Publiceret: 17.08.2017Af Anders Rostgaard Birkmann mail
All target figures and KPIs have been scrapped. All eleven managers have professional feedback sessions with a psychotherapist each month. And all employees receive a quarterly profit share - which gives an average bonus of approximately DKK 30,000 per year, if the results are in order.
These are all rather unconventional management methods, but IT company netIP, which supplies IT infrastructure to companies, has apparently found the recipe for success. The number of employees has grown from 50 to 90 in three years, and turnover passed the DKK 100 million mark this year.
On a mission to discover the recipe, DI Business paid a visit to netIP’s newest offices in Thisted to meet with CEO Carsten Hedemann.
Inside, it’s buzzing with activity. People sit closely together. The increase in the number of employees is apparent. Several meeting rooms have been converted into offices in recent years. Carsten Hedemann, who sits in the second row of desks behind the reception, strides briskly out of the office to welcome us. He remarks upon the shortage of space himself.
“We’ve secured the possibility to expand even more - we have first option to buy the surrounding properties,” he says.
netIP grew out of Thisted, and it is here that Carsten Hedemann has his office. But the Thisted branch is not referred to as a headquarters, and that is quite conscious. 80 per cent of new employees can decide for themselves whether they want to be based here or in one of the other offices in Skive, Herning, Aalborg or Holstebro - and soon also Aarhus or eastern Jutland.
“We mean it. Our director of sales sits in Aalborg and our marketing director is in Herning. We use Skype to communicate,” he says and points to the big flat screen over the conference table in his office.
The possibility to decide where you work is naturally attractive to new employees. But apart from that, what is the recipe behind the little success story?
According to Carsten Hedemann, from the very beginning it has been a matter of viewing employees as the most important resource in the company, rather than marketing the company on the basis of a large product catalogue. At netIP, this particular approach to employees is not just something they say. It has become the strategy itself.
“To put it bluntly, we’re not selling anything that our competitors don’t also sell. What we have to offer is our employees. They are our raw material,” he says.
Carsten Hedemann swears by the concept of process-oriented management. It’s about creating space for the productive human relationships in the office by creating openness and trust, and thereby also a sense of security. That is also why the target figures are gone, because they overshadow good relationships across the company. He offers an example:
“A consultant recently told me that in previous jobs, he would never have taken the time to talk to a salesperson about possible improvement with a customer, because KPIs meant that the focus was on efficiency. But now he did that - and do you know what? It resulted in a sale and a rather big order. And that shows exactly what it is I want to achieve,” he says.
The journey towards a more collaborative organisation started in the management group.
“If you have managers who are afraid of getting fired because they aren’t reaching their targets or KPIs, for example, they stop being authentic human beings. Instead they become this sort of superhuman when they don their suits and step into the office - and you can’t tell whether they have just gotten divorced or the family dog died,” he says.
“We prime our managers for being human. Here, management is not a privilege, but a discipline. The managers must get to know their blind spots, and that is only possible through personal development.
Only when they become authentic human beings can they pave the road for productive relationships in the company,” he says.
Therefore, it is required that all managers go to full-day sessions every month at a management development agency, which only employs psychotherapists. It is important to learn to be the imperfect manager - someone who also feels weak, frustrated and challenged - and that the employees are able to see that, the CEO believes.
“There has been a tendency for managers to act as superhumans, which leads to internal battles that destroy the organisation. A good manager is characterised by being in balance and talking about things,” he says.
Carsten Hedemann’s method is unconventional, and not all employees in the company have wanted to take part in the journey.
“If you want this, you have to go all the way and say goodbye to a manager who - while he or she may bring in orders - also has some aspects that are detrimental to the organisation,” he says.
It came as no surprise to the board when netIP’s CEO wanted a different kind of leadership. He indicated as much when he was appointed. But the first few years were difficult nonetheless, because the Board missed the target figures and KPIs that Hedemann did not wish to utilise.
“I do not believe that any of my employees show up here to do nothing. I do not need to measure and weigh them,” he says and adds that the many targets actually sow discord in the organisation, because everyone promotes their own figures.
The results of the strategy are today visible in the company’s revenue and bottom line. But that is the only place in which results are quantified.
According to Carsten Hedemann, his story from Thisted is also about how it is possible to create development and growth far away from Copenhagen by going against convention - like he did. This year alone, netIP has filled twelve positions, and it has taken no more than three months to fill them.
“At times, we have become a little whiny out here, far away from Copenhagen, and wanted politicians to do all sorts of things. But there is a lot we can do ourselves. I usually compare it to the discussion about who ought to raise the kids - the parents or the school. As companies, we can also do something ourselves,” he says.
It is about thinking differently and taking a good look at the organisation. This was also done in relation to internships when the company was struggling to attract interns.
“We went out to the schools to examine what young people are attracted to in an educational programme. It works. A few years ago, we had three data technician interns, and now we have fifteen,” says Carsten Hedemann, who isn’t afraid to reach out to young people already at secondary school level.
The CEO’s journey in netIP is not over yet. Until now it has been about training each individual manager, but now it is time for the concepts to be spread throughout the organisation.
“That is to say, the big effect is still to come,” says Carsten Hedemann.
FACTS about netIP
• Delivers complete IT solutions for companies - outsourcing, infrastructure, service desk and much more.
• Founded in 1996 by Jens Mølgaard - formerly under the name Mølgaard Netcom A/S
• In 2000, current Chairman of the Board Martin Kjølhede purchases half the company, and in 2008 Martin acquires all the company stock and changes the name to netIP.
• netIP has branches in Thisted, Holstebro, Herning, Aalborg and Skive - and a new one is underway in eastern Jutland.
BIOGRAPHY - Carsten Hedemann
• Age 52
• CEO at netIP since December 2013
• Previous positions include CEO at Global Wind Power as well as a range of executive positions at Vestas Wind Systems and Oticon.
• Has studied at IMD in Switzerland, among other places, and is trained in the discipline of process-oriented management.
• Holds several honorary positions and was recently appointed Deputy Director at DI Thy/Mors.
• Is married and has three grown children.