SPARK OF THE CORPORATE
Networked Society! That’s the catch-phrase Hans Vestberg, the workaholic CEO of LM Ericsson Telephone Company (Commonly referred to as Ericsson), seems to carry along with him wherever he goes. That’s understandable. His will and conviction are unquestionable. From, turning upside down the whole long-serving business mantra of the company –
Yes….almost. Vestberg’s ascent (if it can be called thus) could look almost fortuitous. While it was triggered by a chance happening - Carl-Henric Svanberg, CEO of Ericsson until then, could not say no to an offer from to British Petroleum, and decided to move there as its president which would create a void at the top for Ericsson-, his elevation should never have been in doubt had it happened any which way. A person with a very long (two-and-a-half decades) and successful career (only employer all his life, his growth through the ranks, in several countries and in several ranks), across geographies (four counties – Brazil, China, Mexico and the United States), cutting across business segments and, excelling always (barring the gloomy period when they had to cull about 45,000 employees), would make anyone a worthy successor to Svanberg. And as it turned out, it was a sort of blessing in disguise for Vestberg. Or rather, it was a window of opportunity for Vestberg who, although nobody could have
Education & early career
Hans Vestberg joined Ericsson in 1998, working in the travel expenses department (for Ericsson Cables) in his hometown of Hudiksvall. Not much later, he graduated from the Uppsala University (Sweden) with a business administration & economics degree, in 1991.
It was scripted perhaps that one day the young Vestberg would go on to helm the company that had a great history. Thus, it was that Vestberg, by default or by design, travelled far and across the globe, serving Ericsson in various capacities, in different geographies, and around varied cultures and people. This experience was to stand him in good stead when he would go on to take control and revamp the leadership in the company – shaking off the (apparent) Swedes-only management, and mixing it up well with people from multiple nationalities.
As time passed by, Vestberg seized every opportunity that came his way and made good use of it through hardwork, wisdom, and an almost inexplicit sense of leadership, manifest during the years from 1998 to 2000 when he was CFO for Ericsson in Brazil, then from 2000 to 2002, he was CFO for Ericsson in North America and controller for North and South America, and then as President for Ericsson in Mexico for the next one year.
Prelude to leadership...?
After more than a decade-and-a-half, he was elevated to the position of Chief Financial Officer for Ericsson in 2007, in which position he was to serve until he became the CEO on January 1, 2010, replacing Carl-Henric Svanberg.
The change that no-one expected….
When he became the CEO, he decided it was time to effect some sweeping changes, which he did. But, the most amazing one was changing the business line of the company – no one had even dared to think of digressing from what the company’s founder Lars Magnus Ericsson had envisaged.
After taking charge, with full support and backing of the board, he took the emotionally difficult but strategically very simple (for him) decision to refocus its business away from costly hardware and to be predominantly into software and services. The result is there for anyone to see - in 2004, 73% of the company’s revenues came from hardware, 27% from software and services. By 2014, four years since Vestberg took over as CEO – the ratio had been almost completely on its head.
The next task was a shake-up of the top-ranks. He changed the entire management team on the basis that if Ericsson had to change, it needed a new set of leaders. Since its inception in 1876 up until 2009 (for more than 130
The 16th CEO of Ericsson, who really believes in its history and legacy, decided that it will not have any consumer products anymore. Today, under Vestberg, Ericsson operates in 180 countries with a workforce of 113,000, provides 40% of the world's mobile traffic, manages 2.5 billion subscriptions and, has grown to be the world’s largest vendor of 3G and 4G networks.
Had he not been into telecom, Vestberg, in all likelihood, would have made a career out his pet-sporting passion – handball, having played to a high standard in Sweden's national league. But, as he was destined to lead more than 100,000 people, Vestberg makes-up for the miss by being the chairman of the Swedish Handball Association.
The champion of the concept called Networked Society, Vestberg is always at the fore-front of technology-enabled initiatives aimed at solving some of the crippling problems of the world like poverty, health ailments, etc.
Hope viewers caught up the spark…