In the spinney in my home neighbourhood, Calle and I started a business. We were six years old and what we had in our pockets we put in. Twenty kronor in all. We realized that we needed to make an initial investment to get started. Calle and I agreed about things most of the time. At Vivo, as the grocery store in the square was called, we hurried towards the shelf next to the checkout. We looked at each other and nodded. Admittedly, our entire share capital would be used up, but we also understood the importance of investing and looking at the long-term picture. We carefully took down the bag of Daim chocolates from the shelf. Twenty kronor exactly. We were happy and continued the board meeting in the spinney. We realized that running a business was not child’s play as we rapidly gobbled up piece after piece of chocolate. At the next meeting we had to decide what the company would do. Since the start-up capital had been exhausted, we agreed on a meeting with the bank over a lunch. The bank staff fried falun sausage and shouted that food was ready from inside the yellow brick house where Calle lived further down the street.
In high school, I had a project in Economics. We had to produce a budget to start a hotel. I took the task seriously and asked for quotes. Bed suppliers, drapers, flower suppliers made offers. Everyone argued about the excellence of their products, the quality of the fabrics, the timeless quality of the bed frames. I bargained and negotiated and finally I produced a credible budget for an entire hotel business. “Owner of Hotel Island?” I heard my confused mother say on the phone from inside the kitchen. “No, there’s no such company here,” she said, looking at me questioningly. “But maybe you can talk to my son who’s doing a hotel project in high school.” She handed me the phone.
The desire to build something, develop and manage it has probably always been there. This year, our family company Järnmalmer passed half a billion kronor in sales for the first time. From the embryotic stages in the 50s with the post-war period as a breeding ground, the company has emerged and grown into a major, capital-intensive industry: the recycling industry. Our business is moving at a fast pace around the country, but also in Vietnam, Russia, Pakistan, India and Korea to name a few countries where we operate. You can find our scrap material on trucks on country roads. In sea containers. In cargo ships in foreign waters. Constantly in motion and on the way to steelworks and foundries, every day of the year, around the clock.
A company becomes a living organism. Employees, subcontractors, partners. Joining forces becomes a culture and a brand. People serving a purpose in different countries, on different continents and in different time zones. As I said, running a business isn’t child’s play. The coronavirus, political structures, instability, war and unrest: all of these are aspects of a world to which we must adapt and relate. Uncertainty, risks but also opportunities, self-realization, leading and supporting people through difficult situations become everyday occurrences. Many years have passed since the time in the spinney. The appetite for chocolate may not be as great, but the appetite for making a difference and realizing ideas by running companies remains.