HOWDIE,
I AM…
ILJA GRZESKOWITZ

Bold. Edgy. Passionate.
insights into my life

Ilja

It’s not that easy to describe myself with just one word, because I’m constantly wearing so many hats and my head is always full of different ideas, so that I sometimes struggle with focusing on what’s really important. But when I look back, there is one constant in my life: change. The urge to question the status quo. To let go what used to work and boldly try out new ways of doing things. To live a life based on my own terms. Change and transformation are the red thread that have always accompanied me through the various phases of my own development and more than once have been the reason that my life was heavily shaken and turned upside down from one moment to the other.

During my civil service – for the first time ever – the work with mentally and physically disabled children showed me that there is more to life than just the same old faster-harder-stronger. However, I wasn’t spending much time in the classroom, because I had so many awesome jobs. At the age of 20 I left my hometown of Lübeck (yes, I am Nordic by Nature) to study economics with a focus on marketing in Greifswald, Mannheim and Hamburg. However, I spent more time on student jobs than in the classroom. I worked as a translator for a Texan construction company, drove through Mecklenburg-West Pomerania with Nigerian business people to buy gravel pits and armored limousines there, was a business development manager for a software company and wrote business plans for start-up companies in the new economy.

Change is full of opportunities – if we are willing to recognise and use them.

The hard School of working in Retail

Despite all that I chose – driven by my fascination for sales and consumer behaviour – a pretty conservative career in retail. At the age of 27, I started as the youngest store manager for Germany’s largest department store chain Karstadt, and for the next seven years I was responsible for ten different locations all over the country, led thousands of employees and managed sales figures in the hundreds of millions. But while my career was really picking up speed, the company was slipping deeper and deeper into the crisis, so that I and my teams had to act in complete uncertainty at all times. Locations, strategies or every single job – everything could fall victim to permanent restructuring overnight. As a leader, I had to shut down department stores. lay of lots of good people, but was also able to plan and execute future oriented projects.

At the age of 33 was in charge of one of the largest department stores of the country, and if you would have seen me from the outside, you probably would have said: “He’s made it!” But on the inside I was becoming more and more frustrated, so I gladly said yes, when I was offered a contract by the Swedish furniture company IKEA. During my time in the organization, I got to know the Scandinavian way of leadership as well as the other side of change – the innovative, active and future oriented one.

Family first – Business second

As much as I liked the retail business (and I still do), as time went by, I discovered my real passion: To work with the people. To inspire my employees, customers and business partner to use the power of change to grow and get better. To understand how people tick and how they make their decisions. And in March 2008, in a traffic jam on the Autobahn, I made a choice that should change my life like no decision before: I quit my safe job as a corporate executive and started my own company. Since then, I have published twelve books that have sold hundreds of thousands of copies and been translated into many languages, have given hundreds of keynote speeches for amazing clients around the world, and exciting personalities have trusted me as a personal coach for years.

In individual work, I support entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and executives in leading a life based on self-determination, freedom and meaning. I help organizations and companies to establish a culture of change that is characterized by shared values, diversity and meaning. And even if my team and I are celebrating the 10th business anniversary in 2019 (and I still enjoy to work hard and a lot), my family always came and will come first. They are my safe harbour and constantly give me strength and inspiration. But foremost they are my strong why, the rational and emotional reason, that reminds me every single day, what drives me and why my big goal is to change the world – one person at a time.

Press Reviews

Press Reviews

Challenging the Status Quo Since 1975
This is what drives me

I like…

  • Play golf (HCP 10.6)
  • The HSV (yes, really!)
  • Black coffee (a lot and often)
  • Fritz Cola without sugar
  • Single malt whisky
  • Big hearts
  • Blues & Rock music
  • Travelling around the world
  • The humour of Loriot
  • The energy of New York and the chilled atmosphere of Los Angeles
  • The coolness of London and the inspiration of Cape Town
  • A good cigar & BBQ on the patio
  • The books by Ayn Rand and Thomas Mann
  • People who never give up

I do not like…

  • Holding on to what used to work
  • People with no opinion of their own
  • Ready made meals
  • Political correctness
  • The cold winters in Berlin
  • Indifference
  • Emotional Blackmail
  • Coffee with milk
  • Having no sense of humor
  • Superficiality
  • Problem thinking
  • All “Tatort” episodes after Manfred Krug
  • Saying one thing and doing the other
  • Whining and complaining
  • Fake it ’til you make it
  • Just talk, don’t act
  • Giving up too early

My experiences…

  • Civil Service at Universitätsklinikum Lübeck: Work at a integrative facility: Taking care of disabled, handicapped and slow learning children
  • Various part time jobs, e.g.: Translator for American and Nigerian Companies, Barkeeper, Business Plan Writer, Start-Up-Consultant, Business Development Manager
  • Studies of economics at the Universities of Greifswald, Mannheim and Hamburg: Marketing, Economic education and organizational theory. Certificate: Diplom Kaufmann
  • Store Manager at Karstadt, Hertie und Wertheim: Responsibility for a total of ten department stores in Lübeck, 2 x Hamburg, Kassel, Mönchengladbach, Frankfurt/Oder and 5x Berlin
  • Project manager “Outlet Center” for Hertie
  • IKEA Store Manager
  • Lectureships at the HWR Berlin and SRH Hochschule Berlin
  • Author of 12 books
  • Founder and host of the Change Awards
  • Founder of the Solopreneur Club
  • Startup Advisor
  • Keynote speaker, lecturer and management consultant

Myself in numbers…

  • 47 years old
  • 190 centimeters tall
  • 1 wonderful woman
  • 2 beautiful daughters
  • 1 house built
  • 4 trees planted
  • 12 books published
  • 1 passion: to actively and self-determinedly shape the future
  • 1 goal: Let the winds of change blow through the companies of this world
  • 1 claim: do it well or don’t do it at all.
  • 1 message: Make change happen
  • 1 motto: Rüm Hart. Klar Kiming.
Your personal change competence will be the most important skill of the future.

My Purpose
The foundation of everything I do

Core Values

My non-negotiables
open core values

Mission Statement

My business philosophy
open mission statement

Vision

This is what I believe in
open vision

Resume

My professional career
open resume

Awards

Not important to me, but I'm still proud
open awards

For journalists, influencers and meeting planners: Everything at a glance

Everything you might need. Ilja’s press kit contains his introduction text, biography, speaker’s kit, images and AV requirements that you can easily download as a PDF.