Thomas Söderholm took over the management of our company in May 2020. We asked him to tell us how the two-year crisis has affected management and what the future looks like this spring.
Thomas Söderholm was given the task to strengthening Enervent Zehnder’s profile as a solution provider of high-quality ventilation technology and an expert on Nordic climate in the international market. Thomas, an experienced export trade expert, had previously worked for Tikkurila Oyj for several years, most recently as the CEO of a German subsidiary. Taking responsibility during the exceptional circumstances brought about by the pandemic immediately changed many previous practices on the fly.
– The company’s high level of technological know-how and the convincing market position of the Zehnder Group made me interested in the task. Many things changed even before I had time to start working for the company. Recruitment-related meetings with Group executives in Switzerland literally switched to digital channels overnight. It is illustrative that it was not until this spring that I met our Norwegian team face to face for the first time, Söderholm says.
Thomas Söderholm has worked for a long time in an international environment and has lived abroad for several years. However, the atmosphere in the Zehnder Group came as a positive surprise.
– The language skills acquired in Germany over the years and the adoption of a Central European work culture have clearly been useful in my current role. One could say that it acted as an icebreaker in the beginning when face-to-face meetings were not possible. The atmosphere in Zehnder Group is quite family-run and communication is open, even though it is a large international player with a turnover of around EUR 700 million.
In addition to the pandemic, material shortages are a nuisance
– The most important thing is that our personnel have remained safe and healthy, and we have not had to interrupt production at any stage. Correspondingly, material shortages and component availability problems have brought major challenges. Costs have risen sharply for metals, plastics, and electronic components, which has, of course, had a direct impact on us as well. Our sourcing department has had to be tough as we compete with the automotive and telecom industries for the same batches of materials.
– It may sound strange, but the pandemic has had good effects as well. On the positive side, public awareness of the existence of ventilation, clean indoor air and a pleasant indoor climate has clearly risen, and construction has even picked up.
Common Northern Climate – different practices
In addition to Finland, the company’s main markets include Sweden, Norway and northern Central Europe. How do differences between countries affect Enervent Zehnder’s operations?
– It was actually a surprise to myself that there are relatively large differences in practice between Finland, Sweden and Norway. What the Nordic countries have in common is that ventilation solutions with heat recovery are favoured in new construction. In Finland and Norway, apartment-specific ventilation equipment is more popular than in Sweden, where centralized solutions for several apartments have traditionally been more popular. Country-specific regulations also affect the market. Norway has very strict requirements for the energy efficiency of ventilation equipment. Partly for that reason, we have gained a strong foothold there. Our rotary heat exchanger is very energy efficient.
An unpredictable future
Developments in Europe in recent months have forced actors in different sectors to look at things in a new way.
– The year 2021 went well for us at Enervent Zehnder and we can be satisfied with the results. This year has also started strongly. In the past, we saw promising growth opportunities and potential in emerging markets in Russia, especially in high-quality housing. Now the situation has changed rapidly in that regard.
– We are currently working on a new strategy, and in the future the Group’s internal cooperation will continue to deepen. It is important to ensure the supply chain and maintain the profitability of the business despite rising raw material costs and uncertainty in the business environment.
Thomas Söderholm is confident about the future.
– We are known as a quality manufacturer and supplier. In addition, we now have a large group in the background, with whom I see a lot of opportunities to increase cooperation in, for example, product development and product ranges. We have every opportunity to gain a bigger foothold in the northern market.