Interview
18/01/2024

10 questions for... a world explorer

None

Misson fulfilled: During his time at Burda, Roman Miserre and his team succeeded in developing a rather operational procurement department into a strategic corporate unit. At the beginning of the year, he handed over his role as Managing Director of Burda Procurement to the previous Director Sourcing, Nils Honerla. What remains are many learnings and valuable memories. And what comes next is no less exciting a journey!

You've been at Burda for a total of 20 years - half an eternity. How has this time shaped and changed you?

I am definitely someone else. But anything else after 20 years would be a complete biographical disaster. What I know about management, leadership, entrepreneurship and courage, I learnt during and through my time at Burda. But a few things have remained the same. Before my time at Burda, for example, there was a contract I made with myself as a 30-year-old: no matter where you are in your career, every 10 years at the latest you resign, step out of your chamber and take a quiet look at what you have learnt and what aspects of life you would like to have more of. I have honoured this contract, as befits a lawyer.

Your Burda Procurement motto is #fromGood2Great. What are your key learnings from 7 years of transforming a corporate department?

First and foremost, "first who, then what": digital transformation is not an IT project to begin with, but should always start with the team and its attitude and skills. Secondly, as a corporate unit, we first had to learn to think entrepreneurially; to do this, we had to decode the business model that is also inherent to procurement. Another thing we learnt was the magic that unfolds when a team consistently addresses the question of what culture we want to work in together and how we define excellence. At the end of this process, we moulded this into a culture deck for ourselves, as a kind of joint team contract.

I have also recently presented these and other learnings from our journey in more detail on LinkedIn.

In 2013, after 10 years as Managing Director at Chip, you travelled around the world for a year, including Ethiopia, Iran, Laos and China. How did this idea come about?

At the time, I wanted to visit countries that I only knew prejudices or clichés about and that I thought would make me feel insecure. That's how my travel list came about. Incidentally, the countries you just mentioned are still my absolute travel recommendations for recalibrating my thinking.

From March 2024, you'll be embarking on a new adventure and travelling the Silk Road by bike and tent for over a year. What is driving you this time? 

I took a different approach for this new journey. I was looking for a concept of slowness and strolling, where I could stop wherever a place or person spoke to me. Despite my lack of fitness, travelling by bike seemed to me to be the ideal combination of slowing down and moving forward.

What does your wife say?

Quite rightly, this is THE top 1 question I am asked most often. In any case, I wasn't able to sell her on the prospect of pushing a heavy bike up a mountain in the Caucasus in the rain as a worthwhile project. Watching Netflix cycling documentaries together also reinforced her attitude. But she will visit me somewhere in the world every two months. And she's converting our flat into a shared flat while we're travelling. So it will definitely be an adventure for both of us.

What were the other most frequently asked questions? 

Top 2 was: Are you travelling on an e-bike? Yes, I would do it in a heartbeat, I have no false pride. But where am I going to charge the thing out there? I'm happy if my solar panel can charge my mobile phone. Top 3 question: How do you finance it? Well, travelling the world with a cooker, tent and bike probably costs less than buying a second-hand car. In other words: I don't have a car.

What is actually more important to you: the destination or the journey?

Ah, now the philosophical part of the interview begins. My whole journey doesn't have a destination, so a destination can't be important. For me, it's about maximising the scope for chance, which we often disregard as an obstacle, for a certain period of time. Professionally, it's a different story: The goal is what counts here. In the end, we have to get nails hammered into the wall and not just hope that the right hammer will slip into our hand by chance.

What are your professional plans for the time after the sabbatical?

It's not a sabbatical, I've resigned. Sabbaticals are a great institution that I recommend to everyone, as they combine freedom and security. For me, however, I need to be clearer in my head. That's why I now have a completely blank slate until the middle or end of 2025. Let's see what comes out of it for me. But IF I end up wanting to work in a company again, Burda will remain THE place to go if someone needs me. Even after 20 years, I don't know of a better environment to live out responsibility and freedom: always a bit untidy in everyday life and in the corners, but precisely because of that, a place that gives you entrepreneurial freedom to unfold gravity.

What makes you happiest in life and why?

This weekend there was an interview in the SZ by Arthur C. Brooks, who I already love for the fact that he teaches happiness, leadership and social entrepreneurship at Harvard. He made two points there that I absolutely agree with, firstly: "Happiness is not the consequence of success, but the prerequisite. Only those who are happy can be successful. Not the other way round." Secondly: "Here's the thing: Just knowing how to be happy is not enough. You also have to strategically organise your life accordingly." I believe that, at the core, we all know what makes us happy. We just don't consistently organise our lives around it: cultivating interpersonal relationships and making sure you don't take the back seat in your own life.

Can we follow your journey somewhere?

It's not going to be a Netflix documentary. But I will share a few "lessons from the road" on LinkedInFacebook and Instagram (roman_discovers) from time to time.

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