“It’s about being ambitious with a lot of focus and trying to keep things clear, providing people a clear vision of where they need to go. As a leader it is important to carry people with you and with your vision. I am very proud to be in this company, and we have a global check-in every year with all our people and 89 % of our people feel fully empowered to do their job. Talented people like to get empowered and if you give people the road map, the structure, the ambition, the focus and empower them, they will deliver,” says Jerry Buhlmann CEO Dentsu Aegis Network & Executive Officer of Dentsu Inc. on his leadership style.
Another interesting fact that he talks about is while half of the growth for the network is organic, the other half is coming through acquisitions.
“It is very simple; look at how fast is the market changing, and if you want to change faster too, you have to bring in new talent and part of that is hiring and the other part is through acquisitions.” explains Buhlmann.
The Group has closed 34 deals last year globally, and around 12 this year already, and has 70 ‘possible’ acquisitions in its ‘consideration’ set currently.
Edited excerpts from a free- wheeling conversation with Jerry Buhlmann CEO Dentsu Aegis Network & Executive Officer of Dentsu Inc, on India being a star market, continuing the Group’s aggressive approach on acquisitions, setting a ‘big ambition’ of doubling the group’s revenue in five years and more ……..
Your network is seen as rather aggressive towards acquisitions, is this going to continue?
We have a clear cut strategy and acquisitions help us to accelerate that strategy. When you have a business environment where things are changing so rapidly, the ability to accelerate is critical to keeping up with the market and leading the market. So we think about the capabilities that we have and the capabilities we would like to grow, we can build those capabilities, but acquisitions give you scale very quickly and help to accelerate growth. When you have a high change market, you need to accelerate your strategy faster, and we focused on this, and got rewards for doing that. We did 34 deals last year, we have done around 12 already this year, half of our growth is through acquisitions and the other half is organic. Businesses rely on momentum, and you have to keep that momentum to engage your best talent and clients. Though we believe in high level organic growth, but part of that is through acquisitions too. People businesses rely on momentum, you have to create it, then maintain it.
Around fifty percent of our Senior management today, has come through M&A, we understand how to do M&A, it is about first about the people, money and numbers just follow.
So what is on the acquisition radar now?
Well, there are 70 on our long list.
What is the acquisition approach for the Indian Market?
We have done some fantastic acquisitions in India and they have been great success stories. The key to a good acquisition is to make sure the vendors and the owners are engaged with the vision you have. You should see the vendors as new talent that you are bringing in and make sure that they stay engaged. It is about people, and the money and the numbers just follow. We have got some great success in India and we will continue to develop that by bringing in new innovations. We are primarily focusing on the digital area, but if there are high quality assets that can help us grow, we will take that too.
What are the challenges in the Indian market? The business in India has been turned around from what it was before in terms of scale...
Ashish (Ashish Bhasin Chairman & CEO South Asia Dentsu Aegis Network, Chairman Posterscope and psLive - Asia Pacific - Aegis Group plc) has done some fantastic job. He has turned it into high performance and high growth business. Though it was not a high performance business few years ago, now it is a completely different business and a very successful one. It is very important, especially in the developing economies, that the business is run well with a senior leader leading people and has a strong performance culture. They are very talented people, and we have a very high quality business that is accelerating fast both locally and globally.
The Indian model works on one P&L and is it replicated in other markets too, after the success in India?
Well, the one P&L approach is in every market, none of the competing holding companies work like this. But when you think about real and profound forces on our business; which are about being more aggressive, more real-time and creating more engagement in multi-channel environments simultaneously, that requires a very fluid and integrated approach. And therefore you need an operating model which essentially is a system that works in the same way and is based on a coherent global platform. It makes it easier for organisations to function and drive growth. Any business with silos is slowing down the development of the business. It also makes it easier for organisations to work together, making it a very holistic and integrated approach to adopt. Which is one of the reasons we are growing two have half times the rate of the market , the operating model is a key feature.
Which are your star markets?
US and China are among the largest markets and to a large extent they are the fastest growing. If you look at the big markets at the moment, India is amongst the star markets in terms of growth, but in terms of the scale, you have to look at US and China. In terms of markets that have potential, I would say Brazil has great potential, while markets like Africa still have a long way to go.
What is the contribution of India, since you mentioned it’s amongst the fastest growing markets?
Our business in India has grown massively. We have over 3,000 people in India now; our business has grown in a relatively short period of time. So India is a promising market and we are investing in it strongly and we have strong leadership in place to ensure that those investments are materialised properly. Plus we are very confident about our talent levels and our management levels in India. So we have got a very nice confluence of capabilities there. When it comes to companies like Dentsu Aegis, you have to think on a long term basis, and it is going to be India, US, China, Brazil and about South East Asia that will deliver growth.
What is your target growth for India?
We are looking to double our revenue in five years as a Group,(globally) that’s our ambitious target, which is a big ambition.
We are pretty ambitious and want to grow by 18% across the globe and we think we can do that. We have set up big ambitious targets. Moreover, the market is changing rapidly and you have new competitors coming in, so we don’t look at the market saying we want this market share, what we want to do is grow the business rapidly, and we believe we have got the right vision to drive business in the digital economies and we are doing that, and at the same time make an engaging and rewarding business for all our stakeholders. So our shareholders, our clients and our people, are all happy. We already have a successful business across the world and every market is performing well. It is very important to keep our business focussed on supporting our people.