Efficient and effective support with business development

Dynamic markets, digital transformation, staff loyalty, HR development, the cost squeeze – companies have to follow so many different issues when preparing for the future. And at the same time, everything is getting more complex. No matter what challenges they face, the sector of industry, or the size of a company – successful business tomorrow requires pooled resources today. Accordingly, strategically existential decision-making requires a holistic view, often entailing a combination of different business instruments, which take time and are expensive. Support in this comes from Steinbeis experts Sabine Horst and Isolde Fischer, who have successfully developed a tried-and-tested consulting method based on the Steinbeis Enterprise Competence Check (ECC).

Example of a complete spider map with individual feedback marked in color

Sabine Horst and Isolde Fischer have based their consulting services on a combination of analysis and solution-based implementation. At the heart of their partnership lie synergies offered by their combined expertise in leadership competence, company cultures, interdisciplinary understanding, communication, and organizational development. Their projects show that these competences can be applied successfully to actual business practice.


An attorney’s office turned to the experts at Steinbeis. Digital transformation and a shortage of skilled workers had made it necessary to shift the business focus, and in some cases the areas the firm originally offered its services in had completely evaporated. The firm started out as a family-owned business and for years, many core tasks of management had run smoothly, without major need to cross-check with other partners. Everyone was passionately involved in the business and committed; everyone knew what to do. Providing clients with professional support and keeping the customer satisfied was, and always had been, central to all services.

“What that implies, is not something we need to spend a lot of time talking about. We know we can rely on one another,” the partners used to say. This was something they were proud of. Trust is something special, a highly prized asset at any company, something that is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. But this kind of blind faith can also become a hindrance. As the nature of work became more and more complex, management often lacked the right instruments for solving conflicts, joint decision-making, or even strategic business development. Eventually, heightening tension between the partners in the business began to trickle down through the entire company. This was all happening as the firm was about to move into its third generation. The management tasks this would involve had therefore become even more important. There was no more room for tacit acceptance – also because the handover would take place in a time of sweeping change in the market.

Different ways to use the ECC © Dr. Sabine Horst, Steinbeis Consulting Center for Competencies. Communication. Cultures. and Isolde Fischer, Steinbeis Consulting Center for Economic Corporate Management


The assessment of requirements conducted by the Steinbeis experts formed part of an ESF-sponsored short consultation session. This resulted in a decision to use the Steinbeis ECC for a further consultation. The methodical, strategic assessment of business competences this offers played an essential role in all subsequent deliberations.


Horst and Fischer provided support during the EEC online check, which offers 360-degree feedback on relevant business competences relating to knowledge, innovation, implementation, and communication. Feedback was gathered from business partners, selected customers, third-party service providers, and staff. The average processing time of the online check was approximately one hour. After answering the ECC questionnaire, the tool automatically creates a graph with an overview of the company competence profile, including  an explanation of the findings. The individual assessments can be compared to one another, depending on the questions asked.


The different views and opinions offered by the ECC were then evaluated at a four-hour workshop. For the first two hours, the people who had taken part in the check survey explained their opinions. This was an important process, because the workshop allowed participants to explain and understand individual views. This stage thus showed the basis of everyday decisions made by different parties regarding the actions they take. The second stage allowed the different partners in the business to reflect on this information and think about the future. How do they feel about the differences and overlaps between the different views held by people? What does this mean for the strategic direction of the attorney’s office? A number of big pennies dropped during this workshop, for everyone involved, ultimately resulting in a change in direction for the partners. One key factor in this was the realization that the firm faced some major threats, such as staff workload. This made it possible to outline four areas in which action was required:

  • What do we want to keep the way it is?
  • What do we need to strengthen and develop?
  • In which areas do we need to add things?
  • What should/must we stop right now?


The Steinbeis experts have also successfully applied the ECC to a project involving the takeover of an electrical engineering company. For age reasons, the two founders of the firm had decided to hand over their business to two employees and two external service providers. The new owners were to run the business together as the new directors of the company. These succession arrangements were also backdropped by an extremely dynamic market, and this also made it necessary to enter a new field of innovation. The four designated successors completed the ECC questionnaire in preparation for their new roles as company directors. Their focus lay in assessing the company and expectations regarding available expertise. They then evaluated the results of the questionnaire at a workshop with Horst and Fischer.

Again, when they looked at the results, the workshop participants were in for a surprise or two. It was the first time that all four – none with any experience in managing a business, all from different specialist backgrounds – had explicitly tackled some core issues; they had assumed everyone saw things the way they did. The Steinbeis consultation session delivered transparency and clarity, and it helped define the breakdown of different roles, accountabilities, responsibilities, the impact of change on related factors (which had been hugely underestimated), and personal identification with areas the firm needed to develop in – in terms of the organization and individuals.

“The use of Steinbeis EEC supports us in the application of our fundamental understanding in which we consult organizations and companies based on the salutogenesis. According to this, there are basic human needs that we understand also as leadership guidelines – meaningfulness, comprehensibility and manageability,” say Horst and Fischer, summarizing their approach to consulting.


Using the Steinbeis Enterprise Competence Check (ECC) offers clear benefits in supporting business development:

  • Transparency: A holistic view and revelation of blind spots, which are graphed and made visual and tangible.
  • Structure: Complexity is reduced, enabling to set priorities. This makes it easier to deal with anticipated challenges.
  • Understanding and commitment: Communication and obligation are fostered between different parties.
  • Efficiency: Solutions quickly arise, focused on the actual needs of business.


Dr. Sabine Horst (author)
Steinbeis Consulting Center Competencies. Communication. Cultures. (Stuttgart)

Isolde Fischer
Steinbeis Consulting Center Economic Corporate Management (Leonberg)