Inspiring Swedish Family Businesses with Legacy of Values

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Students enter the Hästens factory and headquarters

Our second day in Sweden took us to the town an hour outside Stockholm where the group met with the owner and fifth generation family member of Hästens, Jan Ryde. For those unfamiliar with the brand, Hästens is a Swedish family-owned producer of luxury mattresses, bed linens, and lifestyle accessories. The company prides themselves on use of raw materials such as cotton, horse hair, wool, and flax. Established in 1852, the now 166 year old company has gone a long way from its sole offering of horse saddles, when they decided during the later part of their second generation to diversify to mattresses, with the decline of transportation via horse.

Today, Jan Ryde continues his family legacy into the 21st century, expanding the brand overseas, as far as Los Angeles and China. Hästens mattresses can be found in many households in Sweden, including that of the Royal Family, for whom Hästens has already produced over 60. As CEO, Jan Ryde brings a culture of family into the organization, with beautifully photographed and mounted photos of all their employees on the factory walls, and very informal interpersonal relationships between management and employees.

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Students are introduced to the management team at Hästens
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Students present their findings on how to brand a family business

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After the visit, the group stopped by a small town on the way back to Stockholm for a quick meal featuring a traditional Swedish take of Goulash, before hiking to see some of the oldest Viking graves in the area. During this time, three of our CBS team also finalized preparations for final presentations to the Grant Thorton Group, and several Swedish family businesses. Grant Thorton is one of the world’s leading independent audit, tax and advisory firms, leading business advising to dynamic organizations.

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Professor Angus delivers opening remarks
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Some of the presenting team with Grant Thorton
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CBS Group photo with Grant Thorton team

Grant Thorton had organized an event for small family businesses interested in advisory and networking opportunities. During the event, Columbia Business School was invited to present topics to certain family businesses who were interested in either expanding operations or learning more about structural procedures to better and grow their respective businesses. There were three groups that presented and consulted for three family businesses, including:

  • Spiltan investment firm, who wanted to learn more about active and engaged ownership. The CBS group informed that company about the importance of communicating values to family members, and including an outside board to challenge internal board members, and engage them to innovate.
  • Lexington Clothing Company is a New England inspired clothing and lifestyle brand that was interested in expanding their international operations around the globe. One of the members who is herself a New England native, spoke about the local trends and preferences for logo-less clothing, in contrast to brands with larger logos in the Nordic regions.
  • Rejler is an engineering construction business in their third-generation that inspires the family members and employees with their core values of passion, empowerment, and health. During this event, the CBS team presented their findings on Family Offices, and how this would be relevant to family businesses in the Nordic region who have to yet created one.  We soon found out that not many Swedish family business recognize or understand the importance of a family business and were pleasantly surprised to learn more about this from our team.

Around 100 family business members attended along with Grant Thorton members and the group from Columbia Business School. Speaking to some of the family business members during the networking event, we were pleasantly surprised to hear that the research and presentations from yesterday were very valuable in setting the informational foundation and groundwork to begin planning their family offices, as well as finding ways to keep owners active and engaged in the company.

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Some students with Grant Thorton associates

The CBS group ended the night with some of the young associates from Grant Thorton at a restaurant called Miss Clara, in the trendy area of Stockholm. Students were able to not only reflect on the day’s presentations with the associates, but also find out more about Swedish culture and look for common threads between their different cultures. Today, the team will meet with Peter Wallenberg of the Wallenberg Foundation to present their findings on next generation education.

-Marty Lopez’18