is a globally experienced Interim CFO with proven results within operational efficiency, turnaround management, re-structuring, start-ups, cost management and M&A.

He has worked for blue-chip US multinationals such as Pepsi Cola and Citibank and has hands-on experience of thirteen different countries (across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America), spanning the FMCG, B2B, Financial Services, Private Equity, Venture Capital and Shared Services sectors.

He is fluent in seven languages.

 

Q:    Allan, you are a hugely experienced Interim Manager. What made you go into it?  

I ended up in Interim Management a bit by default. My career can be divided into three periods. From 1980-2001 I worked for a number of blue chip companies in finance and general management roles.

In 2001, we decided to say “no” to another transfer, as my family needed some stability. From 2001-2009 I worked as a self-employed consultant and fund manager, but the crisis in 2008 meant I had to liquidate my business.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, I therefore had a “black hole” in my CV and in my late forties; I found that all doors to the traditional corporate world were “closed”.

In Interim Management there is much more focus on business skills, abilities and availability than on ticking HR boxes, and those were things I was able to offer.

 

Q: Seven languages and thirteen countries – could you tell us more about your “journey”?

I was born and raised in Aalborg in Denmark, but somehow absolutely wanted to explore. I discovered that East Asiatic, a Copenhagen based conglomerate, offered traineeships, which could end with an overseas posting. I was admitted and managed to get a posting to an egg-package manufacturing operation in Sorocaba, in the state of São Paulo in Brazil in 1984. There I met a wonderful Brazilian woman, married her and started a family.

After four years, I decided to go and study an MBA, which I did at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. Thereafter I worked as a European finance manager for Inchcape Plc based in Athens, Greece, in various financial and general management roles for Pepsi Cola International in Cyprus, Norway and the UK and again in finance and general management for Citibank in Belgium and Spain.

In Spain, I had found another job after the Citibank/Travelers merger and had gone local, but then Citigroup made a U-turn and right after we had “settled” in Spain by buying a home, I was asked to relocate to the UK, which we decided to refuse and both my wife and I started working for ourselves.

In Interim, I have worked for a prominent Jordanian venture capital fund in Amman, a fertilizer project in Nigeria, a fin-tech start-up with operations in Egypt and Ghana, and Turkey’s biggest confectionary company, Ülker, where I was based in beautiful Istanbul.

I have also been Interim CFO of the shared service centre for IAG where I spent most of my time in another fabulous location, Krakow (albeit with -25C in February…). Finally, I am a senior consultant with ANPRO, an international UK consultancy and for them I have been on three assignments in my home country, all turnarounds.

Languages have been a natural (and sometimes necessary) part of my journey and I always find that it is better to communicate with people in their language if you want to understand a new environment.

 

Q: What are the benefits for the client of using your services?

With the business background I have described, I believe I grasp the model of a new business very quickly, so that I can start adding value by ensuring that the financial management environment closely reflects that business reality.

Having been in so many different situations and cultures obviously means that I am very good at building relations with people of different backgrounds.

I have been both in situations where I had to do the basic bookkeeping myself and others where I have had a finance staff of over 75. Finally, when not already engaged and on an assignment, I can make myself available immediately.

 

Q:    Why do you enjoy working this way?

The most rewarding part of interim work is that you get to meet and work with so many different people and businesses. It can be quite demanding as expectations are always sky-high, but that is part of the challenge, which I also thrive on.

As I have my family in Madrid, New York, Dubai and Brazil, the fact that you normally have a bit of time between finalising an assignment and starting a new one comes in very handy as well.

 

Q: Your most satisfying assignment?

This is a very difficult question, but I will probably have to say the turnaround of a group of steak houses where we came in as a team of consultants when the bank was literally closing down the business.

We had to reduce the size of the group by closing some restaurants and a meat factory owned by the group was almost given away at the time. A colleague and I travelled to the factory almost every week for six months and it is now a very profitable part of the group.

As in most turnaround jobs it was a bit of “back to basics” and focussing on what you are good at, but in an extremely competitive environment.

 

Q: You have faced (and overcome) some big challenges in your life. How do you deal with the “bumps”?

Fortunately, I am always able to count on the support of my family, which is a great strength. However, I also have a strong belief that when you meet adversity, you have got to continue believing in yourself and not let it hold you back.

If you are down, get up on eight and use the last two seconds to clear your head!

 

Q: Any advice for people considering Interim Management?

In order to succeed in Interim Management you have to be able to “hit the ground running”. Interim Management is not for people who like to analyse, re-analyse and slowly get to grip with the issues – you are expected to be a fully-fledged member of the team after less than a week.

You also have to have a good network as the interim world can be a bit of a maze.

Finally, you have to be able to live with the periods between assignments where you are not active (and consequently have no income) as you cannot expect to do back-to-back assignments all the time.

 

My thanks go to Allan for his time and for sharing his thoughts so candidly.

If Allan could be useful to you, do contact me.  Also, please have a look at the profiles of some other great Executive Interims I am representing. If any could be useful to you, or if we could help with someone with an alternative skill set, do get in touch.