“Every day, I challenge the limits of what’s possible.”

Susanne Arfelt

Managing Director SEA, Fonterra
Tsinghua-INSEAD Executive MBA 2011

 

In three sentences or less, could you tell us a little more about yourself?

Mum of three, business leader with a passion for business growth and people development, world traveller, coach, lifelong student.

 

Any fun facts?

I brought a cow to a pony show as my parents would not give me a horse. Today I sell milk products for Fonterra. Fair to say that my love for cows has boomeranged back!

 

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Susanne Arfelt

Why did you choose the Tsinghua-INSEAD Executive MBA?

I was new to Asia and wanted to build a network here. At the same time, I wanted to improve my profile to become a General Manager. The Tsinghua-INSEAD dual degree allowed for both aspects. 

 

How would you describe your Tsinghua-INSEAD experience?

Busy, fun, always gaining new perspectives, meeting amazing people, and the beginning of a life-long engagement with the school.

 

 

Was there an encounter that left you with a deep impression?

There were too many to mention - I made friends for life. The 50 people in my class are still part of my life in big or small ways. One of my classmates is my neighbour today and our kids play together. 

 

What was the greatest challenge you faced at work, and how did you overcome it?

When I became a General Manager at Unilever, I had just delivered my third child two months prior. The business was not doing well and I had a lot to learn to navigate the storm. Stepping into this new responsibility while having a little one at home with two other small kids was very challenging. 

However, I found my way. Together with a team of high-calibre professionals, we reset how business had been done in the past. It took 18 months to see the early results towards double-digit growth, and it is the hardest I have ever done. 

 

What is the best thing about you?

I truly care for the business and its people. I am not afraid to make changes that benefit both aspects.  Time and time again, people have told me how this shines through. 

 

What do you love about yourself?

My continuous willingness to push limits and challenge the perception of what is possible. 

 

What do you consider the most underrated virtue?

The power of an honest conversation. People want to know how they do, where they can add value and how they can develop. Being honest about the individual’s strengths and their importance to the team can fuel the power of an organisation in ways few other tools can. 

 

What does it mean to you to be Limitless?

Life has constraints and is a continuous trade-off between choices. I don’t know anyone who is limitless in life, but there may be moments of feeling limitless. 

I feel limitless when I anchor myself in the things that truly matter to me and prioritise my time accordingly. Having a major impact on the business results, a really good laugh with my kids or diving in an amazing location can make me feel limitless for a moment.
 

 

 

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