Lotte Littau CEO of Creativ Company

Lotte Littau - CEO of Creativ Company

Wednesday  9. of march, Lotte Littau the CEO of the successful Danish company: Creativ Company visited me in the Though-Leader Series. Creativ Company is a 125 employee’s large company producing and selling hobby items for use in public institutions, as well as private companies with focus on creativity. Creativ Company has been rewarded the honour of being the second best place to work in Denmark, and on a European scale the 9th best place to work. These rewards are what define Creativ Company as an organization.

Creativ Company was founded out of a failed fusion from a former partnership, and the motive for establishing the company was pure revenge. As Lotte said, there are a lot of great different motives for starting a company, but one of the greatest is revenge. Usually revenge is considered an evil thing, but what revenge did for Creativ Company was to give the necessary drive to keep working hard for achieving the goal.

The first step of the start-up was a trip to the USA, attending trade-fairs to find interesting product and solutions for the foundation of the company. Lotte Littau’s husband is a farmer and one of the barns was cleaned out to make room for the first stock of Creativ Company. It took one month from idea to reality and in year 2000 the company was in business.  Since then the Company has grown out of the barn and is today in 6,500 m2 large building located in Holstebro.

One of the first success stories Lotte Littau remembers from being an entrepreneur was a record sale of DKK 6,500 on one single day. DKK 6,500 does might not seem like a lot of money, and Lotte could also admit that 6,500 is not quite enough for running the business today; however the experience had made an impact on her.

Since 2000 the company has grown to a 125 employee’s large body and the values of being a start-up has developed into organizational values. This is a challenge for every growing organization, but Creativ Company has done quite well due to great focus on the work environment. One of the reasons why Creativ Company has been rewarded honourable prices for their work environment is due to Creativ Company’s effort in creating a diverse work environment with employees of many different qualifications. At Creativ Company they have created a workshop, where 15 employees that would usually not be able to carry out a job are being helped to have a meaningful work day, while they create value for the company. Because as Lotte Littau believes; it is every company’s duty to take responsibility in the local community.

Lotto Littau presented and interesting aspect on the perception of rules: “If a rule is stupid, break it”. This statement seems to be quite representative for the way Creativ Company is doing business. The company is focused on doing things as smooth as possible and the organizational structure is very flat. The way Lotte is managing the company is with care but with demands. She expects each of her employees to take responsibility in the common wellbeing of the company. And only if the company is doing well Lotte has the opportunity to pay back the employees with social benefits. “It is short term thinking not investing socially in the employees,” that might be the greatest definition of the organizational believe that is held by Creativ Company. Not just is Lotte and Creativ Company challenging the statuesque, they do also do what others say cannot be done, and is criticised for being an unhealthy way of doing business. However Creativ Company has been steady growing since it foundation back in 2000 and is not ready to change, but ready to do better.

The students have given a lot of positive feedback on the presentation carried out by Lotte Littau, and even though Lotte explained that she is not the usual public speaker of the company, she did a very inspiring job. As Creativ Company is growing they will experience challenges, and one of them is how to remain and spread the organizational values of the company to new departments at new locations.

Lotte Littau CEO of Creativ Company and Alexander Hold
Lotte Littau CEO of Creativ Company and Alexander Hold

Mayor, Lars Krarup

Lars Krarup, Mayor of Herning

Monday the 22nd of November Mayor, Lars Krarup spoke as the last guest lecturer in the Thought-Leader Series second season. It was an exciting day for me personally, since it is not every day you get to meet the mayor.

Lars Krarup has been mayor for 9 years, and was when he was elected, among the youngest mayors ever elected in Denmark. Lars is daily responsible for 9000 employees which he only can describe as a mouthful. However he finds his job very interesting and assured the audience and I, that there was never a day looking like the day before. One of the problems you are facing when you have 9000 employees is that you don’t know every single one of them, and therefor does Lars also put an honor in personally welcoming new employees working at the city hall.

Even though Lars Krarup today is a well-respected and popular mayor, the story of how he ended up at the city hall is far from usual.

Lars carries around a scare on his hand from the time he was a trainee to become a butcher. That was where his career started, at the local butcher, where he was taught a lot about sales and service. The important aspect was to treat the costumers with respect and please them, so they would come back.

At some time Lars looked at himself and realized that it was time to try something new and he became a sales man for the Danish Beer Brand Tuborg. Within Tuborg, Lars advanced and grew to become a key account manager for Tuborg, and was later selected for the team, which mission was to merge the two sales departments of Tuborg and Carlsberg. This was where Lars got the interest for strategy and leadership and when offered the position as CEO of the Blue Fox (Herning Ice Hockey), the answer was yes.

At Herning Blue Fox Lars learned about the difference between black and white. In the word of sport there is only one thing that counts: “TO WIN”

It was very much a coincidence that Lars was elected the mayor of Herning. And looking back at Lars’s career, everything has seemed to be randomly coming to him. This was also one of the messages he wanted the students to understand. Lars does not really believe in career planning but he has been really successful with the things he has accomplished. Why this is so is according to Lars himself, that when he is confronted with a task, he goes all in. As he said: “There are no easy ways to continuous success.” By this should be understood that you might be lucky to be elected the mayor, without any particular efforts. But to remain successful as mayor for 9 years, it takes hard work and effort.

“There are no easy ways to continuous success.”

As Mayor, Lars Krarup is today using one of the first lessons he was taught as a butcher trainee: To sell a good service so people will come back. Because even though Lars is working for a public institution, he prefers to see it as business that needs to make a profit to survive. Therefore is Lars also putting a great honor in employing the greatest people to do the job, even though they might be smarter and brighter than himself. This approach is also what have lead Herning to be one of the most successful regions in Denmark, where the distance from though to action is very short.

The meeting with Lars Krarup was a great experience and both the students and I learned more about the system and the man who makes Herning a great place to live.

Alexander Hold and Lars Krarup, Mayor of Herning
Alexander Hold and Lars Krarup, Mayor of Herning

 

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