From CEO-assistant to site manager

From CEO-assistant to site manager

In his six and a half years at MS Direct, Christian Bächtold has already achieved a lot. With ambition and dedication, he worked his way up from CEO-assistant to head of the MS Direct site in Arbon in just a few years. With his strategic talent, Christian has helped shape the company from the very beginning and today makes a significant contribution to its success. In this interview, he took us on an exciting journey full of ambitions, coincidences, challenges and successes.

Christian, tell us how your path led you to MS Direct and what ultimately convinced you to become part of our team?

Ah, that’s a story that needs a little lead time. During my studies in Business Innovation, I discovered my passion and talent for strategic topics. But the real challenge was that you can normally only work on such topics at C-level. A fellow officer told me the key from his experience: ‘If strategic projects appeal to you, apply to be an assistant to the CEO’. After my first experience as a strategic assistant at an industrial company, I put this idea into practice. Via a university job platform, I found an advertisement for a position as a CEO assistant with a focus on strategy at MS Direct – a company I had never heard of before. The job sounded like it was made for me, so I applied straight away.

And what was your application process like?

It was different than I had expected (laughs). I initially received a rejection because the position had already been filled. But I was advised to keep in touch, which I did. Unfortunately, I was abroad for an exchange semester at the time and my first interview would only have been possible online. This was not common at that time and was not desired. By a lucky coincidence, however, I was invited by the university to take part in an essay competition at a symposium in Switzerland, which I immediately took advantage of for my interview. This went so well that the CEO came to the university in person the day after next to conduct the second interview. At the end of the interview, I had the job. I was stunned because I had expected a longer decision-making process. At that time, I was not yet familiar with the spontaneity and quick decision-making power of MS Direct.

Christian introduces himself

We asked Christian what drives him in his everyday life, what event at MS Direct he will never forget and what he could give a half-hour presentation on without any preparation.

What were your first tasks and experiences when you started at MS Direct?

Shortly after I joined the company in July 2017, we rolled out a comprehensive five-year strategy that dealt extensively with operational excellence, opportunities, digitalization and employer branding. One of my first tasks was to organize the strategy days for the management team, which gave me a deep insight into the corporate strategy. I supported the CEO in creating presentations for various events and was involved in numerous projects, including the introduction of an internal innovation program, similar to the concept of ‘Die Höhle der Löwen’, which systematically promotes and quickly validates innovative ideas from employees.

At the time, you did the job part-time alongside your studies. What did you do after your studies?

After performing my role as an assistant on an hourly basis alongside my studies, MS Direct created a full-time position for me as Strategy & Innovation Manager in a newly established strategic project area. The tasks were very varied. To name just a few: I developed and implemented the group strategy and the individual company strategies of the MS Direct Group. In addition, I developed business innovations including business cases to validate and acquire new customers, implemented new technologies, worked on promoting the culture of innovation, created consulting models for customers and helped set up Customer Success Management.

Working for MS Direct for over six years – Christian Bächtold (Image: MS Direct)

Which project was an absolute highlight for you?

Every task and every project was very exciting and varied in itself, which is why I could name so many. My last project was definitely the perfect introduction and transition to my new role as site manager of Arbon. Our largest returns customer put out a tender for an additional location. At that time, MS Direct was due to move within Arbon to a larger warehouse location. That was our advantage. Instead of building an additional, new location, we offered the customer to take on more volume in more space – with success! We were awarded the contract and I was able to set up the project with the client, the landlord and other partners. I remember I was in the military during this intense time and had to leave the bunker again and again to make phone calls and fine-tune the offer at night. We successfully signed the contract on the last day of the deadline. A very nice success that I always like to remember.

"The desire to become a site manager was born out of a joke."

You already mentioned it: you took over the management of the Arbon site in 2021, was that actually a planned step in your career?

To be honest, no (smiles). Although the position was advertised, I hadn’t originally considered it. In a conversation with the Managing Director at the time, we once joked that I could be the next site manager – and both sides really only meant it as a joke. But the joke set something in motion. Suddenly, I started to think seriously about whether the job might be right for me. After a few conversations and a visit to the site – and despite initial concerns about the change from a project to a management role – I received the full confidence of everyone involved and took up the position.

Christian Bächtold is now responsible for MS Direct’s largest returns customer (Image: MS Direct AG)

Were there any particular challenges when you took over as site manager?

Yes, there definitely were. We were about to set up a new location while the old one still needed management. At the same time, we had to contend with staff departures that were not easy to replace. We only managed the situation with a lot of overtime. Even though it was tough, I gained important life experience during this time. My general attitude is that you can master and solve anything if you are fully committed to it. It was therefore painful to realize that I can’t do five top-quality jobs at the same time and that my energy reserves are limited. Together with my line manager and the management team, we finally mastered the challenge and set up a functioning new location. I am very proud of that.

Your division is very successful today. How did you manage that?

My approach is to ask myself every day how we can make our customers even more satisfied and further improve our processes. I expect the same mindset from my team. Individuality is very important to me in management – everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Targeted and scalable processes for promotion and management are particularly important in our company, where many different nationalities work and there are also language barriers in some cases.

What does a site manager do?

You've been with MS Direct for more than six years. What do you particularly like about the company?

A major advantage of MS Direct is the trust placed in each individual employee. My potential was recognized and encouraged right from the start. I was given responsibility and exciting tasks, I was able to develop completely. I also appreciate the company’s pragmatism – you can feel that it wants to move forward, it is dynamic, makes decisions quickly and adapts flexibly to new circumstances. This is one of the company’s great strengths.

"Trust, flexibility and pragmatism are the great strengths of MS Direct."

What are your wishes and plans for the future?

So with my ambitions and skills, I see myself in a management role in the future (smiles). My ultimate goal is become a board member and develop companies to success. I know it takes a lot of experience – so I’m doing my best to fill my backpack with as much knowledge as possible.

Wow, so you have a clear idea and a path. Please tell us: what is your recipe for success at MS Direct that you would share with new employees?

MS Direct is a very dynamic company – this enables us to offer highly customized solutions. As a newcomer, you should be able to deal with this and be flexible and solution-oriented. If you are looking for strict structures and constant processes, you are in the wrong place. And one last tip that I can give everyone for every job: Show what you can do! Prove yourself and a door will always open for you in life.

"Show what you can do! Prove yourself and a door will always open."