Folkert Schultz on Reinventing Business and Learning from Mistakes

Folkert Schultz is Managing Director at Allegro Invest SE, former Vice Chairman of the Board at pet food company Fressnapf, and a member of CURAZE, FemaleOneZero’s innovation network. With a personal interest in the digitalization of animal health, he sees development as an opportunity for change and lists speed of change as an addition to the challenges of our VUCA world

1. What are the most important issues and drivers in your current business?

Our transformation from provider to caretaker; and with it, the construction of our virtual and physical Fressnapf ecosystem. This platform connects the world of pet owners and brings to life our vision: "Happier Pets. Happier People." It offers a huge selection of products, services and guides, as well as third-party offerings such as dog trainers. One of our biggest focuses here is rapidly advancing digitalization, which received a big boost during the Corona pandemic.

2. ...And what are the biggest challenges?

The fact that we live in a VUCA world is both an opportunity and a risk. In addition to the buzzwords volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, there is a fifth dimension: the speed of change. For this reason, truly great companies must have the core competence of reinventing themselves again and again – at best out of desire for change and not due to hardship. Instead, we need courage and optimism to see development as an opportunity for change. This attitude makes it possible to identify trendsetting developments at an early stage. This is only possible in a corporate culture that allows mistakes – the important thing is to learn from them.

3. Which innovations around tech trends do you find particularly exciting?

One exciting topic is animal health in the context of digitalization, including everything from innovative fitness trackers to telemedicine. Or ESG investing: the possibility of not only achieving returns with the use of capital, but of improving the ecological footprint of society and the economy at the same time. Last but not least, I'm interested in innovation around FinTech as a driver of digitalization in insurance and other services.

4. Which idea has particularly excited you lately?

Firstly, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Taleb. Black swans are a metaphor for events we don't expect in the economic world. Taleb wrote this book over a decade before the Corona pandemic, but Covid-19 is of course among the most notorious black swans today. He demonstrates how they can surprise us at any time and threaten even established systems. Very recently, Daniel Kahneman impressed me with Noise - a Flaw in Human Judgement. He describes how decisions depend on random influences, the background noise of everyday life. This could be considered a great advantage of Big Data and algorithms that block out this "noise".

5. Why do cultural change and digital transformation go together in your opinion?

Digitalization is not just about technology, but requires a holistic view of companies and people. Digitalization involves change in processes and in the organization; continuous changes that constantly question the existing system. This is only possible in a corporate culture that creates room for flexible thinking and true agility.

6. In one sentence, what is one topic that we should no longer be discussing in five years?

Bureaucracy. Either we create a new approach or we will descend into bureaucratic madness.

7. Please complete: What makes companies successful in the long run... to think about the company's raison d'être every day. And as with all innovations: Hard work pays off. It’s for good reason that they say: "the ingredients for success are 85% transpiration and 15% inspiration."

What makes leadership successful in the long run... to make your own employees more successful. Because inspirational leadership is servant leadership, where others are lifted up.

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