We turn our attention to Håkan Nilsson, modern-day innovator of the freight industry. He is currently CEO of Zinnovate International – a Swedish Information technology company which is fast gaining a reputation as one of the leading IT consultancies in the global freight industry.
Håkan Nilsson was born in Jämshög, Sweden and after completing the conventional but highly regarded Scandinavian education system he earned a Bachelor of Science in System Analysis from Växjö University as well as a certificate in E-business and Marketing – Strategic Issues, which he earned from the School of Economics and Commercial Law at Gothenburg University in 2001. During his early life, Nilsson also completed a year of military service in Hässleholm 1979-1980.
Throughout his career, he has worked in manufacturing and finance industries with an IT focus and senior management roles. Nilsson has earned a well-deserved reputation for having a clear vision with old-school qualities of delivering excellence while adding value mixed with a modern and innovative approach to systems solutions and processes. He has described himself as an “emotional creature” and said he would rather not take on too much so that he and his company can deliver what is needed and this it seems is one of the keys to his success. “We are almost religious about reputation, and I would rather walk away from a great opportunity that I know we cannot deliver than fail and have that failure spill over into everything else.”
Håkan started his current career at an air freight company called ScanFlight in 1990 as the IT Manager. It was a position he held for about a year before moving on to Director IT at Wilson Group in 1992 and an industry that he testifies to finding “extremely exciting.” “It provides an opportunity to work bridging over distances in space, time and particularly bridging over differences in culture. It is a truly global industry,” he told European CEO magazine in November 2017.
“The global freight industry is a very conservative industry; yet under a heavy reshaping through digitisation. That provides ample opportunity for people that can combine visionary thinking with in-depth know-how of the industry.”
He continued his work in the freight business when he joined TNT Freight Management and was instrumental in the sale of TNT Freight Management to Geodis. Following his time at TNT, Håkan joined Geodis and built up his reputation there and it was here that he “introduced and led the global deployment of industry-changing global freight forwarding system and processes”. While there, he was key in helping the company become established as one of the leading global operator’s through a series of mergers and acquisitions.
It was during his time as the company’s CIO that the first of quite a few awards were presented to him and it was here he was awarded the “CIO of the Year in Sweden 2008”. A very accomplished award with extremely talented competition. In addition to this, it was during his time at Geodis Wilson that the company was awarded the New Process Innovation Award at the 2012 Global Freight Awards in London.
They were one of seven finalists for the award. The project itself cost about €20 million which involved mainly combining sales, operations and IT processes together in a single iPad app. It was projected to improve global productivity by 25 per cent based on the productivity engine CargoWise. Nilsson said he hoped the project would inspire others in the industry to be more creative in their approach and technique for overcoming the industry challenges.
“Of course, we’re delighted to receive this award, and also delighted that the industry is recognising the importance of process innovation as a key driver of the industry,” I hope awards like this will help to drive the market forward into an era of greater productivity driven by innovation.
In a follow-up interview, he also added that – “Innovation is not just something that you do internally, your total innovation score is a combination of how well you tap into the brain power of your own people but also other stakeholders in your landscape”.
While at Geodis his contemporaries had huge respect for him and his vision including the MD of Geodis Wilson: “Håkan has done an exceptional job leading our companies to become a recognised leader in our industry”.
“Håkan has a clear view of where he wants to go, a rather pragmatic approach and fantastic communication skills that help him put forward his ideas and initiatives,” director of IT projects at Geodis Wilson in France, Henri Parisse, said.
Håkan left Geodis in 2013 and it was here he began his current career with Zinnovate.
“I started Zinnovate on the premise that we admit to everything. We dare to admit that we have some unique skills, and we will do our utmost to leverage those unique skills to deliver value – but we will also admit that we have some weaknesses. We recognise those too and will be brutally honest about them, teaming up with others that are better in those areas. It’s not the size of the team that matters it is the depth of knowledge and passion for the customer business that makes all the difference in the world,” Nilsson said.
Zinnovate is a hugely interesting and unique company operating as global IT consultants in the freight industry and currently brings in about one million Euros per employee. Since its inception, Zinnovate has expanded to Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the United States. The Swedish-based firm stands out from their contemporaries due to its unique customer-orientated IT service and offerings, which essentially help deliver the very latest in technology and information processes to global freight companies.
Håkan himself and Zinnovate have not been shy of the limelight recently and its reputation has been awarded as one of the Best Management Consultancy in Global Logistics Industry at the Business Worldwide Global Corporate Excellence Awards 2017. Most recently, Nilsson was awarded the Best CEO in IT Management Logistics Industry at the 2017 European CEO Awards. It seems many of those who have worked with him have called him a visionary.
“Håkan is the most innovative and customer service driven CIO I’ve met in my business life,” Philippe Gilbert, Director Region Europe West of DB Schenker, was quoted as saying.
As for the future, Nilsson said his goals for Zinnovate are to continue to grow their reputation as the top IT management consulting firm in the logistics industry and to establish Zinnovate as the leader in its field.
“We do this with a razor-sharp focus on the global logistics industry. Focus, we believe, is a prerequisite for successful execution,” he said. “We also strive to take a holistic approach to address both the hard and soft elements of change. In our experience, the latter is often time neglected and the cost, therefore, is dire.
“We aim to induce change to the market rather than reacting to market changes. We believe that our uniquely designed partner based value offering and combining deep industry knowledge with innovative IT solutions indeed is a catalyst for change,” he added.
When he is not working, Håkan continues to pursue his interest in sports and is a former professional football player. Hakan has been married to his wife, Maria, since 1990. The couple has two sons and currently live in Täby. According to his Facebook page, Soulfood—Ditt Soulband i Stockholm is one of his favourite bands. A quiet life outside work but one thing we do know, we will be hearing a lot more of him in the future.