Business leaders Escape From The Boardroom in new series for BBC World News

Date: 08.08.2013     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.08
Category: BBC World News
Starting 21 September, Escape From The Boardroom, a new BBC World News series, produced in partnership with The Open University, follows six high-ranking executives from around the globe as they head to the front lines of their organisations in a bid to better understand their company, staff and customers.

The business world has changed immeasurably over the past decade. Globalisation has made the competition tougher and in order to stay ahead, today’s CEOs have to be multi-skilled visionaries, capable of seeing the big picture as well as understanding the details that may trip up the business. The programme will feature CEOs from Spyker Cars, Oxfam, Lebanon’s Semsom Restaurants, The Intercontinental Hotel Group and Woolworths.

In Escape From The Boardroom business bosses are set a series of challenges by staff at different levels within the organisation. The CEOs are challenged to get out from behind their desks and experience their businesses at the sharp end.

From Beirut, where one food entrepreneur delivers a busy lunchtime service to a swarm of hungry customers, to Zambia, visited by a charity CEO who explores where donations raised on UK streets end up, the business leaders are given a corporate workout before going on to deliver their findings to the staff. Is their business in good shape to tackle today’s global challenges? Or will it be a case of out of the boardroom and back to the drawing board?

The CEOs and companies featured in the series, include:

Victor Muller, CEO of Spyker Cars

Victor’s Dutch car company, Spyker Cars, plans to unveil its new luxury offering, the Spyker B6 Venator at California’s prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance automotive event. His £100,000 concept model wowed spectators at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show but will he achieve the same success on the other side of the Atlantic? Stakes are high, and next to established brands like Porsche and Ferrari, Victor finds out whether his Netherlands HQ has the capacity to take the business to the next level.

Mark Goldring, CEO of Oxfam

Mark Goldring has been the CEO of Oxfam for just three months but already the size of his challenge is abundantly clear: what does Oxfam stand for? Known as a charity that fights global poverty, the lines between aid-giving and development funding have become increasingly blurred. Meanwhile, the public’s perception of how their hard-earned donations are spent has become cynical. On a trip to one of the poorest countries in South Africa, Mark will have to tackle how to position Oxfam in today’s global market and what he needs to do to make it stand out from the competition.

Christine Sfeir, CEO of Semsom Restaurants

At the tender age of 22, Christine Sfeir introduced the American coffee chain Dunkin’ Donuts to Lebanese society. Thirty branches later, she is now hungry to introduce her own restaurant chain, Semsom, to the American people. From its humble beginnings in Beirut expanding into Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and soon UAE, Qatar and Iraq, Christine will now have to compete with multi-national food heavyweights without losing focus on her Semsom brand back at home.

Jan Smits, CEO of The InterContinental Hotel Group (Asia, Middle East and Africa)

With just 13 hotels currently in India, InterContinental Hotels Group – one of the world’s leading hotel chains in the world – aims to establish 150 hotels in India in the next 10 to 15 years. In charge of this mammoth task is CEO of Asia, Middle East and Africa, Jan Smits. From the upscale Crowne Plaza to the more basic Holiday Inn, Jan will have to establish a variety of seven brands in a country of over 1 billion people, all with differing tastes and cultural attitudes.

Ian Moir, CEO, Woolworths

Woolworths, the favourite food, clothing and general merchandise retailer of the South African middle and upper classes, is at a vital point in its history. Although profits are up, the stagnant state of the South African economy, along with competition from rival retailers, suggests that the task of expansion couldn’t be any more challenging for CEO Ian Moir. His mission is to make Woolworths the number one choice in food, clothing and general merchandise retail for all South Africans; but will he convince them that they have no reason to shop anywhere else other than his stores?

Escape From The Boardroom, commissioned and produced in partnership with The Open University, by Twofour, will broadcast weekly on BBC World News from 21 September for six weeks on Saturdays at 02.10, 15.10 and Sundays at 09.10 and 21.10 (all times GMT).