Building North-Europe’s Largest Convention Center with Help from Interim Management

In a little town called Melsomvik in Vestfold, Norway, a new convention center is being built. When the sun rises above the new Oslofjord Convention Center in 2021, the business and conference facility will be Northern Europe’s largest of its kind, containing 2,600 rooms. For context, that’s more rooms than what the entire city of Tromsø holds. Half a year ago, Stian Fuglset picked up the baton as CEO. To realize an ambitious business plan, Fuglset has teamed up with two interim managers.

An Ambitious Business Plan

We are in December 2018, and board member Stian Fuglset has just accepted to take up the position as CEO. A few weeks prior to this, he had been involved in preparing a heavy business plan for the company in conjunction with Boston Consulting Group.

Together they concluded that building organizational capacity for sales and commercial would be equally important.

- I quickly realized that I would need more capacity on organizational development and recruitment, so I contacted Interimleder AS, and instantly received about thirty applications. I interviewed three of the candidates, and the day before I acceded, Geir Nygård was already chosen as Head of HR and Change Management. He was, and still is, a critical resource for us, says Fuglset.

Outsourcing Have Proven Beneficial

- So far, Nygård has played an incredibly important role for the company. As an interim manager, he has contributed broadly in the development of the organization based on the business plan. Nygård has had his head in the game from start and delivered structured and tidy processes. That has been very reassuring for me. Additionally, he has been managing our in-house recruitment where at the time of writing, we have 25 processes underway.

- The fact that Nygård had little history and knowledge of the company has only been an advantage to us. When using an interim manager, that person brings neutrality to the company, and often see things through a different lens. In addition, he or she does not add any historical motives. In my opinion, that is an important quality. A common issue related to interim management is indeed continuity – the fact that the interim manager does not know the history and background of the company. However, in larger change management processes, I see this only as an advantage, Fuglset continues.

Employed an Interim Manager in a Newly Established Position

When Fuglset started to actualize the business plan, one of the aftereffects was that a new position arose, where leadership was needed pretty urgent. Already in March 2019, a second interim manager, Tor Hylin, was brought in as VP Convention. Hylin has experience from the Norwegian Armed Forces and NATO.

- We have been, and still are in what you can call start-up mode. Right now, we are building structure and systematics – and project management is a critical link between the sales phase and the implementation phase. Our activity levels vary a lot, which is why a big part of our crew is hired on contracts. We hire a lot of junior people on the start of their careers, and there is a parallel to the military where one recruits and discipline the recruits from just about nothing to become good soldiers. That is an approach we wanted to embrace, says Fuglset, who looks to keep the interim managers for at least six months.

The Oslofjord Convention Center was established in 2003, owned by the Brunstad Foundation. The company had a 120 million NOK turnover in 2017 and has more than 550 employees. With thousands of beds, Norway’s largest conference hall with 6800 seats, a media center, meeting facilities, a beach and outside areas, and the entire Oslofjord right outside the pier, OCC is Norway’s first conference-city specially designed to build culture, excitement and unity in big organizations. When the new building is completed in 2021, OCC will be able to accommodate 10,000 overnight guests at a time.