Enhanced capability through shared expertise

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HR management and succession planning are vital for the long-term success of Storskogen’s small and medium-sized businesses. Erika Butterworth, Investment Director in the Trade business area, shares her reflections on recent leadership transitions, emphasising collaboration and resource sharing. Storskogen has a significant opportunity to share resources between entities and place the right person in the right role at the right time, as showcased in the example of the business units PR Home and A Lot Decoration.

The Home and Living vertical, a subgroup of Storskogen’s trade companies, consists of 11 business units with a total net sale of about SEK 3 billion. The companies specialise in products that are used in or close to the home, targeting private individuals as end consumers. The majority of the companies import and sell a diverse range of home accessories and utility items. Additionally, some units offer products such as awnings, floors and whole cabins.

Most of the companies in the vertical design their products and own  their brands, granting them the freedom to operate beyond the constraints of specific geographic markets or price levels set by an external brand owner. However, this increases the need for solid capabilities  in areas such as marketing, channel strategy and product development, to enable growth and business development.

Even though the companies within Home and Living sell different products, they face similar challenges and opportunities. The specific contents in the boxes are less significant than the shared ways of working. The processes, experiences, agreements and systems within one distributor are often highly relevant for other distributors, as best practices, benchmarks or lessons learned. Consequently, the collective competence within the group can be used in an optimal way. Our recent efforts to share competencies within Home and Living serve as a good example of how we in Storskogen work to appoint the right person to the right role.

  • Step 1: PR Home is a Borås-based distributor of lighting and home textiles. It operates under its own brands and generates sales of about SEK 100 million. The market conditions for the company have changed since the demand boom that home furnishing companies experienced during covid, and last year the company’s strategy shifted from acquisition-driven growth to organic growth, emphasising operational excellence and business development. Together with the CEO, who is also a minority shareholder, we came to the conclusion that the new priorities required a change in leadership. In order for the company to be able to develop and be ready for the next growth level, a new external CEO was recruited. The former CEO continues to support the company as a member of the board, which creates stability and continuity in the transition and enables the company to maintain a long-term perspective.
  • Step 2: Simultaneously, the CFO of PR Home was going on parental leave. Typically, the CFO is a key person who has a very broad role and rarely has immediate internal replacements. Instead of recruiting an untested and costly interim consultant, which would delay the necessary efficiency projects started by the new CEO, we looked inside of the Storskogen network. The CFO of Acreto, another business unit within Home and Living, has worked with Storskogen for two years and has experience of the ERP system used by PR Home. He felt ready to take on additional responsibilities and was able to immediately step in and take over the role of CFO in PR Home, in addition to his existing role, during the parental leave. This solution instantly mitigated the risk in PR Home, was cost effective, created closer ties between the two companies with similar challenges and developed a talent within Storskogen.
  • Step 3: In parallel, there was a need for an interim CEO in another Storskogen company, A Lot Decoration, a distributor of home accessories  with sales of about SEK 100 million. Usually, a company this size will be without a leader during a recruitment period, unless an external interim consultant is brought in. Within Storskogen, there are often better solutions available, and in this case, the previous CEO of PR Home, mentioned in Step 1, was an excellent alternative. His knowledge and experience of a distributing business of the same size, as well as his understanding of Storskogen’s way-of-working, enabled him to assume the role of Interim CEO seamlessly. This mitigated the organisation’s stress and enabled the company to avoid the costs that a change of management usually entails.
  • Step 4: PR Home and A Lot Decoration have similar business models and there are significant opportunities for synergies, for example within supply chain, warehousing and quality control. To maximise knowledge sharing opportunities, the new CEO of PR Home was also offered a role as board member in A Lot Decoration.

These recent examples illustrate how companies within Storskogen, in this case our trade companies within Home and Living, can address leadership and operational challenges and benefit from the talent and strengths available within the Group. By promoting a culture of internal mobility and knowledge sharing we foster a collaborative environment that supports growth and stability, in addition to enabling cost savings. It also creates opportunities for staff development and increased responsibilities, which can otherwise be difficult to create in a smaller company. This approach is especially important for our smaller companies which face business risks linked to retention of employees and key competencies.

Moreover, our approach extends to other critical areas of business operations. For example, during the pandemic and ensuing disruptions, the Home and Living vertical managed to negotiate favourable freight agreements for the entire Group based on the combined sea freight volumes. Similarly, we have reduced costs linked to geographical expansion through collaborative efforts related to fairs, showrooms and deliveries. These initiatives demonstrate our commitment to leveraging Group synergies, ensuring that our companies are well-positioned to develop and succeed in competitive markets.

Erika Butterworth
Investment Director

Erika Butterworth is Investment Director within Storskogen’s Trade business area and chair of boards in business units within the Home and Living and Sports, Clothing and Accessories verticals. Previously, she has held several positions in banking, ran startups and worked with business development, pricing and marketing. Before joining Storskogen, she was country manager for the travel group Apollo in Sweden and Denmark.