CEO Talk: 365 days CEO – A review
It has been a good year since CEO Michael Marcks took over the reins at alfa Media. A year full of challenges and new tasks. It’s time to ask our CEO what he has learned and what impulses he has taken with him from his first twelve months and how he likes his new position.
Silke: Michael, first of all, congratulations on your first anniversary. That may still be a small number, but for such a position as CEO it is certainly full of important impressions. How did you feel about your first year?
Michael: Thank you Silke. I must honestly admit, I would have wished for an easier start, of course. In December 2021, we were cautiously optimistic that we had the pandemic under control and had thus overcome a difficult period. The fact that a war was to start in Europe a few weeks later dampened the optimism again for the time being. Of course, the mood and the uncertainties were also passed on to the people, so that my first year was also very much characterised by crisis management, since it was not yet possible to assess the effects of the war – apart from the human factors – on our company and the economy.
But I don’t want to lament, because we decided to go ahead with the planned changes anyway and set out for many new shores. Whether the cooperations with fidion and Sternwald, the exciting topic of print layout based on AI or our very successful partnership with Hubspot. It’s really a lot of fun to break new ground with motivated employees and interested customers.
What always strengthens me is the support of the staff. I promised transparency when I started and I delivered. It wasn’t always good news, but that was endured and generally perceived positively.
Silke: How much would you say your work has changed now?
Michael: The question should rather be, what has remained the same? There were many issues that I first had to familiarise myself with. I had underestimated the legal corset in which one moves. Legally binding rules for many things are always a basic prerequisite for successful action. Doesn’t sound exciting? It isn’t. But it is necessary.
And the relationship with the staff has changed, of course. It is not always easy to start every morning with the small and big dramas from the circle of colleagues. Much of it touches me as a person, as a colleague, as a friend. The balancing act of making economically relevant decisions, even though you would have liked to do something else, is sometimes a real challenge.
Silke: And do you miss your “old work”?
Michael: A very clear “partly”. The customer contacts have remained, not much has changed. My old team is now in the best hands with Jörg Wolfram, our new COO. But I have to admit that I miss the part of product management, or rather I have to restrain myself from getting too involved. That’s what my professional heart beats for: our customers and products.
Silke: In return, of course, there must also be the question of what you particularly appreciate about your new position.
Michael: I had always thought a lot about our future and now I have the opportunity to shape it even more intensively. That motivates me every day anew. I have a huge curiosity for change. With our clients and also internally. In doing so, I take the path of “togetherness”. I don’t go it alone, but am firmly convinced that things work better together. This applies on a small scale internally, but also on a larger scale with regard to cooperation and collaboration with external partners. Before we tackle a new topic, the question is always: do we do it ourselves or does it already exist? Then it’s my job to enter into discussions with potential partners.
In the area of sales, too, we are stronger together than alone. It’s not always about technology and solutions. I like people and I like getting to know new ones. Now I have even more opportunity to do that than before.
Silke: The question of what your biggest learnings are is certainly also really exciting. If you met a new CEO, what would you advise him or her?
Michael: I think it is important to have a vision, an idea and to be able to communicate it. But also: listen to your people. The world has become so complex that you can’t manage to deal with all the relevant issues yourself. Share responsibility and especially – have trust. Honesty and transparency always win in the end.
In my experience, our team has embraced this and accompanied me on the path as equals. You can’t do it alone.
Silke: And last but not least, if you had to summarise the challenges of the last year in a tweet (280 characters), what would it look like?
Michael: Hm, difficult. Maybe like this: “With the support of my team, I feel armed to confidently look forward to the exciting developments and corresponding challenges, despite difficult general conditions, that will help alfa to a new future.”
Silke: Thank you very much for your frank impressions of your first year as CEO at alfa Media.