The Naked Headhunter – DEC. 2019, ISSUE 7
Thoughts from Christos Tsolkas CEO, Enterprise, Advisor, Author
In this 7th series of interviews Mark catches up with Christos Tsolkas, CEO, Entrepreneur, Advisor and Author of “The Gift of Crisis” available next month. Christos talks about his personal journey, life as an entrepreneur, his goals and accomplishments, the CEO’s he looks up to and the lessons he has learned.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR CURRENT ROLE CHANGING IN THE NEXT TWO YEARS, AND HOW DO YOU SEE YOURSELF CREATING THAT CHANGE?
I am currently consulting Consumer Packaged Goods clients, established companies, family businesses and start-ups as an independent advisor, running my boutique business advisory company from Lausanne, Switzerland.
My sectors of expertise are Foods/Drinks/ Beauty/Wellbeing /Personal care with a digital footprint, all strongly related to high-end image business. I was recently involved in Petfoods, CBD brands, and Hospitality Tech. I finally supervise a newly launched hospitality venture in Greece. In other words, there is a variety of interests and business engagements.
What I am very keen on doing is to work with companies that are in challenging moments of their trajectory and they are seeking help to overcome a crisis, turnaround, innovate and expand. I am a true believer and practitioner of Purpose as an integral part of a company’s business model. I also believe in the power of teams.
My current job as an advisor can change and take a more active form in a company’s management considering interim or permanent CEO projects under a challenging mission.
ENTREPRENEUR vs HIRED GUN
HOW DOES LIFE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR DIFFER FROM THAT OF A HIRED GUN IN YOUR EXPERIENCE?
When I stopped being a part of a large multinational, I first discovered the 90% of the world which was before priorly invisible to me because of the focus to one industry, one geography or one function. New ideas, new industries, new challenges, new people. It was an aha period. An entrepreneur is a completely different animal vis a vis a hired gun. Control of your time and destiny, care for your personal development, absolute devotion to the client and not your boss. You continuously think of ways to reach new industries and prospects, to further improve your services and skills and to differentiate from others.
Life is more exciting, more adventurous, at times more frustrating though. You need to have a mechanism of self-motivation and you learn how you appreciate things in different ways. You celebrate small wins and continuously search for collaborations and partnerships.
You are like a doctor and a patient at the same time. You prescribe your future.
GIVE ME ONE WORD THAT DESCRIBES YOU THE BEST AND WHY?
I would give you 2 words. “NEVER STOP”. I used this as a motto in one of my previous assignments and it encapsulates the stamina, perseverance, drive, energy, passion, commitment, creativity I put behind everything I do. And if I can use a third word, I would add “WE”, as I am a strong believer of the magic that people and teams can put behind any mission. This word, “we” also describes my obsession about the world and the impact of our activities on others, not only customers, suppliers or employees. When we realize our impact on others, we start our search for purpose and meaning.
1. HELP PEOPLE
3. ‘MY PLANET’
DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL GOALS.
My first personal goal is to help people around me to reach their goals. More specifically my family, my team, and my customers and company. It sounds altruistic but it’s not. I get pleasure out of the fulfilment others are experiencing in a reciprocal way. It is widely known that the more you do for others; the more serotonin is released into your brain. Helping and supporting other people makes us feel less isolated, more engaged and more fulfilled. What an indescribable pleasure to watch your son growing, your subordinate getting a fantastic promotion or your company hitting the quarterly figures consecutively.
My second goal is to learn as much as I can, continuously and passionately. I agree annual targets with myself to attend workshops, follow courses or mastering a new skill. Ongoing self-development is, in my view, one of the ways to achieve happiness. It helps me also to be creative and very productive.
My third goal is to help the place I operate, and I can influence, I call it “my planet”, to become a better place. Little by little, following small steps, persuading, writing, doing, innovating, creating opportunities.
1. BUILDING TEAMS
2. DEVELOPING TALENT
3. MENTAL PROTEIN
WHAT ARE YOUR 3 BIGGEST CAREER ACCOMPLISHMENTS?
I am a product of crisis. From 2009 to 2015 I was working as the Managing Director for a global company, heading up territories headquartered in Athens, Greece and then Kiev, Ukraine. I had the strange experience of going from one geopolitical hotspot to another in very quick succession. In both scenarios, the reversal of our business plans was inevitable. In Kiev, even our lives were in danger. But our teams came together in ways that showed me the power of fighting for something bigger than business and even bigger than ourselves. In both cases, we collectively set our purpose, reversed the odds and reached it.
The second thing I am proud of is the number of leaders I have developed. Young recruits who believed me, followed me, successfully fought in corporate trenches and made the difference, or more senior executives whom I persuaded to make a career change or a cross functional move and got top jobs thereafter. As Warren Buffet once said, happiness is when you open your arms and you realize that there are many people you hold inside. The width of my hug and the number of those people inside it are making me proud today.
The third accomplishment is the one laying ahead. I am getting mental protein out of the new achievements, hitting ambitious targets, reversing declines, moving organizations ahead, solving problems, expanding in new territories. Really looking forward to the next ones.
WHAT OTHER CEOs DO YOU LOOK UP TO?
I study many CEOs, observe what they do, how they do it and what is the long-term effect in the stock price of their company, since after all, true performance is the one that counts. Out of all them I would depict Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com and Satya Nadella, Microsoft, both top 10 from HBR`s list of the 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World, 2019.
Benioff is an exceptional entrepreneur, inspirational leader, with outstanding and long-lasting track record. He has built Salesforce organically but also through an ongoing plan of acquisitions. He believes and practices a new form of capitalism, “a more equal, fair, and sustainable way of doing business—one that values all stakeholders as well as shareholders”
Nadella is a slightly different case. He took over from another world-renowned CEO, Steve Balmer, the helm of a global business giant, Microsoft. With his humble and highly open approach to leadership he is trying to change people’s lives while meeting the targets. Nadella insists that empathy is not just a nice human quality, however, it’s a source of innovation. Most companies listen to customers to figure out how to sell them more stuff. Empathy helps you listen to customers and figure out what they really need to improve their lives.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST LEARNING IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
Patience is my biggest learning. Business life is a long journey, with numerous ups and downs. Planning is almost impossible. You have your dream and your immediate needs. But then you must be prepared to make compromises, change, rethink, adjust and adapt to all roadblocks sooner or later will appear in your way. If you are lucky to participate in a crisis, then you have your crash course.
The other thing that I learned is the habit of asking questions. Most of our problems today and maybe their solutions, are known. People in the organizations know them. What happens is that leaders rarely ask them; and even when they do it, they infrequently approach them the right way. So, ask, employees, middle managers, customers, competitors, everybody who might contribute to the solutions of your pain points.
NURTURE AND CARE
IN YOUR OWN WORDS, WHAT MAKES A GREAT SEARCH CONSULTANT?
Search consultants is a classic example of a two sides market. Most of them are focusing their attention on the mandate provider and somehow neglect the needs of the other side, the talent. Maybe they believe that candidates are indefinite, always there to respond. Nurturing and caring about talents early in their careers -almost like adoption – can give search agencies an unbeatable competitive edge. After all, talent is a scarce business.
‘THE GIFT OF CRISIS’
HOW WOULD SOMEONE WRITE ABOUT YOUR LIFE FOR A MAGAZINE OR NEWSPAPER?
I don’t know how others will describe my life. What I know is how I describe it myself in my first book named “The Gift of Crisis”, which will be available in the next month. As Charlene Li, bestselling author of “The Disruption Mindset” and Founder & Senior Fellow at Altimeter, a Prophet company quotes about my book:
“A pragmatic guide and methodology to show how organizations can rediscover themselves, modernize their purpose in “tech-novative” ways, and aim for success while helping the planet.”
Mark Hamill, aka The Naked Headhunter is a Non Executive Director with Ackermann International. Mark has been active in executive search for 20 years and is passionate about the power of search. Mark specialises in global succession search particularly in scaling organisations.
“I am happy to connect you with Christos Tsolkas, so please just reach out to me if you wanted to chat with him about career opportunities, coaching, industry insight, market knowledge or share any of your business needs with him.”
Phone: +44 7725 828717