More than 20 years of managerial postings make Pekka Lundmark, the CEO and president director of the Finland-based Konecranes, well aware of the positive effects of openness in corporate management.
“It’s very dangerous if you have a corporate culture where everybody automatically believes everything that management says,” said the 50-year-old.
“Usually the best ideas and best understanding come from the field, that’s why you have to promote openness where people are motivated to come up with ideas and innovations. I like the people in my organization to say what they think and together we create an atmosphere where we become open to suggestions and ideas, where it’s OK to say that you disagree if you are able to say why in a constructive way, and not hide any problems.”
According to Lundmark, two thirds of the company’s growth potential comes from Southeast Asia and this prompted the setting up of an office in Singapore, where he is now based.
The firm’s business in Indonesia involves Pelindo (Indonesia Port Corporations-IPC), one of its most important customers. Aside from factories, ports are investing heavily in lifting equipment and it’s an opportunity that Lundmark doesn’t want to miss.
Moving his office to Southeast Asia is part of the company’s business strategy in reaching out to customers.
“Especially in Asia, personal relationships are very important. My goal is to build a strong, personal network with Asian decision makers. I want to meet as many of them as possible to have discussions, to understand what they think, and how we can help them.”
Lundmark has been with Konecranes for almost 10 years after many years with Nokia in the 1990s. His thinking developed during his time with the Finnish phone maker and by working with startup companies and venture capitalists in the early 2000s.
“It’s totally different when you’re working with innovators and inventors. I think my managerial style has been influenced by many different facets and I am constantly trying to develop it further because management and leadership are fascinating.”
He says it’s incredible that he feels that he is learning new things every day.
A problem he often encounters is that senior management may be unaware of problems because they are hidden from sight. He stresses the importance of identifying even the weakest signals of meltdown from the field and from the people who work directly with customers.
“By utilizing these two aspects, we know whether we’re doing it right or wrong, what our competitor’s are doing, and how should we develop our products,” he said.
Lundmark has developed his own approach to dealing with employees whose performance is below expectations.
“If you’re not happy with somebody’s performance or behavior, it’s usually not very constructive to confront the man directly because it leads him to become defensive. Rather than criticizing the behavior, it’s better to let them know about the consequences. If everybody agrees about the consequences then discussing the behavioral change is easier.”
Konecranes’ leading role in the global lifting sector is not simply because of how good they fare in the industry, but also because of Lundmark’s vision of emphasizing technology investment.
“Surely we can imagine the importance of technology regarding the accuracy of when a crane positions gigantic containers,” he said.
People call him ‘teknologiafriikiksi’, Finnish for “technology freak” in the business.
Smiling in agreement he said, “I could talk for hours about technology. This is how we differentiate our business from the competitors and that’s why the CEO should be leading the technology agenda.”
He attributes his fascination with technology to his time at Helsinki University of Technology where he took an MS in engineering.
“Looking at my career today, probably the biggest benefit I got from there was a systematic and structured way of thinking and analyzing,” he said, also explaining the significance of combining his technical background with other disciplines such as marketing and information systems.
His leadership underwent a serious test during the 2008 economic crisis.
“In the second week of November 2008, there were synchronized decisions in the whole world that they’re not going to buy cranes anymore,” he remembered.
Even so, the company was well-prepared. “There were signs of crisis out there and we had our units ready about one year in advance. So when it hit, all units had contingency plans with a thousand details.”
It took some time but he managed to steer the firm away from danger and even made small profits in every quarter.
Between his frequent business travel worldwide, Lundmark keeps fit by cross-country skiing back in Lapland or with a game of badminton.
His decision to move his office to Singapore was also supported by his family.
“It was my own idea to move here and I discussed it with my wife. I asked the board as well and they immediately said yes, that it was a great idea. It’s a good experience for the children to go to an international school, learn new things and meet friends from different parts of the world.”
With his interesting initiatives and approach to Asia, Lundmark will be able to witness Southeast Asia’s economic growth and how his company prospers from it.
“It was very difficult as there’s a lot of uncertainties in the world. Despite all that, in this part of the world I am very confident about Indonesia,” he said.
By Rian Farisa. Published in The Jakarta Post on July 6, 2013