Bjarne Aarup CEO of EG A/S

Bjarne Aarup the CEO of EG A/S - Photo: Kenneth Luk

Monday the 8th of November the CEO of EG A/S, Bjarne Aarup visited me at Aarhus University Institute of Business and Technology to speak at the Thought-Leader Series. Bjarne Aarup spoke about his career and bewitched the audience with a great story of journey that stated in 1985 at IBM after he finished his bachelor.

It was more or less a coincidence that Bjarne Aarup ended up at IBM but he expressed great satisfaction with his choice, and did also have 9 good years at IBM. He told about how he had been accepted to a trainee program at IBM, and how IBM made its employees feel like rock stars. He told about an experience where he together with a bunch of other IBM trainees had been flying first class to Stockholm and accommodated at first class hotel to celebrate their success. What IBM did was to make its employees feel invincible, and able to walk the water.

After IBM Bjarne Aarup totally shifted career track and went from bits and bytes to working with humans at Marcuri Urval A/S. It was a major change but it taught him a lot about how human beings act and behave in different situations. The experiences were very valuable and had taught him treasured lessons that he is using in his daily job as CEO of EG A/S.

In 1997 Bjarne Aarup was invited to join what was then called EDB Gruppen A/S, as “Intellectual Capital Manager” which might have been the fanciest title Bjarne Aarup has ever possessed. Since 1997 he has been an important part of EG A/S and was in 2005 announced the CEO of EG Denmark.

EG A/S is one of Denmarks largest providers of IT solutions and employs 904 people with a yearly turnover of 924 million. EG was originally owned by IBM but was in 2008 sold to the capital fund Nordic Capital. Bjarne Aarup explained how it was easier to be owned by a capital fund, than being listed on the stock exchange. Because the capital fund is more flexible and has a longer perspective on its investment, then the stock exchange expecting a short term yield.

EG A/S wants to be Denmark’s best workplace and does a lot to let the employees find a good balance between private life and work life. As Bjarne Aarup said: “The employees must be inspired in there private life, so they can inspirable at work.”

Bjarne Aarup finds great excitement in strategy and has been working a lot with strategies such as the Blue Ocean Strategy, Balance Scorecard, and Value Proposition. He mentioned that EG A/S has worked so much with choice of business models, that they can see if a business is making money or not. However Bjarne Aarups favorite strategy that has turned EG A/S upside down is LEAN. It is very hard to implement new strategies and often you spend a weekend in some fancy conference facility preparing and setting up the employees to operate with the new strategy, but Monday morning everything is as it used to be. Therefore is it also very important to implement a new strategy fully in all departments.

EG A/S has been very successful with the implementation of LEAN and Bjarne Aarup expressed that is was one of the best strategies he had ever worked with. He had been very surprised with results and it is amazing how fixing of small annoyances can change the efficiency percentage radically.

Every week every department is meeting for a short blackboard meeting where all small irritations and things that can be improved are broad up. One is quickly found to solve the problem and the employees are back to work happier and more focused than before. After the fully implantation of LEAN in the organization, EG A/S experienced a 25% increase in efficiency. Bjarne Aarup told that when you fix small problems like a door being locked that could be unlocked you make people think of what is important instead of, why the door is locked.

Bjarne Aarup ended his lecture with telling about his involvement in different networks. What to be noticed here is that he uses his networks as education with real life cases from other companies. As he said “Education is much more fun and interesting when you have experiences from the real business life, which you can connect with the theory.”

Bjarne Aarup held an inspiring and exciting lecture, and the attending students have positively commented with huge excitement.
The next Thought-Leader Series will be the Mayor of Herning Lars Krarup, who will be speaking the 22nd of November at AU-IBT.

Alexander Hold and Bjarne Aarup the CEO of EG A/S
Alexander Hold and Bjarne Aarup the CEO of EG A/S

Picasso: a great Artist or great Branding?

Picasso

After have been strolling up and down small corridors in Barcelona, I stumble upon Picasso. Not the actual Pablo Picasso, but the museum by the same name, and I decided to have a look.

Just a small update on Pablo Ruiz Picasso: Picasso was born in 1881 Malaga, Spain, and died in 1973 i Mougins, France. During hiss career Picasso managed to establish himself as a fine painter and artist, and is today considered one of the greatest painters of the 20th century.

The museum was interesting and I got a fine inside in the development of Picasso’s arts. However; strolling around at this fine museum looking at pictures created in the 19th century, made me think. Is this really beautiful, special or in any way extraordinary? Well I am not to be the judge of that. But comparing one of Picasso’s paintings with one of the street painters sitting on the sidewalk, the difference in talent with a brush do not really have to be that big.

So why is it that a painting made by Picasso can be sold for a 100 million dollar where the street painter can only get 10 euros? Well I do not have a scientific proofed answer, but I will dare to claim that it has to do with branding.

You can compare it to soft drinks. Even though you know that Coca Cola is not necessarily the best Cola on the market you buy it, because you attach value to the name and not to the actual product. You can look at paintings the same way. Hanging a Picasso in your living room signals wealth, status, and intellect. Not because the painting is beautiful or suit your living room, but because you attach value to the name of the painter. Hanging the same painting without Picasso’s signature and the painting would not get any attention at all.

It is a tendency that we see more and more, that the actual craftsmanship is deprioritized in favor of the brand. Another example is the music industry where the best singer is not the one topping the top 10 charts, but those who have been promoted the best.

It is like this in many industries, and therefore is it also important to take notion of.  Picasso might have been a great painter, but I would claim that his greatest talent was getting his pictures exposed the right places, and bought by the right people. And that way around attached psychical value to his paintings.

I am sure that only a minority will agree with me, so let me hear your argument and please post a comment.