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Entrepreneurship as a success factor: What is involved in entrepreneurship? How must it be lived? Who is involved?  And what role does courage play?

Mar 31, 2023 2:11:05 PM

What does a corporation need to be a long-term leader in the market? At the end of the day, satisfied and successful customers. So far so clear. But what plays the decisive role on the long road there? What has to happen in the background at the management level and below? What really contributes to the success of the customer and thus to the company's own success? There is a universe of factors. Let's pick out a fixed star: entrepreneurship. I talked about this with two colleagues who are very familiar with this success factor and deal with it extensively.

Jochen: Richard, Martin, before we go deeper into the topic, let's talk briefly about you. You are both members of the Group Management Board of All for One, look back on a long career as managers, IT strategists & directors and deal with corporate and employee management on a daily basis. Which areas are you responsible for and what are your key tasks?

Richard: As Managing Director of SAP Excellence, I work with Wolfgang Räth to manage customer acquisition, order fulfillment for SAP implementations for new customers, and support for regular customers in their projects.

Martin: I am Managing Director of avantum consult GmbH and responsible for the operation and growth of the Analytics business. The focus here is on our employees who work in consulting for our customers in the area of business analytics and our internal teams who ensure the operational processes in our business unit and drive the optimal marketing of our portfolio.


Jochen: You are responsible for different areas in the Group. But what connects you?

Martin: Richard and I are pursuing a common goal, namely, to be the leading consulting and IT group for companies as the All for One Group.
Our areas of responsibility include ERP and analytics, and this results in many interfaces and points of contact for our customers. And of course, we both work intensively with other areas of the All for One Group to jointly generate added value for the market. Orchestrating and linking the diverse product offerings of our areas of responsibility creates exciting synergies for our customers.
And last but not least, we both have the same understanding of entrepreneurship and group-wide cooperation. We want to "bring" and multiply an entrepreneurial mindset to all employees and managers.


Jochen: What does your collaboration look like? Please give us a concrete example!

Richard: Currently, employees from our two areas of responsibility are working together on a planning system for production. Business processes from production are always reflected in a planning, realization and control phase. In the "old" ERP world of SAP R/3, the tools required for this were found completely in the ERP system. Unfortunately, this is often somewhat inconvenient for less IT-savvy customers.
We are therefore working together on a kind of "industry solution" in the SAP analytics Cloud, so that we can already provide the customer with a pre-formulated offer that is integrated into ERP and can be easily adapted. This only works if we work together. The know-how for the required technology comes from avantum, the business knowledge regarding the specifics in sectors and industries is provided by SAP Excellence. We merge both into a custom-fit and marketable customer solution. In other words, we deliberately create a "joint effort" between the two members of the group and generate added value for the customer that our competitors in the market cannot generate in this way.


Jochen: Experience shows that such "Mammoth Projects" are associated with a higher risk. How do you deal with this?

Richard: In a word: courage. We have to make decisions under uncertainty all the time. Uncertainty can mean that we have to make assumptions about the future with a high degree of confidence, supplementing incomplete information with empirical values. This means taking calculable risks and making decisions based on assumptions - because no one can predict the future. Making unpleasant, sometimes very personal decisions is also part of our everyday life, and consistent implementation of such decision always requires courage.

Jochen: Is that how you also see it, Martin?

Martin: Absolutely! In addition, the entrepreneur typically cannot delegate decisions "upwards", but must make them - even if they entail unpleasant consequences. Not being able to delegate responsibility implies the necessity to take over courageously. This can be a heavy burden but also the salt in the soup if these critical decisions ultimately lead to success.

Richard: And I must add: Failures are also something that a "good" entrepreneur can count among his wealth of experience.


Jochen: Thinking and, above all, acting economically - what do you consider to be part of this?

Richard: Profitable and sustainable management that aims for the long-term success of the company. Certainly, there are always issues that would represent short-term success but are not profitable or sustainable. One must always keep in mind what consequences this has for the company and align the decision with the company's goals.

„In the Group, we want to give our employees as much freedom as possible to make business decisions to the best of their knowledge and to take responsibility for them."

Martin: Economic thinking is one thing, i.e. knowing the "baseline", be it a budget on the cost side or revenues on the sales side. But this is precisely where economic action begins for us: For us, acting economically does not "just" mean meeting a predefined budget. It can make sense to deviate from a budget: For example, to avoid unnecessary costs or to achieve proportionately greater revenues. In the Group, we want to give our employees as much freedom as possible to make economic decisions to the best of their knowledge and to take responsibility for them.

Jochen: Sounds good in theory! And what about in practice?

Richard: Often we still lack the necessary calm to let our organizations act freely in the operational hectic and against the backdrop of "economic pressure" instead of being concretely steered by us. But as Martin already said, we are on a good path.

Jochen: You are both known as critics and feedback givers in the group. Why does that fit so well with entrepreneurship?

Martin: In order for us to develop and grow as the All for One Group, we need a very open and honest feedback culture. This includes, in particular, specifically pointing out and addressing processes and issues that are not working well and making solution-oriented suggestions on how things can be done better.

Richard: I see it that way too! In order to consistently improve ourselves and a company, we as entrepreneurs have to address the issues - of course always in line with our values: directly, openly and honestly. For both of us, this is not about merely pointing things out - critical shouting from the sidelines is, after all, very easy. What matters are concrete suggestions for improvement and actionable alternatives. I expect the same critical approach in my own area of responsibility and proactively demand it from my employees.

„The critical call from the sidelines is very easy. Concrete suggestions for improvement and actionable alternatives are what's crucial."

Jochen: That is, pure criticism is not the key to making a company more successful …

Richard: No. You should have an idea of how "you" could do things better and give the appropriate impetus. Naturally, this is not always readily accepted ("know-it-all"), so sometimes you need not only good arguments but also a bit of steadfastness.


Jochen: How do you share entrepreneurship with your managers and employees? And how do you promote goal achievement?

Martin: Leading by example, promoting an open feedback culture, explaining decisions and making connections, making transparent decisions, pointing out risks and explaining why we do things anyway. Driving forward topics and projects and getting involved ourselves, enabling all team members, offering the opportunity to help shape the company regardless of hierarchy - these are my principles. It is also important to communicate a lot with the team. Only in this way can the understanding and enablement for entrepreneurial decisions grow.

Jochen: How do you react when things don't run smoothly? For example, when there are deviations in the achievement of goals?

Martin: It is crucial to ensure continuous exchange so that possible deviations are identified at an early stage. Together, we can then agree on a realistic target picture. We will be introducing OKR in the coming weeks and months. This means that all individual goals will be aligned with the corporate and team goals. This creates transparency and makes employees aware of why they are working on something.

Richard: I think with deviations it is absolutely necessary to know the chains up to the cause for a Delta. And - it will never be "bad will" that causes a deviation. Thus, one must know the real reasons and not just the chain of symptoms. Then the countermeasures have to be taken - this can also be an adjustment of the target in case of "wrong" targets. In the project business we know the changes of a "deadline target" in favor of quality only too well!

„It will never be "bad will" that causes a deviation. Thus, one must know the real reasons and not just the chain of symptoms."

Jochen: Can you be a little more specific? How do you work towards successful project completion and the achievement of goals in everyday life?

Martin: For projects and target agreements, there are status updates, a regular exchange and the opportunity to receive feedback and support from the team at any time. Risks, problems, support and decision-making needs are communicated transparently and openly so that countermeasures can be taken at an early stage. Successes from customer projects, internal projects or news from the team are communicated and celebrated via Yammer and in our monthly news call.

Richard: As a member of a customer steering committee, it is of little help to accept delays - experience shows that they will continue until the project is completed. If the delay is caused by a lack of cooperation on the part of the customer, for example, this cause must be countered with measures. This can be done by (chargeable) "help" with the cooperation by our consulting or, in case of "unwillingness" of the acting parties, by obstruction notices with a clear indication how to eliminate them. But again: always go back to the real cause and start there with the measures.

Jochen: Thank you both for the interview! 


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To the blog article „Time for Values"
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