As Head of Brand and Communication he dedicates his time at work to ensuring that travel has a good name. And when he comes home from the office… as the blogger known as Exoguru, he devotes his time to the same…
He has been working for the Invia Group for quite a few years, for the last year and a half he has been the CFO of the entire Group – and until recently he was also the CFO of the online supermarket Bringmeister. What for some might be a frantic business ride between data, numbers and projects, where you still have to manage the whole team, for Sergej it is mainly a question of staying motivated, trusting in the capable people around him and also finding a balance thanks to a rich life outside work. After all, Sergej says that an alternative to a career in senior management could easily be a good old carpentry craft… !
WHICH WORK SKILLS ALSO COME IN HANDY IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE?
All the finance-related topics that I work on, I can also apply to my personal life. When planning trips or vacations, I always use Excel to calculate the total cost of the trip. I also try to track my monthly expenses by downloading them and reviewing the top ones. This helps me keep a record of my personal spending. So, it’s quite helpful in this regard. Additionally, understanding the mood of my team leads, management, as well as my friends and relatives, regardless of who they are, is beneficial. It aids in improving interpersonal communication, whether it involves discussions, advice-giving, or allowing individuals to reach their own conclusions. I’ve learned that it’s not always necessary to provide excessive advice to people, but rather to let them arrive at their own opinions. I believe this is where it has the most impact on me.
WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU MOST AT WORK?
I believe it’s primarily about the various challenges associated with big projects. M&A, in particular, is always a project-driven endeavour that involves intense work. I personally enjoy it because it feels like a sprint towards a goal. However, in M&A, the failure rate is typically 90% (laughs), so it often feels like a sprint where you never quite reach the finish line. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make the work intense, especially when you’re focused and feel like being in some sort of tunnel and everything else seems to fade away. Staying connected with my team, trying to even realize positive aspects in situations like these and not giving up together as a team inspires me at work.
However, once the project is completed, you need to move on to other topics. As a part of management, you often have to proactively search for your own work and projects. Finding this balance between being deeply involved in achieving a specific project and also keeping an eye on other aspects is what interests me the most in my role as CFO.
WHAT CHARACTERISTICS DO YOU CONSIDER MOST IMPORTANT IN YOUR COLLEAGUES?
I have great admiration for personalities who always come up with new ideas, see opportunities in various areas and continuously seek solutions in every situation. Boris (Boris Raoul), the CEO of Invia Group, is such kind of person. For example, it was inspiring to see that during COVID-19 situation in Online Travel, when everyone was feeling low, no one really knew what to do and the travel business basically didn’t exist. Boris, however, came up with tons of ideas. He utilized our developers for other projects and companies, even new business lines. It was very inspiring to see how he never gave up. I believe this is a good trait that I admire and want to develop within myself.
On the other hand, I also appreciate very focused and down-to-earth personalities. For example Benedikt (Benedikt Müller), the CFO of Invia Group Germany remains calm during any meetings – and interacting with him always leaves you with a positive feeling and motivation to do your job. This is another quality that I appreciate a lot.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR WORK LIFE?
I try to keep my weekends busy with friends pretty much every week this year, It’s not just about socialising; it’s also about having some fresh experiences, breaking away from the work routine, and getting new inputs. Disconnecting for a bit helps me see things in a new light when I return to the routine. These activities can be anything really. For instance, I started learning to play the piano last year, and it’s been eye-opening. I also really enjoy visiting modern art museums and planetariums and regularly try to get excited about new things. So currently it’s playing the piano, attending dance classes, or some sports a couple of times a week. For me, doing sports is mostly for fun, but it does wonders for my well-being. Next year I would like to take a sailing course with my wife and get a sailing license.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THOSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO HAVE YOUR JOB ONE DAY?
The first thing that comes to mind is just hanging in there and staying motivated, no matter what job you’re in. Don’t let failures get you down; they happen to everyone, and you have to be able to draw your own lessons from it. So, the key for me has always been to keep solution-focused and to keep that motivation alive.
Of course, you need to have an affinity with numbers and strong analytical skills, combined with expertise in strategic and business planning. That involves the ability to integrate real-life events with empirical data and numbers. If you’re all about turning data into useful information, then the job is for you. But then, one has also got to admit, luck plays a part (laughs).
IN INTERVIEWS, WHAT QUESTION DO YOU ASK FIRST AND WHY?
When it comes to sizing up someone for a job, it’s not a one-size-fits-all deal. It really depends on the position and the person wanting it and their ambitions. For me, the big deal is understanding how they function as part of a team and if they’re a good fit for the role and its challenges. Those are the top two things for me.
But it’s not just about skills and qualifications; it’s about how they handle the feedback, too. That tells me a lot about their adaptability and willingness to grow. Of course, their achievements matter, but it’s not just about what’s on CV. I’m more interested in hearing how they got there, their thought process, and decision-making along the way.
What really sets someone apart, though, is the impact they’ve had in their career—how they’ve influenced others, their track record of success, and how they’ve inspired people. Qualifications do play a role, but it’s about the whole package, how they think, how they handle things, and whether they are a good match for the team and the challenges ahead.
IF YOU COULD PICK ANY OTHER PROFESSION, WHICH WOULD IT BE?
I have thought about this a few times, actually. I feel I want to get into woodworking – you know, crafting your own furniture and things like that using wood and other materials. There’s just something about working with wood that inspires me. I haven’t gotten into it a lot, but I’m really into the whole process and the prep work that goes into it.
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