Interim management at ABAX: Fasten your seatbelt!

ABAX is a growth company that operates at an extremely high speed and, apparently, has its own success-oriented GPS to navigate businesses. But even in a distinctly digital company like ABAX, the most important components of all are analogue: the people who work there.

In just six years, the company has grown from 6 employees to more than 320. Even the less numerate among us can see that this is a huge percentage increase. That words and phrases such as “growth adventure” and “explosive growth” are repeatedly used in reviews of the company, is not at all surprising. The turnover figures have in fact followed the same exceptional, upward curve as the number of employees!

But even with rapid growth and reorganisation, the business has managed to build a strong corporate culture around having fun at work while getting a little better every day.

Based in Larvik the business, which is currently the world's leading developer and supplier of electronic Triplogs, has an exciting company history that includes several acquisitions – including its own.

In 2012 the company, which had already grown to a considerable size and was market leader in Norway, was acquired by an investment fund managed by Norvestor Equity AS which currently owns 85% of the shares.

Brought in interimleder during transition phase after acquisition

With new owners and strong growth came new requirements for management and reporting on economics and finance.

“We weren't equipped for the new degree of reporting”, says CEO of ABAX, Petter Quinsgaard.

Up until the acquisition, the principal owner of ABAX was a private individual, and reporting was adapted to this particular level of ownership. As experienced by most small companies when a professional player enters the ownership side, the complexity of financial reporting increases significantly.

“The counting edges in our accounts were not totally in line with the expectations of the new owners.”

The solution for ABAX during the transitional phase was to bring in an interim manager with financial experience. The person who took on the assignment was Vegard Rooth – at the time, an independent interim manager and board member of Interimleder AS. Today he is CEO of the company. The duration of the assignment was just over six months. It was a busy and exciting period.

“People and figures need to hang together. Everyone needs to know where the business is and where it wants to go – in turn, that makes it easier to achieve this result positively. We found the answer to where ABAX was in 2012, and it was also clearer where the company wanted to go”, says Vegard.

This enabled the further development of the company to gain momentum to Madcon's hit “Vi kjører på” (We keep going) – a song title so apt that it simply had to be the “ABAX song” of 2012.

Need for managers for portfolio companies

Henning Vold, one of seven partners in Norvestor Equity AS, has been instrumental in helping many Nordic growth companies get started following acquisition, including ABAX where he currently serves as Chairman.

“It's normal for investment companies to assist with networking and contacts when portfolio companies are being further developed following an acquisition.” As an active equity fund, there are relatively frequent periods when we need experienced managers for a limited time. In many cases, interim management provides a fast and successful solution.

Henning Vold has used Interimleder AS to cover temporary management needs at several stages in various portfolio companies.
“We find that Interimleder AS is good at understanding and refining the needs of each case, and that they deliver candidates of the highest quality.”

Sometimes precarious capacity requirements emerge, and managers or special skills need to be provided quickly to ensure the engine doesn't stall. In the case of ABAX, assistance was needed on the economic side.

Extreme demands on financial function

The finance department at ABAX consists of 25 employees. CFO Morten Verlo confirms that high demands are made of the financial and accounting function of a company that “balloons” as rapidly as ABAX does.

“Decisions have to be made at a rapid pace, systems and processes need to be improved continuously – and everything has to be organised, of course.”

To help them keep track of reporting, Morten Verlo hired a group chief accountant from Interimleder AS who was brought in to the position in June 2016.

Morten Verlo had only held the CFO role at ABAX for a few months when the need for a group chief accountant became acute. With only a limited knowledge of the company, and more than enough to do with his own work duties, an interim manager was the obvious course of action. With experience working as a hired manager himself, Morten knew better than most clients what skills and qualities he needed to look for. Interimleder AS delivered on all the demands.

“From the minute we got in touch with them to the point at which we were presented with candidates, it all went very quickly. We were extremely pleased with the speed with which they responded”, says Morten Verlo.

Eager to explore new recruitment avenues

In a world where business operations occur at high speed through tight turns, time is also a factor when it comes to staffing. CEO of ABAX, Petter Quinsgaard, believes that interim management is an excellent alternative when capacity requirements need to be met immediately or in the short term.

The management team at ABAX has never been afraid to investigate new avenues, including when it comes to recruitment.

“We have to go out and meet future employees where they are, and this is no longer simply through the usual recruitment channels”, says the company's manager responsible for recruitment.

Keeping going

Future employees at ABAX also need to be prepared to work in a company that operates at a high tempo. The company has no intention of slowing down. There are new countries and markets to be conquered, and the company is “only” well over halfway to earning its first billion kroner. The ABAX adventure continues, and anyone who wants to join in should just fasten their seat belt and hang on!

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