Strategic business development
Aarhus Vand was facing both a cultural and a business shift when the company became independent. The water company, which since 1872 had been a reliable public supplier, now had to think in terms of business development in relation to providing water, wastewater purification and other services associated with the water cycle. In addition, the company faced a demand for a reduction in operating costs.
“We had to start thinking and acting like a modern company. From being part of the public administration, we now had a Board and had to work strategically and businesslike. We wanted to be Denmark’s leading water company. This demanded something different and more from us and the employees than before,” Lars Schrøder and Claus Homann explain, respectively CEO and Head of Department at Aarhus Vand.
Professional and empathic mindset
Lars Schrøder had dealt with H&B in the past and contacted the consultancy firm for input into the change process.
“We know that H&B are extremely professional in their dealings with both boards and companies. We also know that they have an empathic mindset. They challenged us from the very beginning, not only to create a new business structure, but also in terms of what is required of us as management,” Lars Schrøder says.
H&B helped develop the overall strategy and broke down the milestones into sub-strategies, objectives and action plans which the programme managers were responsible for carrying out. This approach had several advantages according to Claus:
“Firstly, we avoided top down management and created broad involvement as the employees had responsibility for the progress. Secondly, the sub-strategies were implemented and developed on an ongoing basis, so you quickly saw concrete results.”
Better and more efficient
The sub-strategies involved partnerships, product development and wastewater, among other things, and they led to the development of a partnership between the three biggest water companies in Denmark.
The management of Aarhus Vand is satisfied. They have succeeded in making the company more efficient while improving quality, so they have spare capacity for ongoing development, according to Claus Homann and Lars Schrøder who nevertheless emphasise that the major shift in the company culture was not without challenges.
“It is a balancing act to get the whole organisation on board and at the same time make rapid progress. Simultaneously consolidating yourself and adjusting. The vision to be Denmark’s leading water company also means that if we cannot deliver the best product, we are not the ones who should do it. Instead, we must enter into partnerships with those who can or become better at it ourselves. This creates some uncertainty. However, we have succeeded with many things already because we thought in terms of strategic development and not just problem-solving from the very beginning,” Lars concludes.
About Aarhus Vand
Aarhus Vand A/S recovers, processes and distributes more than 15 million m3 of drinking water and purifies more than 30 million m3 of wastewater a year at 10 water works and 10 wastewater treatment plants. The company has 240 employees.