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CEO Dialogue Series


Set the CEO free if you want to be a success, says Straumann chairman 

19 October 2021 in CEO Dialogue Series

Gilbert Achermann has taken on both roles with the Swiss dental group, giving him an insight into how to make the relationship between the two work well ...

For any company being buffeted by massive external disruption — such as a global pandemic — it pays to have strong corporate leadership and governance.

That means not only having a great chief executive at the helm. It also means ensuring that the company has a highly functional board – and that its chairman or chairwoman has the right relationship with the CEO: one that prizes chemistry, communication and a shared sense of how to develop strategic priorities and ensure they are turned into action.

Gilbert Achermann, Chairman of Straumann Group – a global leader in aesthetic dentistry – is better qualified than many to know what this means: he was the company’s CEO for eight years, after joining as Chief Financial Officer in 1998. The former UBS investment banker, now 57, joined the board in 2009, eventually becoming Chairman in 2010.

One of the qualifications needed to fulfil this role effectively, he said, is having an international outlook. Coming from a small village in eastern Switzerland, and from a household that “wasn’t very international”, as he put it, Achermann seized the opportunity that his banking role presented.

“It allowed me to start seeing the differences and diversity in the world and gave me this curiosity about different industries and cultures, too,” he told IMD’s President Jean-François Manzoni.

The experience also allowed him to come to appreciate executive qualities such as perseverance, resilience and the transactional side of the corporate world. “You got to see what your decisions were actually delivering and what the outcome was. It was a very good schooling,” Achermann said.

Such lessons have stood the him in good stead as he has performed the role of chairman the turbulent past 18 months of COVID-19.

Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Straumann Group is a world leader in aesthetic dentistry, developing, manufacturing and supplying dental implants, digital equipment, and clear aligners for dental practitioners, clinics and laboratories worldwide. Employing more than 7,000 people globally, the company’s principal production sites are in Brazil, France, Germany, Switzerland and the US. Its heritage stretches back to the early 1950s, although the company in its present form, along with the focus on dentistry, was established around 40 years ago.

If the Chairman and the CEO don't work together or don't function, you have a problem

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