“Happy employees lead to happy customers and owners”
GET TO KNOW Lars Pettersson, CEO of identity and security company Nexus Group. “It’s proven that happy employees lead to happy customers, which in turn leads to more business, better results and happy owners – I base my leadership on this insight,” he says.
What did you do before you joined Nexus in August of 2015?
“I’ve been a leader within the IT industry for 30-ish years at companies such as Swedish-owned international decision support company Bisnode, IT infrastructure company Atea Sweden, Swedish IT company Martinsson, and Swedish IT company QD UMEÅ.
“I have always had leadership roles, even as a kid: I was head of the student counsil and things like that,” says Lars Pettersson.
The CEO role is not the same in all organizations – what is included in your role at Nexus?
“The CEO role is an umbrella role: you are ultimately responsible for everything. The CEO is like a conductor in an orchestra: it’s the conductor’s responsibility to make sure that beautiful music is played. And if the music becomes inharmonious, the conductor must sort it out.
“As a conductor, I have to make sure that I don’t spend so much time on the details that I lose track of the big picture. I’ve gotten good at determining what’s a CEO task and what’s not,” says Lars Pettersson.
How do you lead Nexus?
“It’s proven that happy employees lead to happy customers, which in turn leads to more business, better results and happy owners – I base my leadership on this insight. International research shows that employee engagement is appallingly low at many companies. The most meaningful thing I do as a leader is help create environments that increase employee engagement.
“Since the world is changing so quickly now, you can’t create a competitive company based on detailed rules. But if you have confident and happy employees that dare to do both right and wrong, you can create an attractive and successful company.
“There is recent evidence that we are succeeding with this philosophy. For example, a very prestigious prospective customer in France told me that it’s such a pleasure to deal with us since our employees are so engaged and responsible,” says Lars Pettersson.
How do you make employees happy?
“To treat other people as you yourself want to be treated is a good start. I don’t want someone to micromanage everything I do, and I don’t think other people want that either. It’s also important to try to eliminate politics and prestige from the company, and to value common sense and transparency. If you tell it like it is without prevarication, you create trust.
“You can’t order people to be innovate and cooperative – you have to encourage it by creating a great company culture,” says Lars Pettersson.
What have you accomplished since you joined Nexus?
“We have pointed out our direction in our Why: we secure society by enabling trusted identities. We have a carefully crafted strategy. We have chosen what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. We have discontinued products that are not supported by our core technology and gathered all our technologies in our Smart ID platform: our products are now interoperable. We know what potential customers we should approach and what kind of solutions we should offer them.
“We are certified in information security according to ISO 27001, and we have implemented a new ERP system and a marketing automation system. We have taken a tremendous amount of measures to transform all the different acquisitions into one single company, One Nexus, where geography is subordinate,” says Lars Pettersson.
Where is Nexus heading?
“Our strategy is to approach large organizations with our promise to enable trusted identities. The identity is fundamental for all security – you must know who you are communicating with.
“Technological development is accelerating, and that opens up both amazing new possibilities and really scary scenarios. The pace is so fast, and security is often neglected. We can enable secure end-to-end communication so that information doesn’t get into the wrong hands. We can be proud of this.
“If you can’t be sure who you are communicating with, you get paralyzed, and in the end society collapses. We are, for example, enabling trusted identities for the 400,000 employees in one of Europe’s biggest companies – we are doing something truly meaningful,” says Lars Pettersson.
What are you working on now?
“I am, together with the rest of the management team, preparing Nexus for the next step, which is to grow the company even more. Our technology is world-class, and the market needs it – we want to offer it to as many organizations as possible,” says Lars Pettersson.
How would your colleagues describe you?
“They’d probably say that I’m demanding, and they might say that I’m quick. Hopefully they’d say that I’m genuine – that I don’t play any games – and that I’m committed.
“I think I know myself and how I come across pretty well, and I try to manage my less productive sides as well as possible by being humble and listening to feedback,” says Lars Pettersson.
Describe an ordinary day in the life of Lars!
“My mornings follow a strict ritual. I wake up before 6 o’clock, read newspapers and eat a healthy breakfast – I never skip it. Then I drive or motorcycle to the office. I arrive before 7 o’clock, so that I can deal with the night’s emails before my coworkers start to drop in.
“No two days are the same, but generally I have 5–10 meetings and 100 emails per day. I always respond to all emails within 24 hours. I usually have 60 ongoing to-dos, and I never miss a deadline. I push myself pretty hard, but speed is my friend.
“When I was running bigger companies, such as Atea or Bisnode, I had a secretary to help me out.
“I travel quite a lot, in bouts. I methodically visit all our offices around the world: it’s an exceptionally good reality check that allows me to experience the vibe and the employee engagement at the offices, and I get to meet our customers.
“I usually spend my evenings dealing with the emails I didn’t have time for during the day. I don’t have that much spare time during the week, but I try to squeeze in work outs and ideally some piano playing,” says Lars Pettersson.
Published 8/1 2018