Henrik Gilstring: I Am Determined to Pursue Building Solid Väderstad Business
Väderstad Group was preparing CEO succession in October 2020. Mats Båverud will retire and Henrik Gilstring will take over the position. He represents the third generation of Väderstad founding and ownership family and is currently a member of the company's management team. Latifundist.com interviewed Henrik about last year's results, plans for 2021 and whether he had any doubts about his career choice.
On company and appointment
Latifundist.com: Henrik, in February 2022 you will become the Group CEO. How will your new position be different from your current?
Henrik Gilstring: Today I am part of the Group Management Team and I work primarily with product management, financial management and business development. As Group CEO these areas will off course still be important. Among other things, I will focus on our targets to grow the business, increase our operational efficiency, be the most attractive supplier to our customers, and be the most attractive employer for our staff. We also want to contribute to more sustainable development in our business. If we succeed with these challenges, we have come a long way. This is a challenge I look forward to.
Latifundist.com: What is your ultimate goal in your new position, apart from the obvious?
Henrik Gilstring: For us, business value comes from customer value. I want to continue to build a stronger business by delivering more value to our customers. We should be our customers’ best partner for outstanding emergence. If we can continue to deliver strong, innovative concepts in high-quality machines and parts, with industry-leading customer support and service, we are convinced this will continue to give us the development of profitable growth.
Latifundist.com: How would you assess the year 2020 for the company? Has Väderstad managed to keep its trading/developing pace?
Henrik Gilstring: In terms of sales development, and also product development, 2020 has been a good year for Väderstad. We are grateful and humble about the fact that our customers continue to believe in the future and invest in Väderstad machinery, despite the challenges and uncertainty in the world.
Latifundist.com: How has coronavirus global spread affected the company’s operations?
Henrik Gilstring: We had some material shortages just before the annual summer leave period. We have also had a slightly higher rate of sick leave during the year. Another negative impact is that it has been difficult to meet with customers because of the restrictions. We have not been able to travel, there have not been any trade fairs, no customer visits at the factory, etc. We really hope the distribution of the Covid vaccine is successful so that we can finally go out and meet with customers more easily again, and visit our colleagues abroad.
Latifundist.com: What are your expectations of the market future development?
Henrik Gilstring: With the strong business cycle, we see now in our industry, and with the news of the vaccine that is on its way, we think that 2021 will be a good year for our customers and for the business. We think we can expect a fairly good development after 2021 as well, but that is hard to predict. We also see solid demand for many of the specific solutions and products that we provide.
Latifundist.com: Do you expect it to be less aggressive given the current world economic situation?
Henrik Gilstring: Who knows? I think the long term effect of the Covid crisis is difficult to foresee, we know that we have had a good development this year, and we expect good sales also next year, grain prices are fairly strong right now and farmers are positive. We are currently on a growth track, but we watch the market very carefully for signs if it will turn the other way.
Latifundist.com: What will be the company’s focus in 2021 in terms of investment/innovations etc.?
Henrik Gilstring: To support our growth we have recently decided to invest in a new office building in Väderstad, an investment of EUR 12 mln, the plan is that it should be ready by the summer of 2022. And if things go as planned, we will invest and expand in Ukraine, since it is a very important market for us. Hopefully, we can talk more about that in the near future. In terms of innovations and product development, all product areas are important. We continue to invest to maintain a strong product offering on both tillage, drills and planters. We also work on new electronic technology for application on future machines.
Latifundist.com: Is there a global development strategy for many years to come?
Henrik Gilstring: We of course have a product strategy, and we have product plans that stretch 5+ years into the future. The strategy consists of a few different perspectives. We bring innovations to the market that helps our customers to deal with challenges and issues in new ways, a recent example is Cross Cutter Disc. We utilize new technology to further improve our products, an example is SeedEye. We also bring new specifications to fulfil the need of all our customers, one recent example is the Tempo L Central Seed Fill. We will continue to develop our portfolio in this way going forward. Also, we continue to listen to the farmers, and try to help them and be a good partner
However, the plans are updated continuously, and we always need to be flexible when it comes to what our customers need from us, and how the market develops.
On personal issues related to the company, etc.
Latifundist.com: How does it feel to be a part of the family that has been designing and supplying agricultural products all over the world for three generations?
Henrik Gilstring: I am glad to be a part of the family and happy to be part of the company. There are a strong history and heritage of brilliant innovation and solid customer relations that are the foundation of our business.
Latifundist.com: Is there a specific approach to protecting a family legacy?
Henrik Gilstring: Our strategy for the future is partly based on what has worked well for us in the past, and what has brought value to our customers. As an example, we work with something called “The Väderstad Way”, which is a set of values and believes that shall guide us all in the company on how we behave towards each other, towards customers and towards society in general. A lot of the content comes directly from the founding family. However, not all answers are found in the past, the world and the industry are changing, and so must we. We have much potential to develop further, but to do so we need input from many colleagues with different knowledge and experience.
Latifundist.com: Who influenced your professional development most?
Henrik Gilstring: Good question, my parents and uncles definitely had some influence. I saw them gradually building an international business, from a humble start, by improving the result and the efficiency for their customers. This was inspiring, and I always hoped that I could one day play an important role in this aspiration.
Latifundist.com: Have you ever had second thoughts about a career choice?
Henrik Gilstring: It has happened, as I guess for most people. I think it is important to think about what makes you happy. In my daily work at Väderstad, I participate and contribute in many contexts that give me energy. I always enjoyed working together with colleagues when you feel that you “pull in the same direction”, you work toward a common goal. This is also true in the management team today and gives me hope and comfort for the future.
Latifundist.com: What is your childhood brightest memory of the company?
Henrik Gilstring: I always liked going to trade fairs, which happened both in Sweden and abroad. It was exciting to see new places, visit the big stands, and see so many people that were interested in our products. Fingers crossed that we can all go to a trade fair soon again!
Latifundist.com: Well, let's all hope for the best! Thank you for an interesting conversation and good luck!