Thomas Cook Belgium wants to further consolidate the position of its various brands via a decentralised marketing and communication strategy. Ulrik Vercruysse, CEO of Thomas Cook Belgium explains why they chose to entrust the management of this process of change to an interim manager.

You were recently looking for an interim manager to fill the position of Communication and Marketing Manager. Why did you choose the interim management formula?
Ulrik Vercruysse: We had already had several positive experiences with interim managers, which meant we were able to establish that the interim formula offered us a number of advantages. It gives us sufficient time to thoroughly think about filling a particular position in the long term. We often gain very interesting insights during the time that the interim manager is with us. This is because he or she actually carries out the job and is able to use this practical experience to refine the content of the position. This information is crucial at the moment that the interim manager hands over his or her responsibilities to a permanent member of staff. Another advantage is that we do not need to rush the selection process for finding a permanent staff member. On the contrary, we are able to take the time needed for identifying the right person. This additional time and the fresh, critical and objective view of an interim manager are the biggest advantages. 
What profile were you looking for in a Communication and Marketing Manager?
Ulrik Vercruysse: I’d like to first clearly state that we are talking about a new position that we have created. Within Thomas Cook Belgium, each brand (Neckermann, Thomas Cook and Pegase) has recently been given its own Communication and Marketing Manager. We were looking for a person who could steer this group of managers; someone who could direct a marketing and communication policy; someone who would approach marketing and communication from a strategic point of view and who had experience with guiding internal processes of change. And, not forgetting, a personality with a lot of patience and perseverance. 
How did the selection process run?
Ulrik Vercruysse: We outlined both the content of the position and the deliverables in our briefing. Two potential candidates were introduced to us a few days after the briefing. The quality of these candidates was high and both were very competent. This efficient approach enabled us to quickly make a decision. We chose Linda Galle because she was the most appropriate person.
What were the decisive elements in this choice?
Ulrik Vercruysse: Linda has a very general and broad view of marketing. This ‘helicopter view’ fits in well with the product knowledge that is present within our team of Marketing and Communication Managers. However, the decisive factor was Linda’s B2C experience, which was stronger than that of the other candidate.
How was the integration of the interim manager in your company?
Ulrik Vercruysse: We called our management team together in order to announce Linda’s appointment. This moment was also the occasion to briefly explain our new strategic realisation of Marketing and Communication. We communicated the same message to our employees the day after this management meeting.
How does the handover of the interim manager’s responsibilities to the person carrying out the position on a long term basis occur?
Ulrik Vercruysse: An interim manager is obviously per definition temporary. When we have a clear view of the position and the profile, then we will be able to begin the selection process for the permanent member of staff.
Have you had any further contact with Essensys, following the appointment of Linda Galle?
Ulrik Vercruysse: Of course. They regularly check how things are going. Two weeks after Linda’s appointment, Michel Van Hemele contacted us to find out how everything was going. In this present phase we maintain contact on a monthly basis.
What do you expect when you choose an interim management solution?
Ulrik Vercruysse: In the first instance, I expect that we will be quickly offered qualitative candidates. With qualitative candidates I mean candidates whose profile fits with the profile that we need and want. I expect that our HR partner has undertaken a thorough screening of these people. The more intensive this screening is, the more efficiently we can get down to work. In this people business, it all comes down to knowing your candidates. Not only in terms of their capabilities and experience, but also in terms of how well they match the company culture. With this knowledge, you can ensure the correct fit between the recruiting company and the candidate. If you are able to succeed in doing this, then you have offered a professional solution - and you have a satisfied customer.
Has the collaboration with Essensys lived up to these expectations?
Ulrik Vercruysse: We have been working together with Essensys for several years now and we have developed a real relationship of trust. We appreciate a partner who knows our company and creatively thinks along with us. It is because of our positive experience that we continue to call on their services. They have so far succeeded in offering us the right interim management solution in a short space of time. This is a good example of an efficient partnership. 
Company profile
  • Activities: Tour operator, travel agencies and airline
  • Headquarters: Zwijnaarde
  • Employees: 1,000
  • Tour operator: market leader in Belgium
  • 3 brands: Thomas Cook, Pegase, Neckermann
  • Annually takes care of the holidays of 1,800,000 Belgians
  • Travel agencies: Neckermann Vakantiewinkels and Thomas Cook Travel Shops
Solutions by Essensys
1. Identification of the appropriate interim manager for a new management position
2. Delivering the right expertise within a short space of time
3. Successfully leading processes of change via the right talent

Source: Sense magazine, June 2008