The Swedish manufacturer of luxury beds built his business with love

The Swedish manufacturer of luxury beds built his business with love

With the publication last month of his book When business is loveJan Ryde, CEO of Swedish luxury bed maker Hästens, fulfilled a commitment he made when he joined the family firm at the age of 25.

Ryde, a business school professor at the time, said that if he could get the company to 1 billion Swedish kroner in annual sales (roughly $100 million), he would share the secret of Hästens’ success. Since he took over as the fifth generation CEO, sales have increased by 50,000%, and he reached the milestone a few years ago.

As the book’s title suggests, Ryde built his business orthodoxy on the concept of love – for people, quality, creativity and craft. He details the principles he used in applying that passion to create a corporate culture that values ​​the vital traits of honesty, openness, forgiveness, integrity, humility and encouragement.

“It’s like a recipe for chocolate cake,” Ryde says in a chat ahead of the book’s publication. “If you follow the recipe with these ingredients, you’ll get a chocolate cake every time.”

The book also details Ryde’s personal journey through life’s ups and downs as a way to inspire the reader to embrace his philosophy.

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“This is one way to do a Blue Ocean Strategy,” Ryde says, referring to the 2005 book Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. “It’s a way to position yourself as a business, or as a human being, to differentiate yourself so much that you’re not in the competition game. You are beyond the competition.”

PENTA: What prompted you to write this book?

Jan Ryde: After meeting with business partners, coaching them, mentoring them, and seeing other people apply the same principles, I saw that it changes lives. The only reason I wanted to write the book is to share this with people so that everyone can have a more loving, joyful and peaceful life – and a lot more success and abundance too.

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Is the philosophy of abundance a fundamental principle?

The bottom line for us is how we see the world. We perceive the world based on the filters we have, the belief system we have. One way of looking at the world is through the filters of scarcity in the world: There isn’t enough money to go around; there is not enough love for everyone to find someone to love, etc. Another way to look at it is to think of it as an abundant place. This very faith allows us to see abundance. It is just a door that opens to find all this abundance, success, love and peace in the world.

Is this a universal philosophy or is it more tailored to craftsmanship-oriented luxury companies?

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This is universal. This knowledge has been around for a long time. It’s just not taught in business schools because we want to see the world as difficult. … This is a belief. And if you handle things with ease, with love and care for people, everything changes. And it’s not either/or. I’m not saying do this instead of what you’re doing. This is a way of thinking to transform your life to become even better.

What is an example of how you implemented corporate culture change?

I started having meetings that involve everyone in the company – not just board meetings or executive meetings. See you all. We listen to each other and care for each other.

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In my younger days, I was a Dale Carnegie instructor and I brought all those principles to the company. And just by doing that, it created such a friendly atmosphere and it goes into the product as well.

What was the most difficult obstacle to overcome?

The most difficult has probably been my inner journey at different stages, because I am a very introverted person. The most difficult obstacle was developing the product myself. My management style, if you will, could have worked very well with 15 or 20 people, but when the company grew, that management or leadership style was not enough for 40 or 50 people. So I had to change. Then we got to 100 and I had to change again. It’s still a small company with less than 300 people and I have to keep developing the product myself.

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And what was the hardest thing to change in the corporate culture?

The most difficult thing was to make this an English-speaking company. In my first 10 years, it was mostly in Sweden. Then we started to interest consumers all over the world and now we are in 50 countries. I understood that we must have a culture, a language. Of course, people are allowed to speak Swedish here, but now we have 50 nationalities.

The second hardest was what I describe in the book as my dark times. Despite my track record of business growth, I reached a point where I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t think I could keep growing the company and thought I needed to hire an outside CEO. So I hired people and found it very difficult for them—it’s quite a complex business.

On the other hand, they were trying to run the company with values ​​other than those described in the book. If one comes from McKinsey, what is in this book is not at McKinsey, so there is a clash. That was another reason for writing the book: to explain to anyone who would listen that there are things that are more important than what is taught in business school.

This article has been edited for length and clarity.

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