Idea storm

Sune Stilling is A.P. Moller - Maersk’s new Head of Growth. In the job since January, here he explains how a huge number of bright business ideas are needed in order to find and pursue those that will allow the company to build the next APM Terminals or Damco – a new world class business.

“It’s a way to frame our ambition level. We are not doing this to create marginal gains. We are doing this to create two, three, or more world class businesses,” Sune Stilling says.

Growth Initiatives

  • Executing the development and commercialisation of business ideas into standalone businesses with substantial impact on topline
  • Running a structured pipeline of new ideas, providing support and challenge for future new businesses while owning the commer­cialisation agenda
  • Unlocking and re-igniting entrepreneurial potential within running organisations

What do you need to build a brand new, world class company? Many things, of course. But it starts with good ideas, and lots of them.

Sune Stilling is the man tasked with seeking out, listening to and assessing what he describes as a “bombardment” of ideas from both within and outside the company. In the job as Head of Growth since January, he’s visibly excited by the role and the seeds of entrepreneurship he sees in A.P. Moller - Maersk.

“There are lots of ideas in this organisation,” Stilling tells Maersk Post in his office at Esplanaden. “People have this frustration, ‘I have an idea but I don’t know where to go with it’. Maybe they don’t know how to make a business plan, or it’s been shot down before. So we’re going to build a home for ideas.”

Bringing back entrepreneurship

A.P. Moller - Maersk has outlined a new path for profitable growth as it becomes an integrated transport and logistics company. That is built on three pillars: organic, acquisitive and through digital, and the dedicated position of Head of Growth, reporting directly to Group CEO Søren Skou, brings more firepower to the entire growth agenda.


Who is Sune Stilling?

  • Married to Elsa, two children Noam (5) and Maya (9)
  • Five years in West Africa as Managing Director for Damco
  • CEO of Maersk Drilling in Venezuela
  • Most recently, CEO of Egyptian Drilling Company (EDC), an oilfield services company with activities in the Middle East, North and West Africa

An A.P. Moller - Maersk veteran, Stilling joined in 1999 as a MISE trainee and has served in senior roles around the world, most recently as CEO of Egyptian Drilling Company. He has made several senior hires to the growth team, both internally and from outside the company, and it is quickly taking shape.

“I’ve been hired to create top-line growth,” he says. The enthusiasm is clear when Stilling speaks – he seems to anticipate most questions and has already answered them as he talks, ideas coming almost as fast as he hopes they will come into his new organisation. And he is aware of the hard work ahead.

“It’s a way to frame our ambition level. We are not doing this to create marginal gains. We are doing this to create two, three, or more world class businesses,” he says.

“It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue other smaller opportunities. But it’s what we want to do on a T&L level. We’re not going to be short of ideas – in fact I’m being bombarded with them. This is the entrepreneurship that has made this company big. This has been built by people who loved to take a chance, and we want to bring that back, with a purpose and a link to the business strategy.”

Not about foosball and bean bags

The role of the Growth team is to assess ideas and drive those with billion dollar potential through incubation and development, until they can stand on their own as stand-alone businesses or be spun-off into the business units. Inspiration can be from within or outside the company and most ideas won’t make it - and that’s not a problem provided they fail quickly and cheaply. Or they may work on the brand level but not with the scale that Stilling is looking for.

The team is working on a range of initiatives. These are both close to the core of the business and more experimental ideas, and are related to physical and digital spaces.

“Maybe on the first cut we’ll take out 80, 90% of ideas, and get more senior eyes on those that remain. They can be sent in as a picture, a video, 160 words if it’s an idea – we don’t need a full business proposal at such an early stage. We have people who can assess it, and support those we choose to pursue,” Stilling says.

In the later stages of the process, it could become a presentation to senior executives along the lines of Dragon’s Den, a TV series in which budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors. But Stilling cautions that there must always be a link to the business and strategy.

“There’s a lot of structure and discipline in this process as we execute on these bright ideas,” he says. “It’s not about buying a foosball table and bean bags.”