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Business Leaders Discuss Strategies for the Future
adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted at the Campus for Corporate Transformation. Photo: Falco Peters Photography/WHU

Business Leaders Discuss Strategies for the Future

High-ranking business representatives used the WHU Campus for Corporate Transformation 2022 to exchange views at eye level

“Our lecture hall holds 80 people, and, unfortunately, we cannot accept more registrations,” Serden Özcan clarified in the run-up to the event. He is Professor of Innovation and Corporate Transformation at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, and, together with his colleague Professor Martin Glaum from the Chair of International Accounting, he had invited experienced business representatives to WHU in Düsseldorf for the Campus for Corporate Transformation, heldon October 20, 2022. “We deliberately keep the event small, because we want to create a protected space for an exchange at eye level.” Accordingly, the seats for this year’s CCT, entitled “Succeeding in Corporate Transformation in Turbulent Times,” were in high demand. Thirty-five C-level managers were among the participants, all of whom had gathered from seven different countries at the WHU campus in Düsseldorf.

Eight high-profile keynote speakers shared with their exclusive audience how they are dealing with major challenges, such as disrupted supply chains, the pandemic, inflation and political crises, and positioning their companies for a future under new conditions. “I was impressed that I didn’t hear a single complaint in any of the presentations,” Professor Glaum said, expressing his surprise. “They all seem to see the current difficult situation as an opportunity for the future.”

For example, adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted, who is about to retire, described how the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting growing importance of online business had quickly transformed the sports articles manufacturer from an emotion-driven company into one driven by data. “It is important to always follow your strategy and not be distracted by uncertainties,” Rorsted advised his audience.

Melanie Kreis, who, as CFO of Deutsche Post DHL Group, manages 12,000 employees worldwide in just the financial branch alone, also assessed the difficult situation in the supply chains, deeming it an overall positive boost for the logistics group. She says, the company had focused on profitable areas and streamlined its portfolio. This opinion was shared by Eric Rondolat, CEO of lighting manufacturer Signify N.V. (formerly Philips Lighting N.V.), who described how he, too, had to make major structural changes to his company due to technical innovations and product energy efficiency requirements. Today, he says, they no longer sell light bulbs, but entire lighting systems that can be tailored to the customer’s individual needs.

As an investor, Cenk Alper, CEO of the Turkish Sabanci Group, has faced surging inflation of the Turkish lira in recent years. According to him, the conglomerate reacted with intelligent portfolio management and the creation of an ecosystem with synergetic effects for its individual companies.

Transformation actually happens every day in his company, says Dr. Martin Enderle, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Delivery Hero. And transformation in the start-up industry is primarily driven by a large amount of venture capital and a high degree of fierce competition. In the following keynote, WHU alumnus Philipp Justus, Vice President Central Europe at Google, gave his audience a glimpse of what transformation will mean for their search engine in the future. Closing up this year’s CCT, Harald Kern, long-time works council member, trade union official, and member of the Supervisory Board of Siemens AG, looked at corporate transformation from the employee representative perspective.

The participants’ high level of interest was also reflected in the lively questions they posed to the speakers, in the workshops held by the three event sponsors, and in the discussions had during the breaks.

The next Campus for Corporate Transformation will take place on October 19, 2023.

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