Career Management Conference (Jean Muls, MBA Insead)
Jean Muls (INSEAD MBA94)
2014 Career Management Conference
• CEO with 20 years of leadership experience - led teams of >2000 employees, P&L
responsibility with yearly revenues of 200m€ and projects up to 500 m€ - gained with
highly professional organizations active in industry (manufacturing and production) and B-
to-B services, at global level (across Europe, North America & Asia).
• Relevant track record in :
- Leading large international organizations in complex environments, ensuring stability at
moments of turbulence and uncertainty.
- Performance driven change – Operational Excellence, driving sales, innovation &
growth in established firms, restructuring mature entities, crisis management.
- International expansion - New market entries, M&A, acquisition integration, setting up
and growing new ventures and partnerships (Europe, Asia & Americas).
• Work experience in the following industries :
- Energy & Technical Services - Construction & Infrastructure - Manufacturing
- Aviation, transport & logistics - Testing, inspection & control - B-to-B services
• Master Degree Civil Engineering “Magna cum Laude” (ULB, 1986) and MBA (Insead, 1994)
• Native bilingual Dutch & French. Fluent in English. Basic knowledge of German & Spanish.
• Master in Civil Engineering "Magna cum Laude", Université Libre de Bruxelles (1986)
• Master in Business Administration - INSEAD, Fontainebleau (1994)
• Qualified as Six sigma Master Black Belt (1996). Implemented & applied Process Design
(DMADV), Process Improvement (DMAIC) & Process Management in large multi-country
B-to-B service organizations.
• Global Leadership Development Program : General Electric’s pinnacle leadership
development program (1998-1999)
“Engineering studies were hard. I really had to work a lot. That I obtained my Engineering Degree with
Magna cum laude whilst at the same time been an active member of the Faculty Student Association
- I was later rewarded for my contribution with it’s medal of Honour – made me feel proud.”
“Three things I retained from my time at Insead :
• My education in business management by top teachers
• The interactions with co-students coming from totally
opposite business and national backgrounds – more than 80
diffrerent nationalities in a group of 240 students
• Many good friends and a powerfull network”
IMDC, Subsidiary of Tractebel, GDF Suez (France) : 1987-1993 (ao)
Engineering branch of global energy and services business, specialized in Marine and
Conducted projects in remote environments:
• Optimization of maintenance dredging of Congo river, Banane – Matadi.
• Planning, Budgeting of Hong Kong Airport Island reclamation project.
• Site supervision of Niamey University (Niger) construction project. Student internship
“One of my first jobs after graduation as young engineer was a soil investigation campaign of the
riverbed of the Congo, between the port of Matadi and the Atlantic Ocean. I was responsible for a
boat and a team of about 40 workers on it. An eye-opening experience !”
“Guided by handmade maps, with wild animals
on one side of the river and the Angolan
Liberation Army on the other, it was a
“Another project I was involved
in is the reclamation of the
artificial island for the new
Hong Kong airport, one of
Asia’s most frequented
airports. I was proud of being
part of it. Being able to se it all
take shape out of nothing …”
GENERAL ELECTRIC (U.S.A.) : 1995-1999
Global diversified services, technology & manufacturing company (US$ 129 MM,
Management positions at global level, in several countries
• As Director Acquisition Integration in one of GE’s divisions, involved in many
acquisitions, then merged and integrated newly acquired companies to ensure
implementation of acquisition business case.
• As Finance Director of a newly acquired entity : Restructured loss making operations
and transformed zero-growth company into fast expanding and performing entity
• As Director International Key Accounts at GE Europe Finance & Services : Shaped &
implemented new international sales organisation.
“After my MBA I joined General Electric. The
timing was perfect. As THE most admired
company in the world, it attracted really
good people, top talent, the most
I was just over thirty years old. I was given
the opportunity to witness in real life what
inspiring leadership was about, and I did my
best to follow the example. An opportunity I
grasped with both hands.
I never saw so many excellent leaders in the
“It’s at GE that I really learnt how to run a
company. How to start with the customer,
strategically reflect what a market is about,
how to set up a sound business model to
capture desired market opportunities, how
to structure an organization to accomplish
that goal. And then how to defines roles and
responsibilities, set up systems and
We used to call it Execution.”
“GE was at that time acquiring one company
per week in Europe, on average. It was
going global and learning along the way
how to manage in diversified cultural
environments. GE’s model was to acquire
companies in selected markets and then to
enhance their management and
performance to GE standards.
Next to management and leadership, the
other thing I learned at GE is CHANGE. I
learned to walk in a company and to rapidly
detect what needed to change to enhance
it’s performance. And then to do it, to lead
the change and be accountable for it.
GE was involved in so many acquisitions that
it develop a specific and unique expertise on
how to integrate acquisitions. Half were
doing well, the other half didn’t. Results of
GE’s findings about successful integrations
and performance driven change found their
way to a HBR article in 1998.”
BOMBARDIER Inc. (Canada) : 1999-2001
World leading manufacturer of business jets, regional aircraft, rail transportation
equipment and motorised recreational products. (CAN€ 13MM, 56.000 people)
Vice-President, member of the Executive Board Bombardier Europe
Managing Director of Bogies Centre of Expertise/BU (headquartered in France)
• Shaped and implemented end-customer centred strategy for Bogies’ Centre of
Expertise, as a stand-alone Business Unit (Bogie = highly critical component in rail
• Negotiated complex projects at global level (a.o. in China, Venezuela, Mexico, ...)
• Centralised mechanical manufacturing & assembly activities into new state-of-the art
• Pulled together global engineering development teams, creating innovative and
differentiating products (France’s TGV, Japan Shinkanzen Hi-Speed bogies, UK Virgin
tilting trains, …).
• Starting from a challenger position, enabled Bombardier to secure its second largest
order in its history (SNCF AGC) thanks to its bogie technology.
“In 1999 an ex-GE colleague that worked for
Bombardier as COO of the Transportation
division, a manufacturer of rolling stock,
convinced me to join them.
To be successful as a rolling stock
manufacturer, you need to master two
critical competences : motorization and
bogies. Bogies are critical components and
have a direct impact on a train’s safety and
Bombardier had decided to gather all its
bogie expertise in Europe in a single
management structure. German, English
and French engineers were going to design
and manufacture bogies for various
Bombardier projects across the globe but
also for competitors.
“Since Bogies were such a critical
component, I played an important role in
many Bombardier’s highly visible projects,
literally around the globe.
From the Hi-speed bogies for the Thalys,
France’s first HI-Speed train that really
changed medium range travelling habits,
… to the Virgin tilting trains that we built for
Richard Branson, based on an expertise that
was imported from Canada
… and to R&D projects with the Japanese
railway authority, validating the technical
superiority of Bombardier’s Bogies.”
“My biggest contribution was the SNCF’ AGC order. It was won end of 2001 thanks to the innovative train
configuration we proposed. It was made possible by adapting a German Bogie design to the SNCF needs.
A major breakthrough ! Our French competitor – with it’s traditional concept - didn’t make a chance.”
FLIGHTCARE : 2002-2005
Dominant ground handling company at Brussels National Airport (100 M€, 1.500 people), a
subsidiary of FCC (3rd services & construction group in Spain), now part of Swissport.
Managing Director (reporting to FCC Versia, based Madrid)
• Started up a new company by transferring 1500 employees, customers and other assets
from SABENA in receivership.
• Turned around 2 largest departments of former SABENA into customer-oriented, high
performance and profitable company with responsibility over whole added-value chain.
• Restored social climate and trust in industrial relations.
• Realized productivity gains of 25% and delivered double digit EBITDA margin after 3
years of existence.
“I returned to Belgium at the same time that SABENA – Belgium’s national flag carrier - went in
bankruptcy. The end of an era.”
“And I became CEO of BGS, a newly created company that was founded on the assets of two
departments of the bankrupt company : handling and cargo, with 1500 staff and about 60 customers.
“With its Sabena background and its dominant position on Belgium’s international airport,
BGS – later renamed Flightcare - was a highly visible enterprise … an ideal platform for
social activists that attempted to destabilize the young company, in order to regain the
visibility and power they had lost with the disappearance of SABENA.
“We reacted by communicating - both internally and externally - about
the state of the company, its initiatives, the progress we made and its
In 2004 we won the global ramp handling award, rewarding superior
service and safety performance, discerned by the handling industry.
In 2005, as one of the largest companies and employers of the airport we
launched the “I love my airport job” initiative with VOKA. All to illustrate
the strength of Fligthcare.”
AIB-VINÇOTTE : 2005-2009
Specialised testing, inspection & certification company (200 M€, 2.200 people). Present in
approx. 20 countries, HQ in Belgium
Managing Director (reporting to the Board of Directors).
Chairman of the Board of AIB-Vincotte’s international subsidiaries and Joint-Ventures
• Boosted new product innovation and implemented growth initiatives in new markets &
• Delivered quality and productivity gains by introducing state-of-the-art information
• Entered new geographical markets (Canada, Middle-East & Asia).
• Delivered substantial organic growth in both revenues (recruited 600+ new staff) and
profitability with a steady growing share (30%) of international operations.
• After years of liquidity issues, restored stable and above market profitability.
• As member of the Board, played a decisive role in the debate whether or not to sell the
When I joined Aib-Vincotte, I was told that the main problem to be tackled was the high level of salaries
of its employees. It had liquidity problems and year-on-year revenue was flat.
“After a couple of months, I became
convinced of the market potential of the
accumulated experience. Instead of (only)
cutting costs, I focused on innovation and
new market-service development and got
my teams to work on detecting new
opportunities and developing new services.
We had expertise in control of electrical
components in the process industry. So we
went for the booming market of Datacenters
(picture next : team inspecting a circuit
breaker for Google’s datacenter in Ghlin).”
“Aib Vinçotte – accredited body under the
European pressure vessel directive - had
been heavily involved in all type of controls
and inspections during the construction and
operation of Fluxys’ LNG terminal in
In the context of the Gate Terminal project
in Rotterdam, we got in contact with the
port of Rotterdam and the authorities that
ultimately asked Vinçotte to assist them to
set up the appropriate inspection
framework to guarantee safety during the
construction of the LNG terminal
(illustration left above).
That gave us a strong advantage to win the
TPI contract itself (illustration left below),
further strengthening Vinçotte position in
gas inspection and control, at global level.”
“International expansion was also one of
our growth priorities. Growth based on the
company’s expertise. From 2005 to 2010, we
expanded Aib-Vinçotte’s share of business at
international level to more than 30%.
In 2010, our staff in the Middde East, where
we partnered with local investors, reached
300 (picture left above : Vinçotte Middle
East team during ADIPEC Exhibition).
We also looked at market opportunities in
India. As the country’s demand for energy
was huge and its energy transport networks
required expansion, we targeted that
market. We accomplished that by winning
the inspection contract for the construction
of GAIL DVPL II pipeline.”
“The cherry on the cake of our
innovation and expansion
initiatives was the award of
ITER’s TOKAMAK reactor vessel
order (illustration right).
Vinçotte – a 150 year old
company – was thereby all of a
sudden a key player in this
global R&D project aiming to
prove the technological and
commercial feasibility of
nuclear fusion as a future
source of energy
In 2010 all contacts to sell the
company initiated when it had
liquidity problems were
interrupted. Vinçotte is still
doing well today.”
IMTECH Belgium : 2009 to date
(1200 employees – 200 m€) one of Imtech’s Divisions (Strategic Business Unit), active in
industry & buildings market. Imtech is a european technical services provider in the fields
of electrical, mechanical and ICT solutions (29.000 employees - 5.1 B€)
Managing Director (reporting to CEO Imtech)
• Transformed holding structure into operational integrated organisation (integrating 7
companies acquired in late 1990’s). Delivering synergies and enhancing collaboration.
• Designed and rolled out operational excellence & industrial risk management programs.
Professionalised company’s main management processes – from strategic marketing &
sales to back-office shared services, IT, Risk Mgt, controlling.
• Steered M&A development, negotiated LOI terms.
• Restructured loss making business units, implemented new Marketing & Sales strategy
and redeployed towards new market segments, including addition of new services.
• Returned to profit (double digit EBITDA margin improvement) and a healthy balance
sheet within 3 years.
“My mandate was twofold :
• Hold P&L responsibility over Imtech
• Work on external growth initiatives
towards France, Imtech’s blind spot in
Europe. My work experience in France
and understanding of its business culture
was giving me a unique position in the
integration process of the merger that
was being contemplated.
When I joined, Imtech Belgium was headed
by an interim CEO. I rapidly realized that
Imtech, despite its image, was decentralized
to the extreme. Although acquired for more
than ten years, except for the name, nothing
So when the first BU went in problems we
didn’t see it coming. This led to the first
restructuring of one of the Business Units in
“It is only in 2011 when I recruited a new
CFO, that the severity of the problem came
to the surface.
From 2011 onwards, with a small team
composed of the CFO, the CHRO and myself,
we cleaned, rationalized, put in place risk
management and control mechanisms, and
transformed Imtech into a professional
organization. The clean up resulted in
important losses in 2011 and 2012.
It was a delicate balancing act. In some
parts of the business we had to let go some
employees and were confronted with social
unrest. In other we were taking market
share and growing at 10% per year.
We hit break even in the third quarter of
2013, about 2 years later.”
“On Feb 04, 2013, Imtech’s Group Management
announced it postponed publication of its
results, due to “financial irregularities” on a
polish project. The same day stock dropped by
more than half. Imtech’s lenders required a
forensic investigation of the whole group
revealing more irregularities in Imtech Germany,
the division that was responsible for Poland.
Group Management and the Executive Council
was dismissed and replaced in (quasi) full. 1500
job cuts followed. All acquisition projects were
stopped, including my projects in France. M&A
teams were dismissed.
More than one year later, there are little signs of
improvement, resulting in the divestiture of the
ICT Division. Many say other will follow.
Imtech Belgium is doing well, but the size of its
success is of a different order of magnitude than
the problems in Germany or Netherlands,
resulting in further layoffs and cost cuttings.”