What Is It Like To Be The CEO?
Marco Eckhardt, the 2018 CEO and newly appointed executive board member of Academic Business Consulting shares his experiences of leading the consulting company. Have a glance of what it is like to manage the student-run company in this exclusive interview!
To begin with, would you tell us shortly about how you ended up in the CEO position of the company last year?
I signed up for the Business Consulting course at Hanken because a friend recommended it to me. Although I didn’t have much context, it sounded like a lot of fun and an interesting challenge.
Until the introduction lecture I didn’t even know that ABC was also a real company. When I heard that they need a CEO I thought – that sounds like something for me. I had previously been in similar positions in student associations etc., but never in a real company. When one of my best friends here at Hanken gave me the encouraging words of "Dude, you should absolutely do that!", I made the final decision to apply for the position!
I had 3 great competitors for the spot and I was lucky enough to work alongside them in ABC’s management team throughout the year after the election.
What were your expectations of the CEO position in the beginning? And were those expectations eventually met?
I expected to learn something new and to test out my previous experiences and skills in a “real life scenario”. Real companies, real projects and real money. The stakes were higher than in any other project or undertaking I’ve ever done, which was a little scary but mostly pretty damn cool.
I expected a lot also from my consultants and management team after I heard their amazing life stories and experiences and I have to say – they all lived up to them. I couldn’t have asked for a better group. So all-in-all yes, my expectations were absolutely met and our team spirit made them exceed.
How many consultants and projects did ABC have last year? Who were the clients?
We had a total of 17 consultants and 7 projects for 6 different companies. The companies ranged from small to big publicly listed ones. To name a few: Fazer, HEAT Ledger, Prakticum and Business Finland.
How did it feel like to manage the group of 17 consultants?
It didn't feel that bad. Most of them needed nearly no help in getting and conducting their projects, which made my life a little more enjoyable.
Communication is always key and we had that sorted rather well. I’ve worked with teams of different cultures before, which made it easier for me to connect and relate to my group members. Also, I’m not afraid to give honest and direct feedback to get projects going and keep the pace, which is not always received well with everyone, but this year I had surprisingly little to complain about. We all knew what was on the line from the beginning and I noticed that in the whole group. They really wanted a great trip at the end of the year and they worked hard for it from beginning to the end.
What were some of the greatest ABC success stories last year?
One of my favorites was definitely the Business Finland group. The way this group formed, by just sharing the same idea of what they would like to do (Finnish tourism industry) was amazing in the first place. They right away had an idea and possible client in mind, whom they contacted successfully. Then they pitched their idea, convinced the customer, signed the deal and executed in a manner that did not only pay them well but also gained great interest, as they were presenting their findings in front of a great audience. From start to finish these 3 ladies delivered 100%.
Another mention-worthy group was actually combined of two groups with three respectively two students to form what was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, projects in ABC's history. Again, executed extremely well, leaving the client more than satisfied and raising the bar for others. I can’t name the client here because I signed a pretty tough NDA, but they know who they are 😉
What were the most important learning points throughout the year? Both individually and for the whole group.
Individually, persistence and good communication always pays off. If you have a goal and want to reach it no matter how much it takes, you have to put in the work. If that means you have to call and email after the clients many times and convince another executive or project owner to spend their budget in you, you have to be persistent.
Furthermore, speaking, writing and acting professionally goes a long way in the business world. People don’t always remember the projects or topics, but they do remember the persons. Even if you didn’t land the project with a client, keep in touch and let them know you are available to provide a great service if they do happen to need it. Keeping a good contact list or portfolio is a great way to think ahead.
I also learned personally that not everyone likes you if you are in a position like this. I knew it from before, but if you have to make someone face uncomfortable truths it’s never nice.
Oh and for anyone of my fellow Millennials who have the crippling fear of phone calling people they don’t know… it does get better with every call!
For the whole group I can say, you never stop learning. If it’s a new set of skills, new industries, new personalities – there is always something you can add to your brain by tackling new challenges with a bunch of strangers. A project in forestry? French speaking Swiss people? What boba tea is…the world is full of things you didn’t know you might find interesting and enjoy!
Tell us about some unexpected incidents that happened during the year?
I don’t want to kiss and tell, but I kind of had to fire someone after 2 weeks (details only over a beer or two!).
Oh and in case you did not know, companies can also friend-zone you by simply not answering your emails and calls without any reason.
The last one might be more of an interesting side note for the nutrition experts amongst you. Did you know that young Vietnamese girls can live on a diet solely based on boba tea? I know, I know, this is already the second time I mentioned this but I really hope Khanh reads this! 🙂
Any final words? What would you tell a student that is wondering whether or not he/she should apply for the CEO position of ABC in the future?
No one makes progress by just tagging along and not taking risks. You’ve never done this before? Neither have most of ABC's earlier CEOs! You don’t know how this works? You’ll learn it in no time – support is always there! You might be good at what you’re doing now but remember – the one who stops improving, stops being good.
And if you are still in doubt here are some words from a man who fought alongside robots on a big screen:
“JUST DOOOOO IT!”
(If you don’t know whom I mean, I will reject your LinkedIn friend request!)
A big thanks to Marco for this insightful interview!
Stay tuned and make sure to follow the ABC LinkedIn page as we will continue to write more interesting blog posts about our activities.