The DO > Partner Story: Transformation Accelerator with PHOENIX Group

Partner Story: Transformation Accelerator with PHOENIX Group

Active in 29 countries, the PHOENIX group is a major European healthcare provider and one of the continent’s largest family businesses, employing almost 40,000 people. Its core business is pharmaceutical wholesale and pharmacy retail (it operates more than 2,800 pharmacies in 14 countries), with subsidiaries in areas including goods management and logistics solutions. 


Since its formation in 1994 – out of four regional pharma wholesalers – the PHOENIX group has seen exceptional growth: through mergers and acquisitions, the Mannheim-based company has developed into a pan-European, integrated healthcare operator. Millions of people throughout Europe can rely on its services every day.

The Situation

Active in 29 countries, the PHOENIX group is a major European healthcare provider and one of the continent’s largest family businesses, employing almost 40,000 people. Its core business is pharmaceutical wholesale and pharmacy retail (it operates more than 2,800 pharmacies in 14 countries), with subsidiaries in areas including goods management and logistics solutions. Since its formation in 1994 – out of four regional pharma wholesalers the PHOENIX group has seen exceptional growth: through mergers and acquisitions, the Mannheim-based company has developed into a pan-European, integrated healthcare operator. Millions of people throughout Europe can rely on its services every day.

The Challenge

The questions faced by PHOENIX will be familiar to many companies that have grown at the group’s speed and scale how do we manage to fill senior management positions from within the company as much as possible? How do we find and nurture the talent to play the pioneering roles in the company’s transformation, without spending vast sums on head-hunters to bring leaders in from outside?


CEO Sven Seidel drives an inspired strategy to maintain the group’s position, continue its growth, and transform its culture. At the core of this is the promotion of collaboration between employees across departments and national boundaries.


The challenge posted to the project team was expanded to answer yet another question: How do we accelerate the breakdown of country silos, while bridging cultural and generational divides and achieving a fully integrated strategy across a vast spectrum of companies and subsidiaries?

The Solution

In partnership with The DO School, PHOENIX co-created its own internal Top Talent development initiative: LIFT. Based on the core belief that existing talents are the most promising drivers of change, the 2-year programme offers high-potential employees a range of innovative learning formats – and puts them to work on some of the company’s most acute challenges. Participants develop their own skills and grow towards executive leadership, while moving the company’s strategy forward at the same time. It’s the Transformation Accelerator in action.

Lift offers a framework of formats, that allows you to choose those that creates the most development potential for your own personality.

- Patrick Bräuer, Director Order & Inventory Management, Phoenix Pharmahandel GmbH & Co KG

March 2021: The DO School gets DOing. Following a 6-month design phase – during which The DO team worked closely with PHOENIX on embedding the programme, making it robust and purpose-driven – 25 participants from 18 countries started piloting LIFT. The formats range from Leadership Labs to Retreat Days, from Hot Topic Days to Guidance Calls. Each participant can pick and choose, decide on timing and intensity: LIFT fits into your working schedules whatever your internal high potential development programme looks like.

A key format, which everyone has to carry out at some point, is the Business Challenge. Working with the PHOENIX executive leadership, The DO sources a series of strategic challenges and hands them to the participants. These challenges are tackled practically, rather than theoretically. The learning leaves the classroom and becomes the DOing. As these challenges are chosen at the highest level, they provide great visibility, boosting both the motivation and the pride that participants take in their work.


Two examples of the different challenges that the participants worked on were: increasing e-commerce in the Baltic region and improving the cost-effectiveness of the logistics of reaching end consumers in the UK. Guided by The DO team, LIFT participants work across departments, companies and countries to develop strategic solutions to these and other challenges. Confronted with issues that are not often part of their work-routine or their specific area of expertise, the participants change their perspectives; they learn skills they did not know existed; they experience first-hand what happens when you put your faith in doing things differently. They start to trust the method.


A year and a half after the programme’s start, 17 of the current LIFT participants came together for a Leadership Lab at The DO campus in Berlin. The topic was “Becoming an Employer of Choice: Retaining and Attracting Talent”.

I probably have seen my network develop far more in the last year and 18 months than I have probably through 10 years of my career.

- Jackie Jones, Director Supply Chain, Phoenix Healthcare Distribution Limited, UK

The participants spent three intensive days with input from PHOENIX

CEO, Sven Seidel and on day two, Thomas Ebach from PVH (Holding

company for Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) came in as a guest

speaker to add his point of view. The day ended with some joint

cooking in the evening.


Meanwhile, several solutions from the Business Challenges are still

being developed: thought-through and grounded in reality, these

solutions carry the potential to generate millions for PHOENIX. As the

new leaders move towards their future placements, we can expect the

group’s forward-looking strategy to continue leaping ahead.


In the winter of 2022, the first LIFT crew graduated, building the base

for a LIFT alumni network, and the long-term partnership of PHOENIX

and The DO School continues with the next cohort of talent.


DURATION 1.5 – 2 years

LOCATION online, in-person & hybrid


COMMITMENT customizablemodelthat can be adapted

to suit your needs.



Formal: Business Challenges, Leadership Labs & Hot Topic sessions.

Social: Retreats & Peer Action Groups. Individual: 1-on-1 Coaching Sessions

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