Interview with Peter Fanconi, Chairman of the Board, Blue Orchard Finance

Q1 What is the most valuable career advice you can give to people just starting out?

Always be willing to accept challenges. Overcoming challenges will strengthen your self-confidence and open doors to new and enriching possibilities. Moreover, failures allow us to learn and are part of our future success.

Q2 What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

Find opportunities in adversity: In a world challenged by climate change and the implications of the fourth industrial revolution, leaders have to find answers to the risks and opportunities that these radical changes will cause to our social, ecological, and economical order.

Q3 How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values”?

By recruiting people that share the same vision and passion.

Q4Where do the great ideas come from in your organization? Do you encourage junior members to be creative and share business ideas with senior management?

I am convinced that giving employees trust and ownership is key to an organization’s success. Acting as a team and empowering individuals leverages an entire organization.Motivated team members at all levels increase creativity and out of the box thinking.

Q5Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

I have always been fortunate to work with skilled and motivated individuals. I have a tendency to observe carefully, listen, and stay intellectuallycurious. These attributes allow me to continuously learn from others, whether they are the UN General Secretary or a person living in extreme poverty, and thisboth in success or failure. I certainly had some mentors who supported my career, but I dare to say that I always took responsibility for my own personal developments. Needless to say, clear ethical standards, strong work ethic and motivation are instrumental for building ones career. There is nothing like a free lunch.

Q6 Tell me about a time you struggled with work-life balance. How did you solve the problem?

Luckily enough I really enjoy what I am doing and I have reached a point in my career where I can manage my own agenda, rather than being managed. Obviously that has not always been the case, but as long as you follow your heart rather than beingpushed into positions and responsibilities you dislike,you will be able to keep up this immense important self-motivation. A piece of advice I would give is to move on if you do not find yourself being motivated anymore in what you are doing. “Waiting it out” usually doesn’t solve the problem.

Q7 Have you made unpopular decisions like firing employees and reducing compensation levels? What do you do to keep employee motivation enact after such actions?

Yes, of course I had to take many difficult decisions. In these times, I have tried to reinforce corporate culture by showing appreciation to employees that are committed and add value to the firm. It is important, however, not only to make such a decision but also to personally execute it. Unpopular decisions should never be delegated, in the contrary transparency and openness lead to a higher degree of understanding.

Q8As leaders do you create work environments that are more competitive or collaborative in nature?

I believe that cooperation and partnership provide a more sustainable path to success than competition.

Q9 How do you get buy in from senior management and board on your business ideas?

Not by hierarchical means but rather by sharing my views, asking for feedback and allowing for a culture of openness. Most importantly I want everyone to understand the rational of a decision, also if someone opts for a different route. I guess that would be a somewhat typical “Swiss approach”.

Q10 How to increase employee productivity? Do you invest in their wellbeing?

Employee productivity is closely linked to employee motivation. I believe it is crucial to create a working atmosphere which inspires, encourages and challenges. We encourage any company events, organize luncheons, picnics in the green, sports activities, we even set up a football table in one of our meeting rooms which is used very frequently.