The BE-terna Group is about to undergo a change of leadership. On 1st July 2021, company founder and CEO Christian Kranebitter will hand over operational functions to his successor Bernhard Lang, after 16 years at the helm of the company.
With 950 employees, BE-terna is directly represented in nine European countries and also operates as a global company with a network of 70 closely connected partners. As a former member of the msg Group's Management Board, Bernd is looking forward to the new challenge of continuing to drive forward the end-to-end digitalisation of operational business processes for predominantly internationally active customers with cloud-based business applications.
In this joint interview, Christian and Bernhard (Bernd) talk about the changes and the future.
Christian, because of the Covid situation, unfortunately we won’t be able to give you a grand farewell party, and the farewell will probably take place online instead.
Christian: There would not have been a big farewell party anyway, but of course we will celebrate my departure from the operational business in a small, permitted setting.
As the company founder, is it possible to let go entirely?
Christian: When I founded the company, I already assumed that I would not serve as CEO until retirement. The development of BE-terna, especially in the last ten years, has been impressive and this year we will crack the 1,000-employee mark. I am sure that now is the right moment for a change in leadership.
Of course, I also feel some sadness about leaving, as you’re bound to when you have built up a company from scratch. However, it is very positive that we have succeeded in gaining such an experienced and successful manager from our industry as my successor. BE-terna will be in very good hands.
Bernd, he’s talking about you. Why did you decide to take on the role of CEO at BE-terna from July 2021?
Bernd: I've been with the msg Group for 25 years now. I started there as a student trainee and was most recently a member of the Group Management Board. When I started at msg, we had 400 employees. By the time I left the company in March of this year, we had grown to 8,500 employees and generated sales of €1.1 billion.
In recent years, I have mainly been responsible for internationalisation and the standard software business, which has made a significant contribution to the Group's growth.
For example, most of msg's 25 national subsidiaries were set up by me. Last year, I was faced with the decision of whether to extend my Management Board contract by another 5 years, or whether it was time to move on to something new. I then decided on the latter, coupled with the desire to take an extended break before making a new commitment. I then had a few offers from my business network, but nothing that really excited me. I then received an offer from BE-terna and realised quite quickly that I was very interested in the company and the role. With each interview, the positive feelings have increased and now I have even curtailed my time off to be able to start in July.
What exactly attracted you to the new job?
Bernd: BE-terna is an interestingly sized company in an interesting market. We are big enough to get strategic projects in the market, but not so big that you can no longer act quickly and agilely. Having worked mostly with SAP over the last few years, doing business with Microsoft, Infor and Qlik also excites me. I'm also really looking forward to being active again in Scandinavia, the Benelux region and the Balkans, in addition to working in the DACH region. These are all regions that I know well and have always enjoyed working in. So, there are many good reasons for me to be excited about the new job.
BE-terna has grown rapidly in recent years and has impressed with its first international acquisitions in particular. Will this path continue under your leadership?
Bernd: The digitisation of the economy has only just begun, and will continue to provide plenty of growth potential for well-positioned IT companies. Therefore, BE-terna's growth strategy is correct and will not be questioned. The organic growth rate over the next few years is expected to be above the market average and we intend to continue the successful buy & build strategy of recent years.
The complete transformation to a cloud-only business software provider and the even stronger organisational integration of the Group companies will be the main focus in the near future. We must also offer the right solutions for our customers' new requirements, such as constantly expanding regulatory requirements, the digitalisation of their products, the establishment of platforms and ecosystems across industry borders, and emission reduction.
Christian, isn't it a pity that you will now no longer be part of these plans for the future?
Christian: No, the more I listen to Bernd, the more I look forward to the next development steps of our company under his leadership. Ultimately, it was my personal decision to hand over the reins to someone else after 16 years of leadership. The timing of my resignation from the operational business is exactly right and, in addition, I will remain as a shareholder and member of the advisory board, and can contribute to strategic development accordingly.
How important is an organised and, above all, well-planned handover?
Bernd: That is very important to me personally. All bodies, from the shareholders to the advisory board and management, positively support the transition to a new CEO. This commitment at all levels has been an important factor in my decision to accept this position. I have deep respect for Christian's achievements and will certainly seek his advice quite often.
Do you have a different leadership style?
Bernd: We have been able to get to know each other very well in several face-to-face meetings. I think there are some parallels in our leadership styles. On the other hand, I will also bring my personal touch and make some changes. In any case, neither of us is a micromanager, because managers need to be able to develop their leadership responsibilities and not have to think about organisational regulations for every detail. Free decision-making for managers is an essential component for achieving goals.
Christian: Of course, we are different personalities, that's clear. In the past few years, we have already started making changes at BE-terna in the sense that there is not only top-down leadership. I am sure that more changes will take place under Bernd. And I would also like to see more women in management positions, as we have not really been in a good position in that respect so far.
How do you see the short- and medium-term economic situation in BE-terna's key markets?
Bernd: The business software market environment, which had previously been robust across a wide range of industries, has changed, in some cases dramatically, since March of last year. However, the last few weeks have shown that Europe has got a good grip on the pandemic. All in all, there are now considerably more opportunities than risks for us.
Christian: Exactly. Digitalisation has significantly accelerated, and many companies are just now initiating projects to optimise and automate their business processes. No-one would have imagined just over a year ago that we would be able to handle projects from A to Z online. Personally, I see the overall economic development from the middle of the year onwards as being very positive, which will also influence the ongoing good economic development of BE-terna.
Christian, what else are you going to do besides being an advisory board member of the BE-terna Group? Any fears that boredom might creep in?
Christian: Not at all. In addition to my advisory board activities, I will also be heavily involved in the acquisition of new companies for BE-terna. I will also be active as an investor and business angel in order to pass on my entrepreneurial experience. And finally, I would like to initiate some social projects with my family. There should be no room for boredom.