Carl Kistenmacher, the new Chairman of the Board, on helping Safer Society Group’s subsidiary companies reach their full potential and achieve maximum impact.
You were with EQT Partners for more than 11 years. Why did you decide to accept the Chair position at Safer Society Group?
I would say there were three reasons: The first is what they’re doing for the betterment of society. I mean, the level of impact is amazing. How often do you find one company, let alone three, that is both doing good for society and also a fantastic commercial opportunity? It truly is a match made in heaven. I can be proud of being associated with this company every day of the week.
The second reason, and I’ve seen this so much in private equity, is that they really needed someone from the outside who could come in, take a step back and tell them, “This is what you need to do to grow.” And that’s a perfect fit with my background.
The third is that it was just good timing. I wouldn’t have been able to take this job if I were still at EQT, but I had recently resigned and was thinking about my next steps when they contacted me. I actually invested a small amount in NetClean several years ago, so even though I wasn’t actively following the company I already knew who they were and what they were doing. And when I met with the major shareholders during the summer it was clear there was a great match in terms of my competence and what they needed.
What’s your plan going forward?
Governance is going to be key for me. There’s no “one size fits all” blueprint for this; I’m going to find the proper governance setup for each of the three subsidiary companies and implement it. And that involves finding a board of directors for each one, because we have three very different companies, and they are in very different places in terms of maturity.
First on my agenda is to develop strategies for each of the companies. Each one needs its own 100-day plan and “full potential” plan. The goal is to help them achieve maximum impact. So we’re going to focus on things like: How do you build up the companies? How do you build up the employees? How do you allocate resources? What type of incentive programs do you put in place to ensure that everyone is aligned? How do you operate the board? And how do you have the guts to take calculated risks and make the right choices?
Was there a decision taken recently that you’re especially proud of or excited about?
Appointing Pelle as CEO was my best decision so far. I’ve already heard from lots of people how much they appreciate his energy, passion and drive for the Group’s mission. He’s not only going to help us grow but also ensure that as we do, we stay true to who we are.
This has been a rough year for businesses everywhere. How has the pandemic affected Safer Society Group?
I think the previous board did a good job evaluating the risk that Covid brings and navigating through it. But what’s most interesting is that this year we have significantly increased the number of employees we have. And that’s just proof of how well our products are being received in society. This is no time to hold back – we have to push forward. And I’m extremely proud that we are doing that.
What about in the long run?
It’s really a no-brainer because the ESG (environmental, social and governance) footprint here in itself is such a great driver for this company. When you think about what NetClean, Griffeye and Paliscope contribute to society, the license to operate is just enormous. So you have a tech savvy company, with the right governance in place, and a license to operate in society. It’s an amazing combination, and it means that Safer Society Group will continue to be a good investment over the long run.