Lindéngruppen owner and chairman Jenny Lindén Urnes gives Our News her view on the family business and some of the challenges that lie ahead.
Lindéngruppen is one of Sweden's largest family-owned companies. How would you describe the group?
“We are a family business with a focus on owning and developing industrial companies. I'm very fond of Beckers, ColArt and Höganäs, our three core businesses. They are global companies with very talented and committed people, innovative products and have leading positions within their respective markets.”
“As a family business you can take a long-term view and a values-driven approach. Financial performance is important of course, but having a values-based leadership involves a whole range of values - hard and soft. This is good for the business in the long run.”
“Having a long term approach gives us the freedom to do what we think is right. Long-term is long-term: it's not a year or two.”
What is your perspective on change?
“We value continuity highly, but continuity doesn't mean not changing. We always need to adapt and be ready to find new solutions. Even when we're doing well we have to be prepared to change and look at how we're doing things. There's always room for improvement.”
What are the biggest challenges going forward?“I think we all have to reduce our negative impact on the environment, and I think our biggest challenge is to become much more sustainable. For me, it is very important that all our businesses work actively to minimise their environmental footprint as well as embrace a sustainable approach in all their business dealings.”
Both Lindéngruppen and you personally are active in community-based projects. What role can business play in society?
“I believe we have a responsibility to engage with the local and wider community. I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to support projects that make a positive impact. For me it's very inspirational. When you engage you get so much back and you gain so much energy from being involved with many different people. It really is a win-win for all involved.”
Do you have a role model - an individual or individuals whom you especially admire?
“I admire my father. He came from a very modest background and through hard work and brilliance built Lindéngruppen into what it is today. He was strategically and financially very astute, but he also had very strong personal qualities like loyalty, integrity and his ability to empower and motivate people around him.”
“Antonia Ax:son Johnson is also a role model for me in many ways. She represents family businesses in the best possible way, both in the way she successfully took over her family business and how she has developed it in the last three decades.”
“She is a values-driven leader who championed sustainability at a very early stage and who sees responsible companies as the main driving force for positive change within society.”
You joined Lindéngruppen from a non-traditional business background. What was it like to make that transition?
“I have a degree in philosophy and a postgraduate diploma in history of art so I definitely don't have a typical business background! In 1994, during my last year at university, my father asked me to join the board of ColArt. While working with contemporary art, I successively joined the boards of the other business areas of AB Wilh. Becker.”
“In 1997 I realised that I wanted to be fully involved in our family business and in 2006 I succeeded my father as chairman and CEO of AB Wilh. Becker.”
“Today, as chairman of Lindéngruppen, I have a clear ownership role. It's a role with much responsibility, but also many exciting opportunities to be involved in our companies and our community projects. It's very stimulating and rewarding.”
What's on the agenda for Lindéngruppen looking towards 2013 and beyond?
“Our businesses have clear strategic directions and will continue to implement their respective long-term plans. Of course, we're affected by the current tough economic climate, but I'm confident in our ability to respond to challenges and to continue to build long-term success.”