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Making Key Pivots to Capitalize on International Growth

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Making Key Pivots to Capitalize on International Growth

Guest: Sasha Kelberg, Founder and CEO at Groglass and a client of CEO Coaching International. 

Where the best companies start out is often very different from where they end up. Sasha Kelberg began his career working in Latvia for a U.S.-based private equity firm that was developing glass coatings with ex-Soviet technology. After spinning the glass business off into its own company, Sasha expanded Groglass from its Latvian base into an international company that’s now one of the leading developers and manufacturers of high-performance coatings for glass and other displays. And, with the help of his CEO coach, Sasha executed this expansion so well that he’s able to oversee operations and 200 employees remotely. On today’s show, Sasha discusses the decisions he made during several key pivot points that allowed his company to survive the Great Recession and identify new niches around the globe.  

Sasha Kelberg on Making a Successful Pivot:
“Our first business idea was to sell to Dutch greenhouses for whom light is the limiting factor. We did the business plan and found out that Dutch greenhouses can grow up to 100 kilos of tomatoes in one square meter. And by producing 1% extra light, you could get an extra percentage of yields. That was the business plan. But, with the world developing as it is, we’ve had to pivot many times in our history. We opened in 2008 during the financial crisis, when the biggest farmer in the Netherlands went out of business. And so we had to pivot to plan B, which was a market for glazing picture frame glass which doesn’t reflect light and increases visibility of that art or whatever you display. And that’s the value proposition.”

Sasha Kelberg on Defining and Redefining Priorities:
“Watching our history, we have been a different organization every couple of years. When you are a startup, you go after different challenges until you graduate to a certain level. And then you restructure the organization. I would say that for many years we were primarily a manufacturing organization that developed business-to-business contacts. And that’s how we gained our first market share. I think now we are transitioning to a marketing organization because a few levels down the supply chain there are people who are making decisions to upgrade to our products or not to upgrade to our products. And to affect that decision, you have to become a marketing organization. Our challenge is that we are operating within very narrow niches within many countries. So to create such a marketing program, which addresses those niches in many geographies, that’s a real challenge and it takes a very special approach. So that’s now our main priority.”

Sasha Kelberg on Managing Culture Remotely and Letting Go:
“I don’t have an illusion that I will have the same impact on the culture of the company from a distance. These couple of years are weird because everybody is online. And I think to me, it’s symbolic, and it’s a very real way of letting go of some of the things that sort of bog you down everyday. The operational things that I’ve been trying to elevate myself from. Before COVID I reduced the number of my reports from six to just three. And in order to give myself more room to be and to think strategically, I blocked off one morning when I wouldn’t show up in the office. I would go to places with no internet to spend time on writing projects. Then that turned into a whole Wednesday. And then all of a sudden COVID happened and it turned into a hundred percent being away from the office. In terms of the culture, I believe that a company should also evolve beyond the original leader. I’m glad for the cultural impact that I’ve had, but I think each stage of the company requires changing culture or adjustments. And I think the guys who are in operations should set the tone and should set the culture going forward. So in that sense, I think it’s part of a healthy transition. I can still manage, I can still keep the strategic goals aligned, I can still see from the proverbial 30,000-foot perspective, but I don’t have to be there physically all the time.”

Sasha Kelberg on LinkedIn

4 Keys to Successfully Expand Your Business Internationally CEO Coaching International’s Rafael Paniagua shares 4 keys to running a global business and how to make BIG happen by expanding geographically.

Four Steps To Bottling Your “Secret Sauce” and Preparing for Rapid Growth CEO Coaching International’s Kevin Adams describes a four-part framework for achieving rapid growth that’s centered on the “secret sauce” your company needs to make BIG happen.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 53.5% during their time as a client, more than three times the U.S. average, and a revenue CAGR of 26.2%, nearly twice the U.S. average.

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