Sometimes it's a brilliant idea for a new product, innovation or service that starts a business, or it's the desire to make a better delivery to customers and to turn the perspective around. Putting the customer first and focusing on their needs and success.
In a team meeting, I meet the four founders of AddPro to hear how it all began.
AddPro was founded by entrepreneurs Nicklas Persson, Robert Hansson, Magnus Norling and Klas Ljunggren in 2000. The decision to start over and do it right was made over an unusually good herring pie at Klas' home. The driving force that united them was the desire to make a better customer delivery of IT services to medium-sized companies - a segment that the IT dragons of the time often neglected. With a burning interest in technology and experience from various positions at a major IT group, they built the foundation for what is today AddPro - a group with over 300 employees and offices in 5 locations.
What was the starting point?
- We all worked at a large Nordic IT company that started making questionable strategic decisions. The share price became the focus and customer benefit and delivery took a back seat," says Nicklas.
- Among other things, they wanted to classify us as internet consultants without knowing what that was or what we were supposed to do. But it was a buzz-word that boosted the stock market value in the late 90s, Robert adds.
What was the original plan?
- We were in a large company that was growing by acquisition and we wanted to use a different model. The important thing for us was not to grow big, but to offer excellence and take advantage of the knowledge and experience of all our employees and grow with it and our customers," Nicklas answers.
Robert, Nicklas and Magnus came from the sales side and Klas from the technical side. Together they saw the opportunity to offer customers a holistic approach as more and more companies chose to streamline their purchasing. As an example, the large company they were working on stopped selling hardware and software which was just frustrating for customers as these were often included as part of the whole solution.
How was the first time?
- We didn't know how hard it is to run a company, so we just jumped right in. We discussed a lot. Our goal was to create a specialist unit of 20-30 people who could deliver quality to medium-sized companies in the Skåne region. Everyone else was running after the biggest clients," says Nicklas.
- Still, we have to say that there were quite a few customers already in the first week. Among them the city of Malmö. We were actually in the black for the first month," says Robert.
- The focus was on keeping costs down, money in before money out. We cleaned the house ourselves, borrowed the fax machine from the neighbour and the wives made the curtains," Magnus adds.
Where does the name come from?
- We had a great name that was so spot on! But it was forgotten during a wet evening. "We'll write that down!" - "No need." Then it was a misery to come up with something new. Many names were submitted to the Registrar of Companies and were not approved. We started sending in lists of names and AddPro was one of them," says Magnus.
- First we got a "yes", then a "no". Apparently there was a company in Gothenburg called AddPro that went bankrupt. So we bought the rights from the bankruptcy estate," says Klas.
Although the name wasn't as good as the lost one, it was in line with what the founders wanted to deliver to customers - add professionalism to the offering, the customers' IT and their business.
When I ask what the spirit was, everyone starts talking into each other's mouths.
- It was a lot of fun, a lot of energy, given that we had such good contact with the customers, we ran on everything. In the first month we did four customer visits per person every day. Those were hectic days," says Magnus.
- "It was liberating to take responsibility and see the results of your own decisions, but it was hard not to have someone to turn to when problems arose," adds Klas.
- We were vengeful. We wanted to prove our thesis and show that we were right. That "this is the way to do it and this is how customers want to do business", says Nicklas.
Not the best time to start an IT company
AddPro was started at a time when we were all worried that the world would end with the Millennium Bug. At the same time, going from one of the largest IT companies in the Nordics to start your own business was not seen as a "smart move" by many. But with the benefit of hindsight, the guys can only conclude that "you shouldn't always listen to mum".
The core values remain
Today AddPro does business differently but the core values remain, the forward thinking remains "what can we do better?" permeates the entire organisation.
- We don't cheat, we want to be the best at what we do. We believe a lot in passion, if you have passion you do a good job and it's a lot about putting the right individual in the right place," says Magnus.
- 80-90% of the old SWOT analysis still works today. For example, we still focus on skills development, but today it's completely different types of skills," says Klas.
- Today we are a kind of enabler for our customers' business, working to strengthen their competitiveness. We help their business to grow with the support of IT. Today IT is an investment, 20 years ago it was a cost," adds Robert.
AddPro has come a long way since the early days when they sat double-weighted around a coffee table and wrote lists of potential customers. No one in the founding quartet has to bring toilet rolls from home, and they no longer have to take turns surfing on the one modem. But the courage, the curiosity, the friendship and the joy of making accurate, customer-centric deliveries still lives on!