Ian Carr & René Gross Kærskov
Co-CEOs, Hirsch Bedner Associates
After revenue dropped a worrying 25 percent between 2008 and2010, Carr and Kærskov were tasked with getting Los Angeles-based hospitality design firm HBA back on track. By the end of 2012, sales had increased 65 percent to $91 million (the highest ever), and staff count had doubled to more than 1,000. The solu-tion was a partnership-focused strategy in which the company launched new brands and expanded aggressively anywhere in the world that would facilitate local clientele.
HBA is now up to 16 offices, four of which opened in the last three years. "Where other people might be reluctant to expand, we speed it up," Kærskov says. "We are approaching our 50th anniversary," Carr adds, "and we are still a future-looking operation."
On the influence of a co-manager:
Carr: We came from different backgrounds--I was a designer in Asia, and René was the CFO--but combining our complementary skills has led to synergy. Motivation is a relentless task, and by having dual roles, René reminds and re-inforces me to never let go of that drive.
Kærskov: We have a roll-up-your-sleeves meritocracy, and we dive in and do the work so everyone can see we are in the trenches, there in the late evenings and in all the major client meetings. And we aren't afraid of competition; competition pushes you to be better. The guy next to you, the other firm--you've got to do better than he can.