– Company and Culture
Ackermann: "Decide rationally and endure feedback"
IKOR was founded 25 years ago in a garage in Münster. To mark the anniversary, CEO* Lars Ackermann, who has been with the company for almost 20 years, spoke with the WhatWeThink editorial team about milestones, successes and failures, as well as his personal birthday wishes. In the first part, he describes his view of IKOR's growth.
"Our successes and failures have brought us to where we are," you and your co-managing director Sven Geilich said at the 2022 summer party. How has IKOR, a genuine Münster garage start-up, grown over the past 25 years?
Lars Ackermann: You can see that (laughs). Seriously, I find it difficult to give an assessment. It's better to ask your colleagues at the grassroots level. Or ask the customers and partners. IKOR was actually founded 25 years ago in a garage by a handful of self-employed people. The tech focus is what made IKOR so successful then, now and into the future.
Today, more than 300 people work for IKOR at eight locations in Germany, Austria, Serbia, Poland and Great Britain ...
Ackermann: The biggest change we have experienced along the way is growth, seen in our business figures and our pace of internationalization. However, the professionalism and quality standards from the founding days have remained: I don't know of any company in this industry where the density of "fine" personalities and experts in their respective fields is so high. That's great. That is anything but a matter of course: Customers see that. Unfortunately, we sometimes don't see it ourselves.
What about growing pains that emerging companies typically go through?
Ackermann: When I started at IKOR, I was employee number 37. In a larger "store", as IKOR has become, the importance of consistent decisions increases: As management, you then have to be able to make decisions rationally above all else and utilize negative feedback. Unfortunately, criticism is no longer expressed internally on a one-to-one basis after a certain size, for example in the case of growth-related changes. Nevertheless, you have to make decisions to give the company structure and modern processes.
Although IKOR has established flat hierarchies as a matrix organization?
Ackermann: Correct. Without structure, an organization inevitably loses its shape and effectiveness. An organization is therefore always required to review its own processes. About five years ago, IKOR transformed into a matrix organization; role-based and with flat hierarchies. Success here meant staying on the ball until the new structure was fully implemented. I am very proud of the fact that my colleagues have managed to do this and have shown the necessary trust in us as managing directors.
* Lars Ackermann was IKOR's managing director until January 2023, when he moved to the top of X1F. The technology solutions provider includes several brands, including IKOR.