Experienced Business Leaders reflections and learning points are in particular interesting. Rolf Gullestad is one of my good relationships for reflections on Business, Innovations and Developments. I am so happy to have him as my next guest.
I met Rolf for the first time in 2001 when he started as a CEO at Gresvig, a major Sport- and Fashion Retailer in Norway. At that time I was a Management Consultant at PwC Consulting. We had the pleasure to help Rolf and his leadership team with the turnaround “From Minus to Plus”. I remember my first impression of Rolf. In a newspaper article he exposed himself with high ambitions for Gresvig. That was brave I think. And he succeeded. Impressive – and of course it was exciting to work for him as a consultant. Since then I have been in contact with Rolf. He has been a great discussion partner and advisor for me too, and today he is more a friend than a business relation.
Rolf and I at Maschmanns Matmarked in Oslo in August
– Rolf, looking back – what do you see as highlights in your Business Life?
Inger, let me first thank you for the opportunity to let me express some of my thoughts, and share some of my experiences from my career on your blog. And secondly I have much appreciated our many meetings and lunches discussing career development, personal development and life in general.
Looking back I like to start with my time at the Norwegian Business School (BI), which was important in the start of my career. Finishing there I got the opportunity to study at the University of Wisconsin and finish my Master of Business Administration degree.
In 1986 I took the job as CEO at Thorn in Norway, an English owned rental company. I had a very interesting time there. Thorn was a company in trouble at that time and was a turnaround case. We succeeded restructuring the company focusing on marketing of our rental products, TV and video, and added new products like white goods and PCs. Norway became an important contributor to the profit of Thorn EMI’s rental business across the world. As a consequence I was promoted to CEO Nordic for the rental operation.
In the last 12 years I have been CEO at Gresvig, a Sport- and Fashion Retailer. Starting there in 2001 also this company was in bad shape. We did a study of the situation helped by PwC Consulting and organized 5 projects which we decided would be important in order to become profitable. This was very successful and already by the end of 2001 we were profitable on a monthly basis. In 2002 Gresvig’s share price on Oslo Stock Exchange grew by 250%, the highest growing share in 2002.
– If you could do it again, would you do anything different?
Yes, I should have invested a ton of money in Gresvig’s shares in 2001 when I joined the company. That would have been a very profitable investment. However, I made a good return on the investment I did, and the share options I acquired between 2001 and 2006. So I should not complain.
– What is your most important life learning points?
Listen to people, talk to people, but follow your instinct and gut feeling. Don’t be afraid of risk but be conscious of it.
Take care of family, friends and your health. They are the most important things in life. They are actually your life, they are what makes life worth living. Growing old you probably will not say; “I should have spent more time in the office”.
In business the way to success is to hire the best people you can get. You will not succeed alone.
– What is your top advice to younger people?
Number one; get an education. It is always an asset. Second; all managers want to succeed in business and therefore it is important to select the right challenges and projects where it is possible to succeed. Find the projects where you are with the right people and where resources are available to carry the project through successfully.
– Do you have a favorite quote to share?
A little learning about life: “Treat people well on your way up, you may meet them on your way down”.