Hans Bongartz (Boer & Croon): ‘We Are Ready to Claim Our Seat at C-Level’

Hans Bongartz (Boer & Croon): ‘We Are Ready to Claim Our Seat at C-Level’
The boardroom increasingly demands agility, strategic thinking, and decisiveness to tackle complex issues and strategic transitions. Interim management can play a meaningful role, says Hans Bongartz of Boer & Croon. Fifty years after its founding, the executive interim-management specialist is increasingly presenting itself in the C-Suite. This makes sense, as the boardroom is where Boer & Croon has always acted and been seen as a logical partner.'

Students from across the world stroll the campus of Nyenrode Business University. The university, situated on an estate near the 13th-century Nyenrode Castle, is recognized as a breeding ground for young business talent. Its combination of ambitious élan, history and experience creates the perfect environment to delve deeper into Boer & Croon's strategy. The (perhaps) inventor of interim management is over half a century old, but still as youthful and enthusiastic as when it was founded in 1973.

Boer & Croon is in the process of boosting its interim management practice significantly, driven by the belief that executive interim management can play a crucial role in addressing so-called mission-critical issues within organizations. Hans Bongartz, who has been a partner in strategy and transformation at Boer & Croon for more than a year and a half, explains how the organization is responding to the growing demand for strategic and decisive leadership at the executive level. In an interview with Vincent Moolenaar, business director board and governance programs at Nyenrode Business University, he emphasizes that the guidance of interim managers becomes increasingly important the higher the level at which assignments are conducted.

First, a general question: why is Boer & Croon unique in the market?
‘Boer & Croon is active in three areas: executive search, consulting, and interim management. We are very strong at execution: decisive implementation of strategic projects. We typically do not compile reports or conduct benchmarking but get to work in co-creation with our client. We do not leave before the project is accomplished, or, as we say: we get it done'.

Who makes up the team that drives Boer & Croon's successes?
‘Boer & Croon currently employs around 150 consultants, (senior) managers and partners with a notable pool of associate and executive partners affiliated with us. Our consultants are not only intelligent but also skilled at connecting with others and taking decisive actions. They are the ones who lead operational improvement projects for clients, manage project support, or help implement strategic plans. Our interim managers have very diverse backgrounds, sector experience and roles. They combine relevant experience and personal leadership with the emotional intelligence needed to be successful in multi-stakeholder environments. Moreover, they must be able to communicate well, both internally and externally.'

In which sectors does Boer & Croon excel?
‘We operate in markets organized along the pillars of healthcare, public, and profit. In the public domain, our clients include (semi-)government bodies, administrative organizations, education, and cultural institutions. In the healthcare sector, our clients range from hospitals to youth institutions, the elderly, and mental healthcare. Boer & Croon is also active in many sectors within the private sector, from transport and logistics to the energy sector and from manufacturing to financial services. We serve corporates, large family businesses, and scale-ups ready to take the next step. With 25 partners, we can manage this broad scope.’

How well represented is Boer & Croon Executive Interim Management at CEO level?
‘We most certainly have presence there, but we aim to expand this. For the recent three-year period, we reviewed how often we were called by a CEO or a supervisory board for boardroom roles. We could have done better, which motivated us to better showcase our capabilities. With 50 years of interim management experience, we are ready to claim our role at C-level. We have the 'right to play,' so to say.’

How will Boer & Croon draw attention to its logical position in the boardroom?
‘By emphasizing that we have the interim executives capable of solving complex issues in the boardroom. This is not only for situations where a CFO has dropped out, but also for special projects such as a take-over or when a relatively inexperienced CEO needs senior counsel. We’ve put together a remarkable pool of interim professionals who have held top roles like CEO, CFO, CHRO, or Chief Restructuring Officer, especially in turnaround situations. These people bring extensive experience as senior board members or executives, or as country managing directors within large corporates in the Netherlands. They form our team of executive (interim) partners.’

Is this the difference between management and boards?
‘Yes, that's a good way to put it. Our executive partners are available through Boer & Croon for roles requested by supervisory boards or CEOs who need someone on their team. These are leaders with an engaging personality and significant end-responsibility experience at one of the C-levels.’

Are executive partners also responsible for lead generation – connecting with potential clients – or exclusively for the assignment?
‘The latter is the primary goal. Executive partners are particularly effective in sectors where they have proven experience and demonstrated their added value. With my own background in energy transition and infrastructure, I have been able to connect several executives in those sectors to Boer & Croon. But we also attracted former board members from various sectors, including transport and logistics, healthcare, financial services, mobility, and manufacturing. We will certainly also work together on business development. Our combined networks are a rich source of leads for our interim practice, and we will leverage those contacts actively.’

Why will these experienced and talented professionals commit to Boer & Croon?
‘Our advantage is that we offer a community of practitioners of senior executives with similar experiences. They appreciate the opportunity to meet as a group of peers, to discuss dilemmas in assignments and brainstorm about possible solutions. A kind of intervision, but also business development: every three weeks we get together to discuss market trends and the opportunities it offers Boer & Croon.’

Executive partners can leverage the brand, the lead generation, and peer network. Yet, they are seasoned executives themselves. What does Boer & Croon do for their professional development?
‘I previously mentioned the brainstorm sessions with other interim managers. Additionally, we offer counseling for specific assignments, because we feel responsible for the client relationship. When an executive partner kicks off a project, they typically need to develop an action plan within three weeks. To support with execution, we pair a young colleague from our consulting group with the executive partner. This colleague can assist with drafting the action plan or creating a presentation, allowing the executive partner to focus on the assignment. When the action plan is ready, after a few weeks, the assistant leaves.’

Does this mean Boer & Croon manages the relationship with the client? What remains with the executive partner?
‘Of course, the execution of the assignment primarily remains with the interim manager, but we provide everything necessary for them to deliver. The peer-to-peer coaching within the group of executive partners is crucial. No matter how experienced or successful your career has been so far, there are always challenges. That is why executive interim managers regularly share the dilemmas they face. This way of brainstorming helps them validate their considerations with colleagues who have similar experience. Each executive interim manager remains responsible and makes his or her own decisions but can incorporate the perspectives provided by the group. This is the culture we foster at Boer & Croon. We aim to build the leading brand for executive interim management, and coaching and mentoring are an integral part of that.’

The concept of intervision is well-known in healthcare, but collegial peer-to-peer interaction is relatively new in the corporate boardroom. How do the interim executives experience this?
‘They experience it exactly as you put it: as collegial peer-to-peer. That is why they are interested in joining us, because as a group, but also as an individual, they grow stronger. For example, not every executive partner is in touch with the top 100 supervisory directors, but as Boer & Croon collectively, we do have those connections. We constantly receive inquiries from this network, and we aim to address each one by providing the right executive interim manager. That connection, where dilemmas, suggestions, opportunities, and assignments converge, is the strength of our network.’

Boer & Croon positions itself firmly as an organization for interim management at all levels. How would you describe your own company culture?
‘As no-nonsense and collegial, committed to achieving results for our clients. We work hard, but we also value the fun factor and for this we organize team events. There is a stimulating culture where we support each other and pursue exciting, challenging assignments together.’

Why should large companies choose Boer & Croon for interim assignments? What is your added value?
‘First and foremost, we have the executives who can solve their issues. Many of our assignments involve strategic transformations. We bring new and proven leadership, the capability to execute, and a broader perspective on the issue from our collective experience. We find it hugely important that our candidate matches the existing team; we pay great attention to that. With Boer & Croon, you always get an interim manager who does not only bring their own expertise but also the broad expertise from our practice. Due to the size of our practice, we can also always provide a replacement, in the unlikely event that should be needed.’

How do you convince the client of that added value?
‘Partly by ensuring a strong match between the client's top team and the interim manager. We usually limit the number of candidates proposed for an interim assignment to two, only in exceptional cases presenting more. The presented candidates are always capable and are diverse enough to indeed offer the client a choice. We often see that the client refines the desired profile during the introductory meetings. By presenting different profiles, we can usually fill the position successfully.’

Where will Boer & Croon be in five years?
‘In five years from now, we will be on every shortlist for C-level interim management. Supervisory board members and CEOs will know where to find us. We will be widely recognized as the leading executive interim community. We will work for significant clients both in the stock market environment as well as the large, prominent healthcare institutions and public organizations. Our executive partners will form a close-knit community, contributing enthusiastically to our thriving practice. Isn’t that great?’

This interview was published in Management Scope 06 2024.

This article was last changed on 25-06-2024