Interview – 22. May 2019
BASIC REQUIREMENT FOR A CONSULTANT JOB? YOU HAVE TO LOVE TRAVELLING.
Mr. Kernmayer, may I ask you: What did you study? And would you do something different today?

I studied business education at WU in Vienna. Today I would probably do something different, yes. It was a compomise decision for me at the time. I’ve always been interested in economics, even at school, and I’m also a little preoccupied with my family. Secondly, psychology fascinated me. At the time, Business education combined both very well. But I never intended to become a teacher.

You didn't teach?

I never taught in a school. I did adult education for a while during my studies. After university, I spent 10 years at a management consultancy, but in the „soft“ world, i.e. executive development for change management. Three and a half years ago I joined Syngroup because I noticed that this focus on the „softer“ elements of consulting was too psychological for me and therefore too one-sided. I‚d lost the world of numbers and business management.

Would you say that you are a born consultant? What appealed to you about the industry?

Yes, I would certainly say, from the cradle. There is also another aspect: I worked as a tour guide for years during my studies. Looking back, it was a very good opportunity to get to know countries, people and languages. That benefits me today. I always say to my young colleagues: you have to like travelling.

Would you say that this is a basic requirement for the job of consultant?

It is, yes, if you want to stay in the job for the longer term. It’s ok to say that if I’m not here for a day or two it’s okay, but basically I want to meet my friends in Vienna in the evening – that’s just not possible with this job. I’ve been in this rhythm for quite some time now, where you’re gone from Monday to Thursday. In a family context, of course, you have to come to an arrangement, and probably not everyone can.

But you end up with that?

Fortunately, it works for me, yes.

What made you decide to join Syngroup three and a half years ago?

I jumped in at the deep end because I had no idea about industry before I came here. I’ve worked with industrial companies and their employees before, but only in the seminar room, never on-site. That’s why in the beginning I had my doubts as to whether it would work. First you have to give up respect for big machines, then you can, they said. And so it was. I soon realised that this combination of business management and working with people was very much to my liking. That was my thing. Okay, the technical aspects of the process, the production processes were additional, but I was able to learn that.

Ok, what does a working day or week look like to you now? Is there any way to illustrate it?

It’s actually very different in our case. For me it’s a good mixture. I have a big project, an international production company, which I’m already looking after for the third year now. Over the course of the year, that’s perhaps 20 or 30 percent of my workload.

And you need to go there again and again.

Yes, that has now become the routine. We look after three to four locations, and I make quarterly visits there. In addition, I am operationally responsible for handling our orders in Germany. We also have a subsidiary in Munich, Bayern-Consult. That’s something different. We are partners of various German savings banks through which work comes our way.

How do you perceive that? Is it also about industry?

Not so much industry, the customers are mainly German SMEs, there is a lot of that in Germany. And a lot of them are suppliers to industry, in other words production companies. So that’s not so far away in itself.

But the customers are the banks?

Officially, the customer is the medium-sized company. But the bank recommends they take a consultant for various reasons, that’s the construct in Germany.

Recommends or prescribes?

You can argue about it. As a rule, we come up with a proposal of three. And that’s where something develops frequently. In any case, my area of responsibility in these two areas is, all in all, very varied.

In these bank-led business cases, as I call them, are you always the project lead?

Yes, we have a sales representative in Germany who is also the interface to the savings banks. When it comes to operational management, I’m in charge with two colleagues who support me.

We've already briefly touched on private matters. What do you do when you’re not working?

Above all, I do whatever I can do alonside my professional activities: Running. I started doing this very early on. You can run anywhere, you can take shoes with you, you can get to places quickly.

In contrast to windsurfing. (laughs)

That’s it. I’d have to have a lot of time for that. (laughs)

So you're a runner. Marathon too?

Yes, I run. What else do I do? Family, the rest is dedicated to my family – and that’s not much more, that’s just what you have to say. But for me it fits well. Young colleagues often see it differently.

Has the focus changed a little from "What do I give the employer?" to "What does the employer give me?

That is also my perception. I don’t want to condemn it under any circumstances, each to each his own. I at least have some comparison with the many years I spent working at my former employer, where it may not always have been so great, and yet: Although I work a lot more here, spend a lot of hours on projects, the work-life balance in Syngroup is better for me than in my previous job.

The efficiency that is carried to the outside obviously also has an internal effect.

Yes, perhaps. What I really appreciate is a strong Syngroup culture: you are left alone on weekends. As a rule, nobody writes an e-mail at the weekend, nobody will call you. That’s the way it is. On Monday morning you have to be at the airport again at six anyway. But the weekend is sacred. That’s a key point for me.

It also speaks for everyone involved that it works.

I would say that it is equally important to everyone.

And it also has a technical effect.

It ends. And it has to, because if it were different, the system would tip over, I think.

Now to something else: Are there areas where you want to change the world? And if so, how do you see the opportunities for this?

Maybe that’s where I start: I wrote my diploma thesis about motivation. I am motivated by developments in which I am involved and which I can understand. In industrial consulting, important developments are always made step by step, often many very small steps. You have no chance without a lot of staying power. In addition, there is the extreme fluctuation that almost all companies suffer from, not only in top management but also among department heads. Which often throws you back even further when making improvements. But if, despite all the difficulties, you can still make a difference by joining forces in a long-term relationship, if you can initiate improvements for the better, then these are the moments of success for this job. And that brings us back to the beginning, to motivation.

But would you now be much more motivated when it comes to, let's say, advising companies to become CO2-neutral, in contrast to the umpteenth increase in output in production? Or do you see this only pragmatically?

I certainly saw it differently in the past, but now I am more pragmatic. Of course, I sometimes have big doubts about disposable plastics. That’s really, really difficult when you’re standing in a warehouse 50 x 100 m and it’s piled up with disposable plactic products. . But on the other hand, the world is like that. For me, this means that if I can do something now to make sure that we don’t have to carry the stuff around in trucks so much, then at least we’ve taken a small step.. Efficiency in industrial companies means primarily saving energy and materials, less waste and so on.

And what about staff savings?

Of course, we are told that we typically only save on personnel. Yes, there is, there has to be, because companies also breathe from the point of view of size. Sometimes it really makes you more efficient. But, as I said, the primary issues are energy efficiency, material efficiency, shortening production times – and these things are always good for the environment.

Should Syngroup also strive for a pioneering role as a CO2 reduction specialist?

That may sound clarified now: I think we will be challenged with this issue by many clients in the next five years, and pragmatically for business reasons. And it is clear that I do not see this as a negative development for me or Syngroup.

I wish for Syngroup:

Stability.

Consultant life means:

Desire for something new.

A good consultant is characterized above all by one thing:

The view from the outside.

A good client is distinguished above all by one thing:

Openness.

My greatest strength is:

Perseverance.

My colleagues appreciate me most of all:

Accessibility.

The most exciting thing about international projects is:

Different countries, different cultures.

The Syngroup claim "The Efficiency Consultants" is for me:

Something I couldn’t do much with in the beginning, something I understand much better now and something that is becoming more and more flesh and blood for me, too.