“The Impossibility question -What is impossible to do in your field, but if it could be done, would fundamentally change things for the better?” – Joel Barker
This past Thursday November 22, 2012, nearly 200 participants from the business community filled the ITAB building in Nässjö. The event was held under the theme Sustainable Business Development, and was organized by Nässjö Business Development (Nässjö Näringsliv AB) in cooperation with ITAB, Nässjö PlåtProdukter (NPP) and Quality Powder Coating (QPC).
The name of the region, Småland, literally means “small lands”, not because things are tiny here, but it was historically made up of several smaller, independent lands. Småland is a very special place, dotted with tiny villages made up of white-trimmed red houses accompanied by barns, workshops and guest houses.
The historical cultural identity of the residents of Småland as inventive, imaginative and multi-talented individuals with an enhanced ability for adaptability can be summarized in the concept of entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur is a person with drive who takes the initiative and gets things done, a creative person who transforms an idea into action. Creativity and drive have been significant in the past and will continue to have a pivotal role in the ability to meet future challenges.
The scientist Carl von Linné, who catalogued thousands of species, hailed from the Småland village of Älmhult, which is also the birthplace of Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of the Swedish global mega chain IKEA. Also the world famous author of inspirational stories for children, Astrid Lindgren grew up here. Whatever the case may be, Småland lives up to expectations.
Despite being hit hard with emigration in the 19th century (Småland was the largest exporter of Swedes to the United States, most notably Minnesota), 21st century Småland has managed to develop an impressive entrepreneurial spirit.
There is no doubt that we have a strong economy in the Småland region. What is more interesting and exciting is that our local business world has generated such strong international brands as IKEA over the past decades. Nevertheless, as a result of good enough profit margins there are still well-established brands that are only available on the local/national market. But now the hyper competitive market is starting to put pressure on regional companies which have been “satisfied” with their existing market so far to also go abroad.
In the current markets, customers have higher demands on companies than before. These days we have to deliver what the customers need when they need it, and to a competing price and quality.
Ulf Rostedt, CEO of ITAB, guided us through their successful journey, from being a local company to a global, listed corporate group and an international supplier to clients such as H&M, KappAhl, Pharmacy Services and others.
We also got to take part of Lars Gerhardsson’s, CEO and co-owner of LGBT Group, success story. NPP and QPC went from a small family company to a unique international supplier of environmentally friendly coating services, also manufacturing electrical cabinets to customers such as Ericsson and Volvo Trucks.
The key words for success and for identifying new market opportunities were Long-term perspective, Strategy, and Action plan! All this in order to stay ahead of the competition for at least a short while before a copy is being made, says Ulf Rostedt.
Being leaders, this means that we need to set up a long-term vision and thereafter a strategy to achieve this vision. Just establishing a nice vision is not enough; we must also act on it, i.e. create action plans and implement them step by step.
The world is complex and in constant motion, which means that we continuously have to study the world outside our own focus area, going from a micro level to a helicopter view to see what the current development looks like and how it tends to develop in the future.
There is no need for reinventing the wheel all over again – we just need to adopt new ways of thinking. Do what Ingvar Kamprad did: innovate and improve from existing knowledge and processes. In Småland we have done so before and we will do so also for the new generation of companies.