Mario Gelsi, explains the secret to staff loyalty, strong growth and mergers, and why company success comes down to the achievements of the individual

Global office supplies giant ACCO Brands increased its market share even further last year with a successful M&A of Swedish company Esselte. At the time, Cezary Monko was the CEO at Esselte and he is now President EMEA, as well as Executive Vice-President of ACCO Brands globally. He says that his background at Esselte gave him a particular strength that he could bring to ACCO post-merger.

From CEO at Esselte to President EMEA

“I think that my vast experience and particular knowledge in the field of sales is definitely fundamental to success in this role. It encompasses both strong relationships with key customers, many of whom I know personally.
But also, when it comes to product development, in the development of future-orientated, trend-based activities, and also communication to the market, it all really relates back to sales. And, at ACCO we have a saying: no matter what function you perform, or what part of the organisation you come from, we are all in sales.
“ACCO is a B2B business predominantly, but understanding the consumer, the end user, is crucial. And this understanding of how to learn about the consumer and their preferences definitely comes from my sales experience. I’ve always been in direct contact with not only resellers, but also end users in various markets. It’s this, combined with our organisational strength, that gives us our leading position.”
Cezary Monko Executive Vice-President of ACCO
Being in the office supplies industry, Cezary was already well aware of ACCO, explaining that it existed alongside Esselte in the European market. Fortunately for the M&A process, he says that the product ranges and geographical presence of the two companies were complementary, with very little overlap. He was also pleased to see that his positive impression of the company from the outside was mirrored in the team once he was on the inside.

Talent, experience and personality

“There’s a tremendous amount of talent in the organisation,” he enthuses. “There is vast experience, both globally and in Europe, and a lot of fantastic colleagues. What we have to work on is to integrate the two businesses in a way that the new organisation, the new form, is stronger than the two were separately. But, with the talent in place, this seems to be very doable in a short period of time.
“Obviously we are going after synergies. That’s not a secret and not a surprise.
A merger like this needs to deliver a certain payback. But, we have a pretty unique and convenient position in the market, merging the two companies together, because in Europe, Esselte’s been stronger in pretty much every market, except for the UK where ACCO was stronger. So, in merging the two, it really allows us to take the foundation of a stronger partner and add the activity of the smaller organisation to it.”
Cezary goes on to say that the two companies also shared another important commonality. “We have a common theme, a common platform – our brands. And that’s absolutely necessary in any merger. You can’t really enforce a merger without a common denominator.”
The brands now reach businesses and workers in more than 100 countries around the globe. Of course, this means that ACCO needs to have a strong strategic manufacturing and distribution network.
It also requires a flexible and adaptable business model in order to meet the unique preferences of each local market. Because of this, Cezary says that the choosing of main suppliers is a carefully considered process, also acknowledging that a shared set of values and ethics is just as important as capabilities.
“Our reputation is valuable,” he says. “It’s a reasonably small industry – between manufacturers and distributors and customers, it’s an ‘everybody knows everybody’ situation. So, it’s not only because we have to, but also because we believe in the importance of a good reputation. We believe in ethics and we follow them very strictly.”