Hexagon’s earnings name in October 2016 was probably the most uncommon company occasions ever to happen.
Unbeknown to buyers within the Swedish measurement expertise firm on the time, chief govt Ola Rollen did the complete name whereas in police custody, suspected of insider buying and selling.
“It was a horrible ordeal. You’ll be able to’t think about what it was like. I used to be so positive that as quickly as we got here to a courtroom listening to it’s going to be a non-issue. If I solely survived this earnings name. We did the decision with two law enforcement officials sitting within the room. It was tremendous surreal,” says Rollen. He claims the law enforcement officials grew to become so within the case they began asking him questions on Hexagon.
Arrested in Sweden on behalf of Norwegian authorities, Rollen was positive the entire thing was a misunderstanding. Little did he know that he would find yourself being charged, face two courtroom circumstances, and stay with the accusations for 3 years earlier than lastly being acquitted.
He was an enormous catch for Norwegian prosecutors: the 55-year-old had nearly single-handedly remodeled Hexagon over the previous 20 years from a failing conglomerate to considered one of Sweden’s Most worthy firms, price greater than better-known teams reminiscent of Electrolux and Handelsbanken.
Most chief executives confronted with critical felony costs might need folded — and Rollen himself was suggested by many to resign — however he dug in, at the same time as Hexagon’s share worth plunged and the media sensed a scalp.
“I’ve by no means skilled one thing that pressured me as a lot as this. You’re questioned as a human being. There was a media push — let’s attempt to kill this CEO. It turns into nearly like a sport. However I knew I had accomplished nothing mistaken,” the silver-haired Rollen says over a video name from London.
Supported by his board and administration colleagues — who got here to Oslo every day for his trial — Rollen fought again in opposition to the Norwegian prosecutor for financial crimes, outlining how a mistake meant an important doc had not been filed. He considered resigning many occasions: “You undergo your ups and downs. However I had this perception that I’d do extra harm if I resigned than by staying put. Why would I again down?”
Vindicated in two Norwegian courts, Rollen says the tribulations of these three years helped him, and Hexagon, by way of the coronavirus disaster.
“Nothing is known as a drawback any extra. Sure, we’ve got a worldwide pandemic however frankly talking it’s a lot simpler to take care of than what I went by way of. [We] know what to worth and who to belief and to not belief. It’s about prices, money movement, surviving — it’s extra what you’re used to, in a enterprise sense,” he provides.
Hexagon is comparatively little identified exterior of Sweden, with its combination of companies offering sensors, design software program, positioning expertise and autonomous options. However beneath Rollen, its market capitalisation has elevated about 70-fold to SKr270bn ($31bn).
Rollen, beforehand a divisional head at Swedish industrial group Sandvik, was introduced in by billionaire Melker Schorling in 2000 — who remains to be Hexagon’s primary shareholder — to attempt to flip around the struggling firm.
His pitch to the then 35-year-old Rollen was blunt: “‘This firm is fucked up so you may’t fuck it up any greater than it already is. Attempt to do one thing good with it.’ It was a blessing but additionally a curse. You probably have full freedom, no restrictions, no pointers, it may be irritating,” says Rollen.
Hexagon on the time was the most important importer of recent tuna in Scandinavia. On his first day, Rollen says the corporate’s chief monetary officer instructed him the tuna inventory had gone off. Quickly after, a day care centre, additionally owned by Hexagon, referred to as to say its roof was leaking.
Rollen regularly “peeled the onion” and found increasingly disparate companies, which he quickly set about promoting off. However he additionally realised he wanted to discover a new enterprise to base the corporate spherical.
He remembered an organization referred to as Brown & Sharpe, which was additionally struggling, and made a deal to purchase its measurement expertise unit.
Extra acquisitions adopted, together with a profitable hostile bid for Switzerland’s Leica Geosystems.
Rollen says he made plenty of errors, principally by misjudging individuals. “Everybody has an agenda, not essentially the one you thought that they had. It’s good to clean out individuals’s agendas. It’s very hardly ever the applied sciences or enterprise occasions that shock you however the individuals.”
Rollen estimates that in his profession he has made 300 acquisitions and disposals, whereas making “all of the errors you may”. He splits offers into two varieties: confrontational and synergistic.
In confrontational offers, you purchase a rival in a mature business which has loads of overlap in merchandise and factories. “The one purpose you’re shopping for it’s to get entry to their buyer base. They fairly often fail,” says Rollen.
Three questions for Ola Rollen
Who’s your management hero?
Anybody who can problem after which allow individuals to seek out their very own greatness after which use that greatness to drive constructive change.
If you weren’t a CEO, what would you be?
I’ve tried music, snowboarding and legislation — and I used to be fairly ineffective in any respect of them. So I’m simply grateful I discovered one thing that has labored this lengthy and that I take pleasure in doing!
What was the primary management lesson you learnt?
I bought my first CEO job once I was 28. I referred to as for a “city corridor” assembly and talked for possibly 40 minutes. Once I was accomplished I requested if there have been any questions? Two large guys within the entrance row raised their palms and requested: “Who’re you?” I rapidly learnt that context and never taking your function too critically goes a good distance.
Too typically, managers develop into pals with their opposing numbers as they attempt to negotiate a merger of equals. Rollen says that what is required is one thing extra brutal. “What you should do is clear the home. You’ll be able to’t preserve anyone. It’s important to appoint new individuals.”
The opposite sort of deal, in line with Rollen, is shopping for a fast-growing firm. There the error is to wrap it in crimson tape, introducing new insurance policies and processes, suffocating the organisation and driving out key personnel.
As Rollen says, “the enemy is your personal organisation”, including that this “synergistic acquisition” is the most typical kind for Hexagon. As an alternative, he tries to maintain new companies at arm’s size for so long as they need, discovering targets typically begin the combination course of themselves.
Mockingly, the insider buying and selling costs took place partly from beginning to put together for a life away from Hexagon. Greenbridge Companions, arrange by Rollen and Schorling to assist the chief govt right into a “gentle transition”, invests in expertise firms together with Subsequent Biometrics, which was on the centre of the case.
Rollen says Hexagon’s succession planning is significantly better now than it was when the allegations got here out. He argues that you will need to preserve the expectations of potential successors in verify. “Do not promise an excessive amount of. Sooner or later it can change — any person will probably be appointed my successor. Up until then, I’m the CEO.”
All through his profession Rollen says it has been vital to not get slowed down by issues or errors. “I met a man as soon as who stated you may have 10 chapters in your life. In the event you get caught in chapter 5, that’s your drawback.”
Nonetheless, he stresses the significance of analysing every time what went mistaken, what might have been accomplished otherwise. Talking of his time in custody, he says: “In the event you don’t query your self, come on! It’s important to ransack your self. However on the finish of the day, I’m joyful to say we did the suitable factor.”