INTERNATIONAL TRANSFORMATION & GROWTH WITH ENTREPRENEUR GEORGE BERCZELY
George Berczely became the next Entrepreneur in NCA’s ETA program to close his deal when he successfully acquired SESYES in April 2023. We sat down with George to learn about his search journey and find out what drove him to pursue Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition in partnership with NCA.
TRACING A MULTINATIONAL CAREER
One could say that George Berczely was born multinational. A British/Austrian citizen, he grew up in Argentina with a British father and an Austrian mother. He studied in Europe, working there before moving to Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Mexico, and eventually back to Europe. His language skills would put most people to shame: he’s fluent in German, Spanish and English, speaks some French and Portuguese, and even speaks basic Mandarin and Vietnamese.
So it should come as no surprise that George’s career path is just as multinational as his life experience. After completing his studies in Germany and France, he took a job with McKinsey & Company in Munich, consulting in Transportation & Logistics and Implementation.
“At McKinsey, I learned a lot about how to bring different companies together,” George explained, as one of his key projects had been managing the Program Office of the Post-Merger Integration for Deutsche Post, Danzas and DHL.
Consulting for that client made George realize he wanted more out of his job. “At some point, I started to feel like giving advice just wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to see how things were actually done. I wanted to be there for the implementation of the concept and the ideas. I felt the urge to get my hands dirty and start doing real work myself.”
That urge motivated George to leave McKinsey for Deutsche Post DHL, where he would stay on for 16 years. George worked across a variety of key roles, mostly in Asia, including being part of the team that started and executed a major division transformation. “Under the leadership of a very visionary CEO, we turned that unit around,” said George. “It went from losing over 1 billion euros a year to consistently making more than 2 billion a year. It was all achieved by motivating people, improving processes, clarifying what we do and what we don’t do, and standardizing. That had a massive impact on people’s lives, job satisfaction, and job security, which impressed me very much. I think that was a great school for me because I learned not just what it means to transform a company, but also how to manage teams and organizations.”
In 2014, George became General Director of DHL Express Vietnam. “That was interesting because it was part of the bigger company, so I was able to manage a decent sized business, but it was my own P&L. I had a lot of entrepreneurial freedom and trust from the organization. I spent four wonderful years polishing that little gem, growing 15% per year, and transforming the unit into a proper multinational. That was a very, very exciting job.”
Around 2020, after feeling like he had exhausted his growth opportunities at DHL, George decided to return to McKinsey, this time within a unit that specifically focused on company transformations. “That had been what excited me most during my time at DHL,” George said, “so I wanted to become even better at it, more professional, better organized, and I wanted to learn to work with new tools, which I did.” But still, George missed being in the field and working with a team. “Consulting just wasn’t ‘hands on’ enough for me,” he explained, “and that’s been a common thread throughout my career; it’s always been about moving closer and closer to the action on the ground.”
ETA THE LOGICAL NEXT STEP
George decided to shift back towards an industry job, but this time at a smaller scale. He explained: “Something I had learned about myself was that while I like to fix things, I like these things to be small enough for me to be able to reach the front line and really understand what is going on. I like to be free of big corporate structures so I can really focus on what I think is important – like the team, the service, the customer – without too much interference.”
After searching for transformation roles within SMEs proved too niche, George realized he’d have to take a bigger leap. “Buying a company was a fairly logical conclusion,” he said. “And, once you’re there, looking at search funds just makes sense. The model convinced me, and the next question became ‘who do I want to embark on this journey with?’ Then several people I know and trust mentioned that I should look into NCA when I was thinking about this in late 2021.”
George eventually chose the NCA program because it offered support at multiple levels. “I liked that NCA helped manage and build an investor base from the start,” he explained. “I was not alone in securing funds and finding high-quality investors to support me in my search. Secondly, one of my biggest strengths is in operations, so I like the idea of having a very experienced partner, especially for the financial modeling and acquisition phase, where NCA’s support was really important to me. That was a key factor.”
CLOSING THE DEAL
George joined NCA in spring 2022 with an analytical, strategic approach he had honed at McKinsey, along with logistics and team-building mastery after many years at Deutsche Post DHL. After less than one year of searching, George found what he was looking for in SEYSES, a Spain-based company that serves its clients – mostly leading players in the renewable energy sector – in the mitigation of risks and the management of responsibilities derived from subcontracting, with owned operations in Spain, Mexico, Chile, Panama, Colombia and Brazil.
George was introduced to the company owners through a broker. “When I first met the founders,” he said, “I spent the whole meeting trying to convince them not to sell because I believed they could achieve the professionalization they wanted without selling. That ended up being a good start to our relationship because I was being honest and they could see I had their best interests at heart.”
George continued: “The deal was interesting because it was not really a typical search, but it was perfect for me. The company was relatively young with young founders who are very good at what they do. They had ambitious plans for growth, but they needed a leader with the necessary experience to help them scale up. And that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. I have a long history of transforming large, multinational corporations, so I complement the company’s leadership very well.”
George’s acquisition process was complex, as SEYSES is composed of 7 legal entities in 6 different countries. Due diligence and contract negotiations took around six months, but in some ways that had its advantages, explains George. “While that was going on, we were also getting to know each other better, thinking about what kind of company we were going to build and how to work together as a team. We wrote the company’s change story together.”
As he reflected on his journey, George had some advice to share for other ETA searchers. He had started his search with a focus on logistics companies based in Spain, but realized there were very few companies that met all of his criteria. “When I saw logistics wasn’t yielding the promising base I had expected, I quickly began exploring my other search areas, notably engineering services, which is where I found what I was looking for. So I think the lesson there is that while having an industry focus is good, especially for fundraising and getting started, it’s best if you can combine that with some flexibility and an opportunistic attitude as you start to go deeper into your search.”
When asked how he feels now, as he steps into his new role as CEO of SEYSES, George said he was looking forward to tapping into his skills and experience to take SEYSES to the next level. “I am eager and excited to get started,” he said. “I’ve been working very closely with the founders and the target company for months, and my mind is almost completely in the first 100 days already, focusing on how to ensure we have a good start. I have the energy and drive to do something big and I consider myself very fortunate to have been given this opportunity.”
For more information about George, please visit: https://www.novastone-ca.com/entrepreneurs.php
For more information about SEYSES, please visit: SEYSES.com
For more information about NCA, please visit: https://novastone-ca.com/index.php
Visit his LinkedIn page here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/george-berczely/