Case Study: Recruiting a General Manager for a Swiss Family Business

Case Study: Recruiting a General Manager for a Swiss Family Business

The Brief

The company: a 50 year old Swiss family watch brand is seeking a General Manager to leverage the company’s expansion and awareness for the both America and Asia markets

The mission: In-line with the family business strategy:

  • Lead the development and  profitability of the watch activity
  • Develop new products in close cooperation with the creative’ s vision and the help of about 80 people including marketers, designers and trades people

The expected candidate: a team builder who understands product development and is highly growth oriented

Status: Executive reporting to the President (2th generation), owner and CEO of the company

An international head hunter firm has been requested to manage the search through its international offices

The external selected candidate’s profiles

Candidate 1:Paul  F,  38 years old – French citizen.  French Business Diploma. He joined

an independent watchmaking family business ten years ago, where he started as product manager and grew to the Marketing Development Director role.  For the last two years he has led the US market as Country Regional Manager.

Candidate 2: John W.  K, 45 years old – dual Swiss and German nationalities – Engineering diploma + MBA (US Business School) He began his professional career with a Swiss watch manufacturer, first as a development   engineer, then as the Industrial Director (15 years) before joining the HQ of a Luxury Group He is currently COO of an Italian Luxury Group.

Candidate 3:Michael  O,  42  years old – UK  citizen  – Cambridge University diploma

Spent 10 ten years as a “right hand” to a Swiss family luxury business, in the position of GM.

For the past year, he has led the family brand’s integration in a French Luxury Group as a Vice President of the business operation.

Analysis and comments:

All the three candidates have gained professional experience within a luxury brand, so in this case we need to evaluate:

  1. The candidates’ leadership capacity and ability to cope with the organizational culture and values of the family brand in the long term. In other words, will they fit well with:

-         The family’s sensibilities: e.g. partnering with the CEO & President’s business vision

-         The Brand’s DNA: the watch-making savoir-faire

-         The capacity to lead a team of diverse talents (marketers, watchmakers, engineers, etc.)  in a very specific environment which requires subtle management skills

  1. Their ability to contribute value in the short term:

-         To function daily with the emotionally-charged family members that are involved in the company’s development

-         To manage the development of successful new products

Considering the case elements, candidate 1 seems to have relevant experience and skills that could match. Therefore, his background with a family business provides him with a distinct advantage which, as a first step, get him a meeting with the CEO & President.


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