The Aspiring CEO - Business Unit President

Client Motivation

The client was a successful leader of a $3 billion Business unit for a Fortune 500 financial services company. The firm had global reach with concentration in the financial centers of Europe and Asia.

Her successful career included tenure in three different firms in the financial services industry.  In each company, she held increasing levels of responsibility beginning with functional assignments and evolving into P& L leadership positions.

She was hired to accelerate growth of the firm's fasted growing business which was projected to grow from 30% of total revenues to 50% within three years.  The business was originally conceived to expand organically but as the business plan evolved, acquisitions became an integral part of the strategy.

Over 10,000 employees worked in her BU and the demand for high quality talent to support growth aspirations was constant.  Her leadership team was solid with the exception of the CFO and Chief Marketing Officer positions which she upgraded in her first six months.  Marketing sophistication was essential and the need to transform the company to a marketing driven firm was a major challenge. She wanted her employees passionately focused on selecting the right customers and using innovation to increase the value of their customer's service experience.

She was achievement oriented and ambitious. In fact, she aspired to run a public company by the time she was 50 years old (she was 45). Prior to assuming her new role, her board experience was limited and this new position required a much higher level of board interaction. In addition, she wanted to expand her leadership capabilities to more effectively align with her large organization. Her previous roles were smaller scale and focused solely on the US market.

The Coaching Relationship

The client aspired to be a CEO and looked to Stratman Partners Executive Coaching to help her make that transition. Upon progressing through the initial assessment phase, these were some early insights:

Towering Strengths

  • Risk-taking: high tolerance for taking rational risks
  • Creative: strong visionary skills
  • Self-aware: self-aware and inquisitive

Improvement Opportunities

  • Perfectionist: tends to set unrealistic expectations
  • Flexibility: has some difficulty adjusting her style to changing situations
  • Impulse Control: is somewhat challenged to manage her impulses under stress

As is often the case, some of her strengths were also weaknesses. While desiring perfection is admirable, she needed to avoid micromanagement and other behaviors that dampened enthusiasm and hurt morale. In addition, she wanted to improve her confidence in the board room. Given the importance of the board in approving her growth strategy and releasing much needed capital, she needed better control of her impulses and wanted to improve her executive presence. Finally, the acquisition plan put a premium on her ability to flexibly deal with different company cultures.  Since on average, 80% of mergers fail due to culture incompatibility, she knew her ability to connect effectively with the acquired company's employee base was critical.

Moving Ahead

Upon working with Stratman Partners Executive Coaching for twelve months, significant progress had been made:

  • The board approved a $200 million acquisition for her unit
  • Sales grew by 30% (adjusted for the acquisition)
  • Market share in key categories increased by 15%
  • Gross Margins increased 10%

She presented a highly controversial and aggressive growth plan to the board and after significant debate, won approval for the plan and the first acquisition. Her performance led the Chairman to sponsor her for a board seat of a non-competing public company which she ultimately joined. In addition, her team was recognized at the annual leadership team meeting for exceeding all commitments.

Her internal and external network grew considerably as a result of her success. As well, she was put on the "short list" of potential CEO candidates in the corporate succession plan. Her future is bright indeed.

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