Michael A. O’Neill is CEO of Coca Cola İçecek (CCİ)... He has worked with executives from different cultures and various countries around the world. For the last three years he has been running CCİ, which operates 20 factories in 10 countries. “Despite the crisis, we shall double in size in three years,” he says. He has some interesting observations about Turkish companies and executives. He describes the workforce as “extremely competitive” and adds: “For my Turkish colleagues, there is no such thing as impossible. This is a really good motivation. It adds a slightly different flavour from a cultural perspective.” Coca Cola İçecek CEO Michael A. O’Neill answered Capital’s questions on many subjects, from being a foreign CEO in Turkey to the company’s targets.
* Is it difficult to do business, to manage a company in Turkey? I have worked as both a diplomat and a professional in several countries. Every country has been a new experience. I experienced the cold of Russia and the heat of Turkey. Turks are very hospitable, very warm-hearted. I don’t think that there is any special difficulty about being here. I wouldn’t have missed my experiences in this country over the last three years for anything.
* What are the differences when you compare Turkey with the other countries where you have been? I look at things in Turkey extremely positively. People take the approach that everything is possible. They focus on what they can do rather than getting stuck on the obstacles and losing time with them. Turks do not see difficulties as limitations. They are not frightened of obstacles. I think that this is the Turkish spirit of enterprise. This positive approach motivates me.
* Is there intense competition in the Turkish business world? The workforce is extremely competitive. Even if I am modest, when we look at the professionals we have in the Turkish business world, in the world in general in the Coca Cola system, I have to say that they are amongst the best. If you don’t believe me, ask my friend Muhtar Kent. He will confirm Coca Cola İçecek’s Turkey success. Its success here makes Turkey a role model for the world as a whole.
* How was 2008 for your company? What are your expectations for 2009? We had a very good year in 2008. We grew during a turbulent period. Our sales grew by 10 percent to 421 million unit cases. We recorded a 17 percent growth in revenue. The forecasts are for 2009 to be very bad, but we are not that negative. Because I believe that we shall also grow this year.