Leadership Talks – Part 1: Working culture and adaptability paving the way to success

Outi Sivonen Chief Human Resources Officer, Solita

Published 10 Apr 2024

Reading time 4 min

What does it take to lead a European tech company with over 2,000 passionate and culture-driven professionals – successfully, year after year, in times like these? What have been, are, and will be the recipes for success at Solita? What is the difference between running a business and growing a business? And above all – what is it that we should lead and how?  

At Solita, a growth company with nearly 20% yearly growth since 1996 both organically and with new family members, discussions and shared understanding on these topics are essential.

That is why we decided to create Leadership Talks.

Leadership Talks is a concept we started this year to gather our country and group leads – to think, reflect and learn together; to challenge our thinking and dig deeper into essential: what is it that we lead and how. The journey started at the end of March in Warsaw where we gathered our leaders from Poland (Future Mind – a Solita company), Denmark (Intellishore – a Solita company and Solita AS), Norway, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, and Finland.

Recipes for success: “Customers love the way we make their people feel”

In our first session, we discussed recipes for success – what these have been for us and what we think these will be in the future. Views from our employees were also gathered.

Clearly, both our employees and top leaders recognise the same recipes for success – also the newest members with different history and background, which highlights the foundational factors when deciding our mergers and acquisitions.

The emphasis on values, flat structures, open communication, trust, and a human-centric approach illustrates a progressive organisational culture that values transparency and inclusiveness. A business mindset that focuses on talking business, not just technology, and taking culture seriously indicates a strategic approach to leadership and management. Understanding customer problems, and prioritising customer value highlight the importance of aligning business practices around customer needs. Having a world-class brand in data, design and tech with international reach and a commitment to continuous improvement (e.g., refusing mediocrity and persistence). Curiosity, ambition, the absence of legacy technologies, and a tech-agnostic approach indicate a forward-looking stance aimed at growth and innovation.

Looks like an impressive list of recipes for success. Well, it clearly is – so now comes only the question of how we keep this up during continuous change: in the business landscape, in company growth and spread and in technology.

Our people and top leaders see the same fogginess; the challenges of scaling, maintaining effective communication, and balancing autonomy with structure; ensuring that the company operates cohesively rather than as separate entities. While autonomy is cherished, there’s acknowledgement that certain processes and guidelines are necessary to scale effectively without compromising the culture of trust and responsibility.

To gain some external insight we arranged our next session as a virtual fireside chat with Sir Ian Davis (former CEO of Mc Kinsey). On the agenda we had leadership and culture (what are the most typical pitfalls in terms of culture in a growth company with M&A’s), high-level organisational structuring and internal development – what are the options, thoughts around driving profitability and finally leveraging AI and digital transformation.

After a very inspirational hour with Sir Ian Davis, we were packed with the thought that success usually is built with high-quality relationships. You can build organisations in any way you like, but relationships are what matters in the end. Another thing we discussed a lot was the “non-negotiables” – meaning those things which we want and need to keep in the core of our company while growing. These could be seen as principles based on values, defining who we are. A lot might change – but certain principles are profound. This is something we thought we could use even more time as leaders to define and concretise.

Now, we are on our way to reading a book on “Scaling People” by Claire Hughes Johnson, a former Stripe and Google executive. With this, we are preparing for our next live session together as we will dwell on the topic of growing the business vs running it. We will have this next session with our new Board member, Caroline Firstbrook, who surely has some insight to share with her extensive experience.  

  1. Business
  2. Culture