2016 Most Innovative Business Leader
Skaltek is a highly renowned manufacturer of equipment to the cable and wire industry, with customers in all four corners of the globe. Pulling the strings behind this international company is Ralph Skalleberg, who lifts the lid on how he guides his firm towards continued success.
In total, Skaltek have customers in 60 countries and offices in Sweden, Germany, Brazil and Sweden. According to Skalleberg, the reason why they have been so successful in manufacturing machines is that have genuinely benefitted the lives of the people who operate them, and this is at the heart of everything they do at Skaltek.
“Our success is that we have focused on the life for the operator of the machine,” says Skalleberg. “If the machine is something that helps them and looks great, in turn the operator will have a better life and they will take care of the machine better. Then the machine will last longer, and we will go on to produce even more. At our company, we are firm believers that better technology leads to a better society.
“Our strategy is quite simple and this is just to find what is right and do just that,” says Skalleberg. “We are quite an informal company, as we have no hierarchy and everyone in the organisation has a business card with their name and face on it. This is to not only make people responsible for what they do, but to also take pride in what they do as well. In our office, we have no walls, and everything is open because we believe in transparency.”
Skalleberg firmly believes that and their values and their commercial success have gone hand in hand, and his positive attitude has bred positive results at their company. “We are doing exceptionally well at the moment,” says Skalleberg. “In a world with more and more turmoil where its leaders want to build even more walls, we are building team work.
We have been in business since 1974 and everyday more and more people are realising the quality of work we do. The key challenge today is to think different and focus on love and not fear.”
In terms of Skalleberg’s background, his experience more practical than academic, having left school at 15 in order to earn his own living. “Throughout my career, I have come a long way, and have learned so much just be working and helping different people,” says Skalleberg. “I firmly believe that positions are earned and those who truly earn a position, will serve. The world needs servants, not bosses, and good examples, not leaders.”
Despite being a global company, Skaltrek main growth strategy is to simply look after their own customers and hope that the word will spread about their experience and expertise. “We typically do not approach customers, they approach us,” says Skaltek. “Over the years we have built up our reputation and this is through providing the very best service for each and every one of our customers. We accommodate for a diverse range of clients, including people who make cables, and this can include electric cables, fiberoptics, tubing and many more.”
The past few years have marked turning point for the company, where they are looking to continue to expand their horizons beyond their current client base. “Our key focus is to make sure our skills and know-how is not only passed onto the next generation but is improved upon,” says Skalleberg.
We have been in North America since 1976 with our first office opening in Atlanta, Georgia in 1981. We are now building a new office for the future, we call this the “conscious work place”. Two years ago, Skaltek expanded their offices to Brazil, which was a very successful endeavour. “With this office, we hope that we can grow our business even further. At the same time, we are very conscious of growing too fast, and hope to grow organically so we don’t end up compromising the high quality services we offer.”
Like any other successful business, there is constant focus on self-improvement and innovation at the company. Skalleberg believes that this can be achieved by putting your ear to the ground and listening out for what is currently happening. “To be innovative, you must seek a better way to do things,” says. “Typically, a lot of these answers are found when you seek them. However, when you
seek answers, you have to be quiet. People that like to discuss, they are typically not seeking. A child’s learning and growing seems to be the most extreme in the first 12 months. An interesting reflection with that is that in that time, they have really not learned to talk yet. It is hard to take in when you talk too much. I think that the value of listening is quite underrated and is fundamental to success.”
Skaltek’s success is also based upon building relationships, and is something that is constantly evolving with the advances in technology and particular social media. “With social media there is a big challenge in holding the society together, “says Skalleberg. “People text each other instead of talking to each other. A big challenge is keeping relationships alive, and we live in a society where the focus is on instant news to the extent that people are emotional and do not take the time to find the facts. I want to build a better world and we do this one customer at the time. We make beautiful machines because we see the results of that, and the more we interact with each other and build bridges, the more peace we will have.”
Looking more specifically at the manufacturing sector, one of the most challenging developments for Skaltek is in regulation. “In Europe there is too much focus on regulation,” says Skalleberg. “For example, there are too many people that will interpret CE regulations and with the regulations you end up spending a lot of money on consultants that try to interpret the rules. Moreover, buyers of machines are often too focused on short term returns and when you simply focus on short term gains, you have lost your focus. Our focus is not to focus on money, but rather on how our machines can better serve mankind, and this is vision that has served us well and we will continue to follow in the future.”