20th Feb 2015

Carlsberg's new CEO – probably the biggest challenge in the world


Cees ’t Hart, the current CEO of Dutch dairy company Royal FrieslandCampina has been announced as the new CEO of Carlsberg. The Danish brewer has been experiencing hard times of late, and has had reductions in sales in both Eastern European and Russian markets. Earlier this month, it announced a fall in profit before tax for the second year in a row (a fall from £770m in 2013 to £666m in 2014). Outgoing CEO, Jørgen Buhl Rasmussen, has announced that he will “take a step back” into non-executive roles, with Hart becoming CEO on June 15th.

Hart has been with Royal FrieslandCampina since 2008 where he led the integration of two industry competitors, Friesland Foods and Campina. Since 2008, the company’s revenues have grown from £6.34bn to £8.4bn, in part due to the creation of an international supply chain and successful growth in the Asian market – a key area of focus for Carlsberg. Hart joins Carlsberg at a time when the company is looking to improve sales in Russia, which has been the company’s main market after the acquisition of Baltika in 2004. Prior to joining Royal FrieslandCampina, Hart spent over 20 years at Unilever across Europe and Asia and brings a wealth of international experience to his new role.

Getting Organised

For any leader starting a new role, it is important to get organised. Hart will likely spend the coming months letting go of his current role and preparing for the top spot at Carlsberg. By officially commencing the role in mid-June, he has the optimum lead in time to manage his transition. Over the coming months, it will be important for him to carry out as much research as possible. First of all, Hart will need to get a grip on the new industry that he will be operating in and familiarise himself with competitors in the market. Secondly, he will need to get up to speed on the inner workings of Carlsberg, identify the strengths and weakness of the team he will inherit and get a full brief on the situation from the board.

Assessing the team

We have all heard the adage about surrounding yourself with smart and talented people. The period before commencing a new leadership role is the perfect time to assess the existing team and to decide who stays and who goes. It is also important to identify those key people who can be brought into the business that can make a real impact. Over the coming months before taking on the role it will be important for Hart to meet the members of his new team informally. This will be an opportunity for him to meet them on a personal level and get a clear understanding of where they are professionally and emotionally - and decide whether they are suitable to remain in role. Before the year is out, we can expect a shakeup of the leadership team and it’s likely that there will be a new-look Carlsberg C-suite (as has been the case at Tesco over the last number of months since the appointment of new CEO Dave Lewis).

Create a First 100 Days Plan

It goes without saying (particularly on this blog!) that the best way to prepared for and succeed in a new leadership role is to create a First 100 Days Plan. It’s important to point out that this plan should focus on the First 100 Days of a longer term strategy (most likely covering a two to three year period) and laying the ground work for successful role tenure.

Take some time out

The First 100 Days is a stressful and busy time, and time and time again we see new leaders showing signs of fatigue. Leaders often make the mistake of starting their new role with depleted energy levels, and end up having a severe cold or flu a month or two into the role. Taking some time out to go on vacation before commencing the role - or whatever allows you to take a break mentally - puts you in the best possible position for what will be a very challenging first 12 months in role.

Colm Flood

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