Personal reflections by Michael Kramarsch, founder and Managing Partner of hkp/// group, on six years of hkp/// history – from zero to a hundred.
January 2011 saw the creation of hkp/// group – a management consulting firm with a focus on compensation, talent and performance management – in Zurich. We have since become the leading consulting firm in the field of human resources and performance management, with more than 100 employees in our Frankfurt, Zurich, Amsterdam and Dordrecht offices.
Where did it all begin? With the somewhat crazy idea that companies in Switzerland, Germany and Austria need a different type and quality of advice when it comes to supposedly pure HR topics such as compensation, performance and talent management, and HR organizational models. Supposedly, because in reality these HR topics need to be integrated into corporate strategy. Creating a link between topics originating in HR and topics relating to finance, investors' needs or strategic realignment was - and still is - something that we are passionate about.
Turning a crazy business idea into a reality calls for supporters, energy and trust. As with all great firms, hkp/// started out in a garage – but you'll need to ask me privately if you want to hear more about that story... The members of the founding team who set out to conquer the HR consulting market and are still active today include Heike Danella, Joachim Kayser, Petra Knab-Hägele, Thomas Müller, Harriet Sebald, and Regine Siepmann. They were soon joined by the likes of Nina Grochowitzki and David Voggeser and many others. Their energy and mutual support formed the basis of our success, and continues to do so today. Now, after nearly 72 months, we have more than 100 employees – real employees, not associates, freelancers, network partners, or other people who we work with (those in the industry will know what I'm referring to here). Of course, size is not the only reason for our success. But it ensures our availability, critical mass, innovation, depth of analysis and international expansion.
Without the trust of our many clients, hkp/// could not have been successful. That trust is a gift. But unlike many other gifts, it needs to be carefully nursed and continuously reaffirmed. As the new kids on the block, we always need to keep on giving that little bit extra. We enjoy the challenge, and we are delighted by the many lasting relationships that we have been able to build upon since the beginnings of hkp///.
Relationships are also a fundamental part of how we see ourselves at hkp///, as the only remaining true partnership of its size in the field of HR consulting. People are different. This diversity can be challenging, but it creates value and helps us find the best solutions for our customers. It makes us an attractive place to work, both for talented young people and highly experienced colleagues looking for the entrepreneurial responsibility that comes with a partnership. We are a team, and that is reflected, for example, in our lack of individual incentives for Partners. That way, no individual country, practice area or team has an interest in monopolizing particular clients or topics. And that makes a noticeable difference.
One thing I particularly like about our diversity is the large number of women within the organization. This is by no means always the case in the consulting world. At hkp/// it holds true for all levels of the hierarchy, not just entry level but also among our Partners and our external supervisory board members.
We have cautiously expanded our areas of business, addressing every new issue with passionate sincerity and a desire for thought leadership. For example, our colleagues at hkp/// Remunet joined us at the beginning of 2013. They carry out our international HR benchmarking activities in Europe, Asia, MEA, and the Americas from the Amsterdam office. Our IT activities are based in Dordrecht. The scale of our teams and our relatively small overall size means that we can develop new IT ideas, such as our survey websites, online compensation comparisons, and tools like hkp/// JET for administrating job evaluations, with the speed and tailored approach of a startup.
A major topic for us, small as we are, is how to carve out our position in an increasingly digitized world. Friendly partnerships with consulting firms of the same caliber, like with Pay Governance LLC for the US, Japanese and South Korean markets, are an important building block in our international expansion path. Being international is naturally imposed on us by the global reach of our clients, but it offers also adventures projects like a compensation survey in Myanmar, a grading project in Iran and an HR organization project in Oman. Clearly many of our clients are aware that internationality is not determined by the number of office flags you have around the globe but by your experience and mindset.
One example of how our international know-how can be leveraged is boardpay.com, a website where anyone who is interested can get detailed information about the compensation of executive and non-executive board members at European companies. Without giving away too much, this was just the first step – there's more to come... We provide niche services, but we do it globally. We believe that our form of Swiss/German consulting is a global seal of quality and can compete well with the big "professional services factories."
I am often asked by people both inside and outside the company, where will hkp/// be in five years' time? When will hkp/// hit 200 employees? That's not the framework that we think in. Unlike companies listed on stock exchanges, we are under no pressure from capital markets or quarterly reports. For us, the most important thing is to build lasting relationships of trust with clients. We are very comfortable with our people-based business model. In the future, we will continue to see ourselves as a globally active consulting company with Swiss and German roots. We will carefully expand the issues we address around our core competences. We will drive our international expansion via our core markets and globally scalable services. We will continue to invest in partnerships. As every good strategist will tell you, there's much more to come – we don't know what exactly, but we will master whatever challenges the future presents. One thing is clear: The development of hkp/// has just begun. We are hungry for more, and we love what we do. Thank you for your trust.