sobota, 22 lutego 2014

Focus on: Viggo Mølholm

Not long time ago I had a great pleasure to meet Viggo Mølholm - Chairman at BoConcept. Great person! Are you interested what is the story behind? :)

Viggo Mølholm & me

Let’s start with BoConcept, with the idea. I was very surprised that it’s a family business. I thought it’s a big chain but I didn’t get the fact that it‘s a family business. How did it all start?
It began in 1952 when my father and his partner started a small business as a carpenter (actually the year I was born). For many years it was still a small carpenter business and then it grew but still only producing tables, cabinets and things like that and for the Danish market only. I got into the company after my first education, which was actually also being a carpenter and after that I took a business degree and started…
…so you have started your career by being a carpenter? I read you did study economics and marketing?
..yes.. but actually …first when I went out of the primary school I started as a carpenter which is a little bit untraditional, but which for me as a person and to lead this company has been a great help, that gave me a better understanding of people and also about production and material.
Does it mean that from the beginning you knew you want to work for the family business?
... maybe at that time I really didn’t know what to do, I always loved the wood, design and furniture so I started as a carpenter.
So you did start in the company of your family and you found that interesting?
No, I took the education in a different company and after that I recognized that I need to read a little bit more, to study a bit more about business and marketing. I went back to the business university and finally I graduated. Working already in the company I was still studying business on the weekends and in the evenings. When I started in the company I was responsible for the export because at that time we were not exporting at all.
Being carpenter studying economics….  what drives you in the company? what gives you more fun?  to design furniture? Searching for new business markets? Selling? Marketing?
I went through different stages in my life. When I started I was not a manager, I was a sales guy and wanted to prove that the furniture we produce and sell already successfully in Denmark can also be sold all over the world. And we ended selling the same products in 60 ... actually close to 70 different markets. I think this was my motivation at that time. At a later stage - actually in 1988 we bought a company in Denmark which got bankrupt, with great facility and great people but in my opinion managed in a wrong way. I took this responsibility and because of motivated, skilled people, an excellent facility and very good machinery we could develop a lot of new products. Almost out of nothing we did build a huge company. A very successful one. This was the basis for establishing BoConcept. First BoConcept  store was opened in 1993 in Paris.
At that time our idea was to put our own distribution in place – to manage the whole value chain from design over production to the end-consumer. As example we had the feeling that the retailers did not present our products in a proper way. We were not happy with the education of the retailer’s sales people and there were not the right  marketing activities. So why not to do it ourselves?  But honestly… I found out that to be a retailer was not as easy as I thought… we did not have experience, we did not have a retail mindset, no clear concept, not so many products which we were producing ourselves. So we started buying additional products in various markets  and that part of our business became more and more important. We opened more and more BoConcept stores so, we actually decided that we will close down our wholesale business and stop selling to all of different kind of stores. - we had at that time about 1.500 customers at that time (one of them was IKEA) and we had different brands like Club 8 or Denka. So we decided  a One company-One brand strategy and within 5-6 years we eliminated the wholesale, we sold or closed down the brands to focus only on Boconcept - our own retail brand. And today we sell only through BoConcept stores – we have 260 of them in 62 countries!
What kind of change did it bring to the customers?
We don’t look any more only at what we are good in producing. We are carefully listening to our customers trying to understand their need, what customers like to buy? We design and develop the whole collection, and everything is coordinated. And our strength is the background of being a carpenter and the knowledge how to produce. So this very direct way from designing, producing and placing to the market, and most important to visualize how people should decorate their home – this is the basis of our success.
…exactly! what I found very interesting is that you made a BoConcept University. I was really amazed by  this idea…
It was driven by the experience we did face working with our wholesalers. As I said earlier, they did not know enough about our products and the background, they did not know about the fabrics, materials. They did not have the required knowledge. And this we wanted to avoid and therefore we did invest quite a lot into our own University, a specific education system starting with sales managers. We have also a special course for interior decoration, so out people are also able to decorate. Before starting in a BoConcept store everybody has to pass an e-learning course where  some major basics are being trained. you believe that this initiative can also keep people in the company?
It builds strong loyalty towards the company and of course many of them aim to make career. They like to become a salesman or store manager. And we are an international company which gives our employees further opportunities…. just to give you a short example: one of our employees, a girl – Marie Louise  -, she started her job in Munich, she continued to work for us in Berlin, then she moved on working in Copenhagen, her journey brought her also to London later to Washington and last time I met her in the store.. it was exactly in Sidney… half a year ago. Now she is back in Denmark…. and I think she is only around 30 years old…
…great career… but also your sons… both are working in the company in different countries…
And they also have different responsibility because my youngest son who is working in Germany is owner of 2 shops in Munich and one in Augsburg ... I’m actually going there tonight so I will have a tough weekend because he is tough to me… (lough) and the other one is regional director for Far East based in Honk Kong…  so they can see the companyfrom a different perspectives.

Kim Mølholm (son of Viggo)    Viggo Mølholm     Allan Mølholm (son of Viggo)   Tage Mølholm (father of Viggo)

… do you think that also the family builds the strength of your company? Is it easier.. or nicer..?
...for sure it is nicer but even though we are a family company we are listed in the stock exchange market as well. I have the majority of shares so I think we have a nice mix of running the company as a professional unit combined with a great family tradition. And as the major shareholder we are still able to take quick decisions.
… does it ever happen that you sit all your family at the table, having dinner, and then you take strategic decisions?
I would say we don’t take strategic decisions when having dinner. But we create ideas when sitting together. Especially when I am together with my two sons. They give me a lot of input, especially because they come from two different regions but also they come as the owner of the store (on the one hand) and employee (on the other hand) and they are both intelligent and of course they are much more tough to me than anybody else,  sometimes they think things are not moving fast enough, so they are very pushy… (lough)
.. is your wife also involved in business..?
No, not anymore. She used to be in the company when we started the brand BoConcept. She was actually responsible for accessories and also sofas but at a certain stage she had to stop because it got too much. Nowadays she has her own small company, so we have perfect life like that.
How much are you involved in the company? Are you the one who decides still on the layout of every page in a catalog?
I always gave and still give a lot of freedom and since I resigned as a CEO last year to become the Chairman I’ve been less involved in the daily business. But I am still very close if it is about the strategy, the concept and the design of the furniture.
Do you visit the most well knows fairs searching for new trends? Or you have stylists for that?
I visit a lot of fairs, the main one is Milano fair which I visit together with the team, the colleges for 3-4 days, generally very often I travel together with some of my people. And two times a year we have product committee meetings with participation from stores around the globe where we discuss the whole collection and I’m also part of that.
Do you search in fairs for new trends or you rather want to be the one to create new trends?
I would say honestly we do not necessarily create new trends, we rather observe market trends and understand the direction. And then we create our own version of what is happening in the design according to our design DNA. You don’t see any extreme things in BoConcept, you see nice things but not something crazy.
In the upcoming collection it will be a little more colorful but the basic will still be white, black, and grey. But you will also see yellow and petrol blue.

And what about new lines of collections?
We will go deeper into the outdoor furniture and accessories. But in general we will stay with what we have nowadays. We will further expand our collection, will be few new wall unit systems, dining chairs, two new sofa lines.
What is your bestseller?
Dining table - we really have a bestseller – the Occca butterfly table is design and value for money.
Wall unit – the Volani system is our bestseller here.
Living chairs  - it is our design icon Imola.
Sofas - Indivi and Mezzo line and an upcoming star here is Fargo.

Whom do you consider your target group? You say BoConcept is designed for urban-minded people. What do you mean by that?
When we say urban-minded we mean modern people who have a ‘big city mindset’ and often also living with limited space. They need to have not only a nice design but also functionality. Sometimes our tables for instance can be used as a coffee table but at the same time you can use it as a dining table - you can build from small to big, so I think we are really different from Italians for example who make beautiful furniture but not really functional.
Is your target group people between 30 and 40?
We don’t settle the official target group but when we think about our customers we see people between 30-45. But as a matter of fact also more mature people are buying our products. Again, today a lot of people which are sixty are still young in their hearts. I have almost only BoConcept furniture but I think even if I would not be connected to BoConcept I would be a BoConcept customer - and I’m 60+.
… so how is your house, you said you have a lot of BoConcept furniture. Is this design you like the most? Do you live in the city or countryside?
I live in the city – but a small one, more or less at the market square in a quite old house which was built in 1923 but where we have the extension which is extremely modern. We have tried to make the combination of something old and something extreme modern. We are living quite minimalistic and almost with BoConcept furniture -  I would say 90-95% , we have one table which is not BoConcept …. and two chairs.

That is the house of Viggo! 

And which is your favorite piece of furniture?
One of the pieces which I have for a long time is  actually this sofa (we were siting on sofa Cenova) which is placed in the modern part of the house where I have big windows and when the sun is coming in I enjoy the sun.. But one of the nicest pieces we have in our collection which I actually don’t have in the house is the Imola Armchair.

What is the design (except for Danish) you like the most?
I like Italian modern design, I like a lot about the Italian design… also cars… but  where they are not good enough is functionality. Again, a Ferrari is a beautiful car but it’s not really a comfortable car. Probably one of the reasons why I am driving a BMW.
But honestly I could see my retirement in Italy, I like the food and also the climate very much.
And that is what I can really understand. So wish you all the best and may all your dreams come true :) Thank you very much for your time!

2 komentarze:

  1. Świetny wywiad!!! Bardzo fajnie, że pokazałaś zdjęcia jego mieszkania. Zaskoczyło mnie, że robili produkty dla Ikei. Ciekawe które? Muszę się dowiedzieć coś więcej na temat tej szkoły/kursów, które prowadzą. Pozdrawiam :-)

    1. :)))))) Kasiu niestety uniwersytet jest dla pracowników :) Ale powiem Ci, że BoConcept wydaje mi się być świetnym miejscem pracy:)