Balancing management and the board
Alexander Rosenlew, CEO and co-owner of the Orthex Group, wanted to navigate from PE to public listing. Value Creation for Owners and Directors gave him (another) dose of INSEAD clarity.
If you think you’re right about something, usually you’re not.
This is the kind of wisdom that comes with experience – and more than three decades at the helm of different boards, associations and executive committees. It’s also behind a lifelong impetus to learn and keep learning that has brought Alexander Rosenlew to INSEAD on three occasions to date, to pursue the Certificate in Global Management Executive Education programmes.
CEO and co-owner of Finnish sustainable household products producer, Orthex Group, Rosenlew is something of an INSEAD veteran. Most recently he completed the Value Creation for Owners and Directors programme, an experience that he says brought him “clarity” in terms of “managing moving parts at a time of uncertainty.”
“Orthex has grown rapidly since I took over as group CEO. We have consolidated a position as a leading producer of sustainable plastic goods for the household in the Nordic region with sales to more than 40 different countries, and in March this year we were listed in the Nasdaq stock exchange.”
Choosing this programme was in part, he says, a function of navigating the transition from private ownership to being a publicly-held organisation. And INSEAD was an obvious choice.
“There’s a certain duality – a schizophrenia, in a sense – in operating as the CEO and co-owner of a company while simultaneously managing the needs of a new, incoming board and new stakeholders. There are lots of moving parts to manage, not least of which is the need to divide up responsibilities between management and the board. I was looking for perspectives on different roles, and I knew that INSEAD was a safe set of hands.”
Value Creation for Owners and Directors is the third programme Rosenlew has taken at INSEAD, and he holds the Certificate in Global Management – the School’s premium Executive Education qualification, which confers alumni status on participants.
“I naturally looked to INSEAD to manage the shift we were making from the private equity to a public listing environment, and to get insight into best practices from both board and management sides. My experience with the School has been nothing but positive and I knew that the programme would deliver real, practical value in terms of what works well in this context.”
The programme delivered beyond his expectations in the end, he says. And not least because of the calibre of INSEAD faculty whose enthusiasm, communication skills and capacity to drive learning through the use of diverse, real-world case studies very much “brought the experience to life.”
The live virtual format was also surprisingly good, he adds.
“Covid restrictions have meant that most programmes are delivered virtually, so there’s that sense that you miss out on the social and interpersonal exchanges you get on campus. But in the event, the experience is surprisingly close to being there in person. Our cohort was very small and well structured, and the virtual setting actually gave us time and space to really listen to each other and exchange ideas.”
His fellow participants represented a geographical, industry and market-based diversity of perspectives, which exponentially accelerated the speed of the learning, says Rosenlew. Exchanging with these peers and exploring the complexities of shared challenges yielded precisely the insights he was looking for, and tools to resolve the types of challenges he faces.
“When you are listing your company and making all kinds of complex decisions at a time of huge uncertainty, you really need to align all of your stakeholders. That means having total clarity about roles and responsibilities, and communicating – over communicating actually – with your entire organisation to ensure everyone is onboard and that morale remains robust throughout the transition. The programme helped me enormously with this. Working with our new board has been smooth and positive.”
Besides these takeaways, Rosenlew also appreciates the willingness of INSEAD faculty to offer some guidance beyond the programme. It is testimony, he says, the “learning relationship” that endures at INSEAD.
“I return to INSEAD regularly because I believe in learning and I think that continuously challenging yourself to learn should be on everyone’s menu. Life has taught me that if you think you’re right about something, you’re probably not. You need to keep an open mind and be proactive about expanding your understanding – and that’s very much part of the INSEAD experience.”
As an experience, INSEAD has become a “highlight of the year,” says Rosenlew. Finding the best possible programme to meet changing and evolving needs is now part of this annual calendar, and he is already looking forward to coming back next year.
“That’s the only problem with INSEAD. Once you start, you get hooked.”