Beyond the standard & any other business

I’m able to fly – what about you?


Two days ago I stepped over an article spread along the alumni network of the Boston Consulting Group. Unfortunately it looks like it is not accessible from outside so I’m not able to link to it here. It is basically about 5 follow colleagues who have become entrepreneurs and share their story in kind of an interview structure, answering 4 simple questions. The title is “Dreams, Passion, and Working Without a Net”.

This article inspired me to answer these questions myself. I thought it is a great idea because of a) it will help me to realign with what is important for my venture, b) it will give others another perspective to look at my venture, besides all the presentations, company brochures and business plans I provide, and last but not least c) it will hopefully inspire others to use these questions and write their own story, their own experiences and share their insights and inspire us. This is a call for action. Please share your story. I’m interested in it.

The Elevator Pitch

Welcome to MapleTree CarWash ( the Home of Clean Cars and Happy People. We don’t have an elevator pitch; there are no elevators in a professional car wash. What we have is a car wash tunnel where the cars a cleaned and receive the shine. So here is out Tunnel Pitch:

MapleTree CarWash is about changing the game in a 30+ year old industry: Car Wash. Automatic car wash started in Germany more than 30 years ago. At that point in time there was a clear technology advantage. Those who had the technology to produce clean cars in good quality and short time clearly differentiated from those who lacked the technology. In those times the former players all ran their own equipment manufacturing. These times have changed; already 20 years ago everybody was able to source high end equipment from various suppliers.

There is only one thing to do in order to make a difference: Bring back the human side of the business. In the end it is a service from humans for humans, for our guests – the drivers and passengers in the car. MapleTree CarWash created the CarWash 2.0 concept which consists of three elements: Smart Layout, Self-Learning Wash-Processes and Agile Operations. This will create immediate advantages for our guests and secure our leading position.

MapleTree CarWash is setting up a 100% service oriented organization providing a state-of-the art car wash service. While doing this creating a recognized brand and consolidating the market following a buy-and-build strategy. Last but not least, having fun washing cars.

The inspiration

I love to interact with people, humans. Interacting in teams, listening, chatting inspires me and inspiration drives my life. As – by the way – life is always a give and take, this is the reason to give something back and hope to inspire the one or the other reader. Back to the original path: It took quite some time for me to realize that the human interaction is the most important thing for me. I’m glad that I found this missing link.

In car wash you have the ultimate chance for that. You have interaction with your team, a diverse team of highly educated – partly MBA type – in your central service functions and you have normal people – those who bring the truth of life to the table – in all your locations. That’s what ensures great and inspiring discussions. And there are numerous guest interactions. You can have more than 1,000 a day. You only have a short timeframe to interact with your guests, but you can use these 20 seconds to make a difference.

The BCG Factor

How to make a difference. For sure there are a lot of things I learned at BCG that helped me in my professional as well as my private life. Rather than counting a long list of more abstract things, you probably all heard before; there is one incidence I’d like to share.

I remember a situation during the Senior Consultant Training. Even though it is already 8 years ago, maybe more, it is so present to me that it could have been yesterday. The challenge was the following. While presenting some standard stuff – consider any of your management presentations from daily business usually not thrilling – you should generate a personal reaction from somebody in the audience. I choose an Italian colleague, she really was stressed from her previous client work and worrying about her child at home, so everything but relaxed and happy. My challenge was this: Make her smile! It took me three trials and I was exhausted, but I made her smile. That was a great moment.

During my time in car wash – I worked for one of the top players in Germany and was responsible to run 25+ conveyor car washes – this experience from Senior Consultant Training inspired me to conduct an experiment: When working at the prep gun, how long do you have to smile to the driver before she or he has no other chance to smile back? It doesn’t take long. And the interesting thing is they still have the smile when leaving the tunnel and that makes them feel good.

Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

This one goes out to all entrepreneurs. Despite the original title …Without a Net, if you feel you would need a net, it is probably not the right business idea you’re following. If it is your vision, than it feels perfectly right, there is no question about it. You see and feel the beauty of your idea. It doesn’t feel wrong, so it can’t go wrong.

With my current vision this holds 100%. It matches perfectly, sometimes I think this vision waited for me, it waited until I was prepared to see it and to understand the beauty of it. Everything matches perfectly together like a huge every small piece fits into it and builds a huge beautiful picture. Somehow all the different jobs I did before seem to make sense and culminate into this vision. This is the one thing that makes me hold on to my idea, my vision, because it feels so right. In the end even if everything else fails and all the money that we have put into it will be gone, there is one major experience that I made: I know what a vision – a real vision – looks like.

You could sum up all of the above into one word: passion. But this is to small it doesn’t appreciate all the feelings and emotions everything that goes hand in hand. Yes, I’m passionate about car washing. And you should be passionate about your business.

If you are, then everything you do in order to reach your vision makes sense. You get the feeling you can fly. Why should you need a net if you can fly?

(Originally posted on March 2nd, 20016)

Picture: © JenkoAtaman /

Great minds

Quite some days ago a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt came into my focus:

Great minds discuss ideas,

Average minds discuss events,

Small minds discuss people.

Nice, isn’t it? I personally prefer open discussions where everybody is free to address his or her ideas, whatever comes to his or her mind. I expect almost everybody will agree. The question is, what happens if you select a couple of great minds randomly from our planet put them together in a room and observe how things are evolving. How do they know that it’s safe to share their ideas? How do they know that the others in the room are also great minds? This question does not come out of the blue. Let me share an experience with you I made some years ago.

When I entered that specific organization whose name I’m not going to disclose, they were discussing people. They were literally discussing people in the boardroom. Whenever something went wrong or any outcome was below expectations somebody was blamed, preferably blue-collar staff. It was not the “Hey we have a problem – How can we solve it – How can we make sure it’s not going to hit us a second time” kind of approach. It was always a he or she who was the root cause and was accused and needed to change behavior. And guess what, what happens in the boardroom happens at all other levels and locations within the company as well. Sooner or later it will permeate into the entire organization.

This is the point where the question arises. Does that imply that the entire organization consists only of simple or small minds? Was it the fault of the individual people? What would have happened to my mind if I had stayed long enough and listened? In fact it was the company culture that over the years drifted away and made room for such kind of behavior. It was an old habit. The company culture drove the individual people’s behavior. It was the answer to the “What makes the people behave the way they behave?”-question.

It was a stony and bumpy road to change the culture and to get them to a habit of open discussions, an atmosphere where people are safe to speak and share their ideas and raise their questions. It was worth each extra mile! Besides a much more relaxed and fun working atmosphere it did pay off in other areas as well. It helped to increase the quality and to foster innovation as ideas where shared and discussed, tested and rolled-out.

Why is it important for me? I have tons of ideas and as well questions. And I am far from being an expert in every topic. In fact I am more the exploring kind of guy, looking for fresh input, new experiences meaning new businesses and industries all the time. Very likely I’ll step into something as a rookie with ideas and questions on top of my head.

Early on in my professional career I experienced this open culture at The Boston Consulting Group aka BCG. It was a supportive environment, where ideas could be openly discussed, questions could be raised without any fear of failure. Was that due to the fact that we were surrounded only by great minds? If you would ask anybody at BCG, I’m sure they would immediately confirm that there are only great minds. But it was also a cultural topic. Since then it is hard wired to my leadership style and closely related to my personal WHY.

If you want to build a lasting business which creates sustainable value, you need a culture of open discussions, a culture of trust. That is enabling an organization for agility and to create continuous innovations. Great minds are less a matter of their brains and the IQ of the people, it is more about their behavior and attitude. Foster a culture of great minds which are open to discuss ideas, and you will automatically create a sustainable organization.

It is as easy as this, but also quite tough in reality. Isn’t it? Did you ever try? It is worth trying.

Business Development Cloud

Business-Development – Buy & Build – Consolidation – Market-Entry – Mergers & Acquisitions – Operational-Excellence – Post-Merger-Integration – Business-Innovation – Specialization & Standardization


Growth – Value-Generation – Acquisition – Advisory – Agile – Automotive – Best-Practices – Beyond – Business – Challenge – Closing – Commercial – Competitiveness – Competitor – Corporation – Crisis – Customer – Digital – Disruptive – Due-Diligence – Dynamic – Enterprise – Executive – Family-Office – First-100-Days – Further – Future – Game-Changing – Goal – Improvement – Industrial – Industry-4.0 – Information – Innovation – Integration – Low-Hanging-Fruits – M&A – Maintenance – Merger – Objective – Online – Operations – Opportunities – Organization – Platform – PMI – Possibilities – Pricing – Private-Equity – Real-Time – Restructuring – Rocket-Science – Roll-Out – Service – Strategy – Success-Stories – Sustainability – Takeover – Technology – Time – Transformation – Up – Vision


access – acknowledge – act – adjust – analyze – apply – arbitrate – argue – arrange – assign – assist – benchmark – boost – breakdown – build – calibrate – change – channel – collect – combine – commit – communicate – connect – construct – contribute – control – convince – create – de-average – decide – deliver – determine – develop – diagnose – differentiate – elevate – embrace – empower – enable – ensure – enter – expect – experience – experiment – extend – feel – fight – find – finish – follow – force – form – fuel – gain – gather – go – guarantee – guide – help – identify – illustrate – improve – innovate – install – invent – involve – launch – lead – learn – level – locate – look – measure – moderate – monitor – move – navigate – observe – offer – orchestrate – own – package – partner – plan – please – position – practice – proceed – promise – promote – provide – questioning – raise – receive – reduce – refine – relate – request – require – resist – respond – risk – safeguard – search – see – serve – share – shift – simplify – spark – spread – start – stimulate – support – surprise – synchronize – target – teach – team – test – train – transform – trigger – understand – update – utilize – visualize – win – work

Chasing Max O.

On the power of a clear vision

“Are you sure you wanna do this?….” crushed into my head while I was sitting in the small and dark office of Mr. P. It was a warm und sunny day in July of 2000. I knew everybody else was outside enjoying the summer and the remainder was founding New-Economy startups and becoming both famous and millionaire over night.

It is more than 15 years ago now and still feels like yesterday. Actually I can see the scene right in front of me when I close my eyes. I am more the visual type of guy, but we will come to that later on.

“Yes” I pushed back boldly, “I’ll find Max O. – son of the incredible Dedekind and provide you with evidence proving his existence by end of this summer!” I committed myself to this quest, an endeavor of two months through dark, cold and stony fields while every body else was having fun. What the hell made me do that?

OK, if you didn’t get it by now, I am talking about my PhD thesis. And I committed myself to bring a detailed proof and an algorithm to provide maximal orders over Dedekind domains. Which is a topic from algorithmic algebraic number theory, it is mathematics. I promised my PhD advisor to submit my PhD thesis by the end of the summer break, which meant within the next two months. The question is still waiting to be answered: Why did I commit to this?

Usually it is uncommon within natural science to sell the result before you know a detailed proof. After all the answer is simple: It just felt right! I had a clear vision. It was my gut feeling telling me this is the result I can show. This will be the PhD thesis I will be able to submit. It will be a result I will be proud of because it has some beauty built into it. But how can this work out? My gut feeling presenting a crazy idea which I call vision? Shouldn’t a vision be based on structured deductive analysis? Fact based reasoning ad decently thought through?

Going back in time to July of 2000. It was a strange feeling. After months of research in the dark and outmoded academic library, reading through dusted books, reading back and forth concepts in different environments, old and new, the idea bloomed by itself. Today I know that this was not a coincidence. Studying the field in different environments allowed me to view this topic from different angles, to take different perspectives. This helped me to understand the commonality as well as the specialties of the various situations. This was the fundament of my understanding of the topic.

Allow you brain – you imagination to play with it and it will create ideas. In my case it was a picture. I literally saw how all the bits and pieces fit together and build up a huge colorful mosaic. This proves as well that I am a visual guy. Remember that I promised you also to deliver this proof.

With a vision you have the most powerful tool in your hands, it can be the ultimate turbo boost to achieve your goal. I had the vision for my PhD thesis. I saw it. I saw how the orders and the ideals, the radicals and the modules played together over the quotient field of their underlying Dedekind domain. – Sorry for that, I could not resist to put in these technical mathematical terms.

They formed such a beautiful picture that this must have been a vision. It was probably not the first vision I had in my life. But it was definitely the first one I realized. This vision gave me the strength to commit myself, to work hard on the details and submit my PhD by the end of the summer of 2000.

Was it a brainy vision or just a crazy gut feeling? Regardless of what you call it, it was not inductively derived, it was not a reasoned approach, I hadn’t had the proof for it all. Nevertheless – and this is my main point – it was based on extreme research and experience in the field. I did not come out of the blue.

A gut feeling or intuition is always based on strong experience and knowledge and created by your brain and not by your gut. If you are able to realize these feelings, to use your intuition that is a great skill.

Let your intuition build a vision. Visions are strong. If you have one your should use it. Share it with others and get them engaged. Try it out and enjoy.

My Mission

“Where are the profit pools of tomorrow (read in 10 years from now)?” A couple of years ago I received this mission from my CEO and set out to discover those profit pools. Easier said than done.

Nevertheless here are the ingredients of a profit pool analysis: one portion of market intelligence (i.e. some 25-30 interviews), one portion of historical data on price and production cost development, three portions of excel model, and a dash of brave extrapolation. The mission was completed within 3 weeks.

Did we secure those profit pools for our company? That is the ultimate question; you all want to know the answer. The truth is: I can’t tell you, as the 10 years are not over yet.

In my point of view business development is always two-fold: yes you need to have a strong vision of the future, bold targets worth to put in additional energy, in the story above these are the future profit pools. And you need your team, the organization to go after those targets and fulfill your vision.

My mission is to enable the organization and support the team. Best I can do is being part of the endeavor and leading the team towards those new continents rather than waving the sailing ships goodbye and hoping they will return one day with glorious news.

It all summarizes in my favorite motto “Think global – act local”.

I’m more than happy to discuss the topic of business development. Looking forward to getting to know you.

Think global, act local – Leading Change

Let me share a story that happened some years ago. We met a group of Chinese investors. They loved our concept and were willing to implement it in China; opening 100 stores in the first year… Isn’t that great? That is fantastic. Back home, we presented it to our board. The feedback we received was: “Who’s gonna run the show?”

It’s a people-thing. In the end, every business development initiative comes back to people and to change. If you could continue business as usual, you wouldn’t have to worry about anything. So there wouldn’t be a need to develop your business.

Think global. If we don’t think out of the box, we don’t see new opportunities, in the above story the new market China. We are not yet there. We don’t have a team to enter the market, identify appropriate locations, manage the building and get the business running. Is this reason enough to stop thinking about it? – Short period of silence… Now you need somebody to shout out “No!”

Act local. Let’s pretend somebody did you the favor. Now keep on going. As we don’t have the team yet to enter a new market, we have to build it up. Find the people – this can be existing members of your organization or external – who are willing to go on a new endeavor. It is more important that they are keen on doing something new rather than that they have 10+ years experience in entering new markets. Set up the team and offer all support they need. Stay to your word.

This is a transformation. For sure entering a new market – and doing business on a different continent with an expansion speed beyond everything that is known in your business – what else can it be than a major transformation? And thinking about a new opportunity in this way “Let’s set up a team and support them as much as possible.” In contrast to the implicit No of “Who’s gonna run the show?” This is a transformation, too.

Change comes in different flavors and for different reasons. The flavors can be anything from changing the work environment, changing behavior, changing skills to changing doctrine and changing personality. I first discovered them in the book “Führungsstark im Wandel” by Alexander Groth.

In the end it is always the Think global – act local principle. First you have to think, then you have to act.

Deine Schuld…

A short lesson on leadership – actually it is only three and a half minutes. Just heard this song on the radio.

It is not your fault that the world is as it is today,
but it would be your fault if it stays like that…

The song is originally in German “Deine Schuld” Die Ärzte.

Leadership is: Make things better.