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Constantin Conrad, building on a legacy for future generations

When Constantin Conrad first stepped foot on IESE’s Barcelona campus in 2016, he inadvertently planted a seed for an incredible collaboration that has grown in breadth and depth over the years. In time, what began on an MBA Open Day has flourished into a solid connection and IESE’s first Partner Company in Germany.

Growing up in Bremen, Germany, Constantin Conrad says dinner-table conversations about the family business were a common occurrence. Founded in 1879 as Lexzau-Scharbau, the Leschaco Group is an integrated international logistics service provider with a vast global footprint and roughly €1.2 billion in annual revenues.

For the Conrad family, it all began when Constantin’s grandfather Herbert joined the firm as an apprentice. “My grandfather had a very close relationship with the owners, who didn’t have any successors. When the time came to pass the baton, more than a business transaction, they wanted to leave the firm with someone they could trust to build on their legacy.”

Choosing the right MBA

Constantin and his younger sister, Charlotte, grew up around the family firm. While encouraged to explore any professional path, they knew the door was always open if they eventually wanted to join the family business.

Constantin’s frontline exposure to the business sparked an early enthusiasm in logistics, particularly its global dimension, fast pace, multisectoral scope and ability to connect people. Following his interest, he earned a degree in shipping and logistics, and joined a logistics company outside the family business immediately after graduating.

Six years in, he knew his future lay in logistics and at Leschaco, and began searching for an MBA program to prepare for the transition. After considering several schools in Europe and the United States, he decided IESE was the best fit. As he explains, “I looked at a number of universities but there was something special about IESE. I attended an MBA Open Day in 2016 and immediately felt at home. The school’s expertise in family business also factored into my decision, since other schools were more focused on banking and consulting.”

Constantin Conrad

Transformational impacts

Constantin’s MBA journey would shape both his personal and professional paths. During his time at IESE, he would meet his classmate and future wife, Caroline Russo de Oliveira (MBA ’18), as well as prepare for a leadership role in the family firm.

His experience would also serve as the genesis for an enriching partnership between Leschaco and IESE that has evolved over time, starting with a 2019 Custom Program for 50 of the firm’s global managers:
“We brought our entire management team together for the first time in 10 years to discuss strategy. With the help of IESE, we developed a strategic plan and explored possible future avenues for the industry and our company. Although its timing was coincidental, the program left us better equipped to navigate the pandemic, which we had no way of predicting in 2019.”

Impressed by the school’s people-first approach and academic rigor, Leschaco co-created a second IESE Custom Program in 2021, this time for its leadership team. Meanwhile, some of its top-tier employees, including his sister, Charlotte, enhanced their leadership in IESE executive education programs.

Following in his father’s footsteps

After decades of successful leadership as Leschaco’s CEO, Jörg passed away suddenly in 2022. “My father’s death was a very painful loss for our family and affected everyone at Leschaco,” shares Constantin.

“Fortunately, the company was on solid footing. He had already signed off on the strategic plan developed with IESE, which gave us all clarity on where we wanted to head. Everyone knew who to turn to and what to do, and we didn’t lose any of our clients, key staff or banking relationships.”

Appointed as CEO in April 2023, Constantin hopes to build on his family’s legacy. While his grandfather forged the company’s renown in Europe, his father spearheaded its international expansion. Under Jörg’s 30-year tenure, Leschaco grew exponentially into a worldwide operation with 3,150 employees in 24 countries.

“Beyond the firm’s financial performance, I would highlight my father’s integrity and people-centered approach, which is why we have always connected so well with IESE. We share the same values, vision of leadership and commitment to driving positive change.”

A partnership that continues to bear fruits

In 2022, Leschaco deepened its ties to IESE by becoming the school’s first Partner Company in Germany. For Constantin, this milepost is a natural extension of Leschaco’s long affiliation with IESE:

“As a graduate of the school, I felt it was important to give back. But there was more to our decision than that: just like my grandfather’s experience with Lexzau-Scharbau’s founders, my relationships with IESE’s faculty and staff have never felt like a business transaction. It felt right to support IESE’s operations in Germany, and our distinction as the first partner company of the IESE Munich campus is an incredible source of pride.”