In 1996, exactly 25 years ago, Ralf Hager founded Hager Unternehmensberatung, which specializes in the executive search. Without further ado, it’s time for a short personal company analysis in four chapters – with a few surprising insights.
In 1996, our everyday office life was still largely analogue. We communicated by fax, stored data on floppy disks, and the World Wide Web was just five years old. Even Bill Gates thought the Internet was a fad at first. It was a time of technological awakening and upheaval. This time period was new territory, in which pioneers and future market giants winked at each other and, a few years later, these same pioneers rubbed their eyes in disbelief. The most interesting chapter of this relationship was written by Nokia and Apple. With their Nokia 9000 Communicator, the Finns launched the first smartphone on the market in 1996. It promised to be a pocket-sized office that could send and receive faxes and weighed just 400 grams, but it became the tragic side note of the digital era. A decade later, when Apple presented its iPhone, the smartphone became a bestseller and a gamechanger for an entire industry. The rest is history.
1. Early Bird: Recognize Trends and Reinvent Yourself Again and Again
What can you take away from this snippet of history? To be successful in the long run, you have to bear in mind and master two things: recognizing trends early on – or as some say: betting on the right horse – and constantly reinventing yourself. In the nineties, Ralf Hager recognized the potential of the digital industry – at which point it was still referred to as IT & Telecommunications. “Already during this time, an incredible dynamic was emerging. That was the reason for me to start management consulting in the technology sector.” This dynamic was detected as a leitmotif, and was repeatedly adapted to the latest developments and market requirements. New strategic business units were also added. Most recently, this includes Financial Sponsor Coverage, an industry that may be transforming digitally later than others, but is moving at a breathtaking speed. Hager Unternehmensberatung now employs over 110 people in 14 different industry teams. These cover every economically relevant sector, including Consumer Industries, Digital & Technology, Financial Services, Industrial, Life Sciences, Professional Services, Construction & Real Estate and the Public Sector.
2. People are the Key
It was not so long ago that companies focused mainly on production and service providing. In this old-school business model, employees were supposed to work inconspicuously and quietly, like small cogs in a well-oiled machine. In other words, the human factor was chronically underestimated for a long time. Ralf Hager was first introduced to human resources consulting as a student trainee during his business studies degree. It was then that he had his big eureka moment: what he wanted to do in the future was bring the right people together. "When I founded the company 25 years ago, my goal was to do it better than anyone else,” says Hager, “because every single person can deliver incredible value in their work environment – if they’re the right fit." This last half-sentence, may seem unimpressive at first glance, but it contains the explosiveness and brilliance of an entire professional field. And, depending on whether the choice of person is correct, it affects everyone involved equally, the employees as well as the company.
3. Trust Your Team: Recognize Potential, Promote It and Let It Go
In dynamically growing companies, one analytical question is particularly exciting (and for some businesses also revealing): how many people from the core team are still there after many years - even if the number of employees has multiplied? On the other hand, to what extent are you as an entrepreneur able to develop your employees and give them room to grow? In the case of HR consulting, this becomes a litmus test: do we live up to what we recommend to others as principles of modern leadership? Do our soap-box speeches in our free time still apply in meetings at work? Many key positions at Hager are occupied by people who have been working successfully for the company for numerous years. For example, Martin Krill, Managing Partner, who started as a consultant at Hager more than 20 years ago. In 2020/21, Krill also initiated the future study "Working World 2030" and implemented it together with Sven Gábor Jánszky’s futurology institute 2b AHEAD, and members of his team at Hager. Their "ABC of the Working World" is currently being published as a follow-up.
4. Walk the Talk: Diversity as a Driver of the Future
Recruiters need to be recruited correctly. And the person recruiting has power. Countless studies have shown a connection between diversity and companies' ability to innovate – diversity is a critical success factor. Gender diversity has the greatest effect, because it is easily quantifiable and is an accelerator for a more open corporate culture overall. Although the majority of students are women and these female students are also more successful in their degrees, this is not yet reflected in the filling of management positions. It’s the same old story. Why is Germany finding it particularly difficult to take the necessary steps? "There are widespread cultural prejudices against women - and old stereotypes die hard," explains Ralf Hager. What prompted him and the Hager team to take a radical step forward? "We committed ourselves to proposing 50 percent female candidates when filling mandates for executive and supervisory board positions. We also cooperate with networks such as FemaleOneZero, Impact of Diversity, Mission Female and Global Digital Women to address this issue even further."
This article is part of a content cooperation between FemaleOneZero (F10) and Hager Unternehmensberatung. The company, which specializes in executive search, has repeatedly been named one of the best personnel consultancies in Germany by the magazines WirtschaftsWoche and Focus. Hager Unternehmensberatung employs around 110 people and, in addition to its extensive know-how in the field of digitalization, is also considered a specialist in issues relating to diversity and innovation.
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