Christian Terlinde, 44
Managing director & chief financial officer, Benteler Automotive
Family:Wife, Alexandra; daughter, Josephine, 13; son, Lennart, 9
Born: Rheinberg, Germany
Languages: German, English, French
Education: Doctorate in business administration, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany; MBA, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany; executive leadership training, University of St. Gallen, St. Gallen, Switzerland
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
After having spent many years working in the energy sector, I was looking for a challenge in a different industry. As director of corporate control at engine component, filtration and HVAC specialist Mahle Group in Germany I got to learn something completely new.
What was your big break?
I've had several big breaks and opportunities in my professional life. Once I was asked to move to the U.S. as the regional CFO, I created a completely new administrative department including finance, control, HR and legal. Another time I took over as commercial VP of a business unit. However, soon after I started my boss CEO took over as interim business unit head. Of course, he was more than busy. Therefore, he gave me the necessary trust and freedom to work and change the way the business unit was run. In both cases, I benefited from the trust given to me by my superiors to shape the business.
Your greatest achievement?
Together with a small management team we turned around a multi-billion-euro business unit by taking it from barely breaking even to making a three-digit-million profit in one year. We managed to do this without significantly increasing in sales.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Early in my career I didn't properly communicate my plans and intentions. In more than one instance this led to people not understanding what I was trying to accomplish and in which direction I was headed. As a result, I didn't get the support I needed. What I learned from this is how important it is to communicate openly before you act. It's essential to spend sufficient time on the initial communication to get people on board when it comes to your ideas.
What is your current challenge at work?
My biggest challenge is keeping pace with the growth of our products and regions. As always, this growth needs to be financed, but there are more opportunities than there are funds available.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
What continues to surprise me is how quickly changes are possible in certain areas. In the last few years there has been so much change as the industry shifts from combustion engines to electric motors. This industry is reinventing itself.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
There are no shortcuts in life. Work hard and you will succeed.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Be open to change because life in this industry is full of challenges and there is very little work that we do that is routine. Also, think global because you will have the opportunity to work with colleagues from all over the world. Embrace this because it is not somethings many people get to experience.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
I would analyze the current situation to determine the company's strengths and weaknesses as well as uncover any untapped potential. After the analysis, I would develop a strategy on how to boost the company to the next level. Part of the strategy would be establishing a convincing vision that I would try to communicate to co-workers and customers to get their support.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I want to continue to be able to shape the future of a company – either as a CFO or some other influential management position. It is rewarding to me when my hard work pays off for the company. I also want to continue having the chance to share my experience with younger people so that I can help them develop.
What do you do to relax?
I love spending time with my family. I'm also into sports such as basketball and skiing.
What is your pet peeve?
I really don't like drivers blocking the left lane on a highway when they are not passing anyone.
What was your first car?
A used second-generationVolkswagen Golf. I paid for it with money earned during summer holiday jobs.
Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake
If you were a car, which one would you be?
A 1972 Mercedes-Benz 350 SLC
2013-present: Managing director & CFO, Benteler Automotive, Paderborn, Germany
2011-2012: Vice president of control, Mahle Filter Systems, Stuttgart, Germany
2009-2011: Director of corporate control, Mahle International, Stuttgart
2007-2009: CFO, ista North America, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
2005-2007: Group treasurer and senior controller, ista International, Essen, Germany
2002-2004: Head of planning and analysis, E.ON Ruhrgas, Essen