European Business Magazine heads to Sweden where they catch up with Torbjorn Sjostrom-Swedish CEO of the year and get the lowdown on the latest happening’s
in Market Research and where he is at in terms of steering the ship of Novus the country’s leading market
Can tell us exactly what Novus does and what are your most prominent markets are?
Novus is a market research company; we work with all types of research, all methods. We are most well-known for our political and societal research. For instance, we have a deal with Swedish national television, the biggest news outlet in Sweden, to provide political polling. However, it is market research for private companies that is the biggest market if we look at revenue.
What is market research then? The lowest common denominator for all our customers is that they seek answers to the question HOW – how do we get more customers, increase our members base, and so on. But to answer that you need first an answer to WHAT – what is the support/market, etc. today. When you know that you can focus on WHY – why is the support/market, etc. at the level they are. When you know the answer to WHAT and understand WHY you can get to work with HOW.
That is the core in all research we do. It is not numbers, but knowledge.
You are now CEO of Novus. When did you begin your career with Novus and what was your previous background?
I literally grew up in the market research industry. My dad was one of the most respected market researchers in Sweden. For instance, he owned Gallup in Sweden for 10 years and was the founder of Novus. I financed my studies working in the call centre making telephone interviews, but I was not planning to work in this field. I wanted to be an inventor, but got a Master’s degree in software engineering and worked with mobile technology in Ericsson and Symbian. I later started a couple of software companies, but then my father died, and I had to reprioritise, so I closed my engagement in my company where I only owned a fraction of the shares and took over Novus. In April next year, it will be seven years since I took over. And I am just getting started
When you first joined Novus, what skills do you think it provided in terms of experience in terms of turning the company around?
Growing up with market research and being a computer nerd is an interesting combination, to say the least. Add to that the fact that I had to start my first day by informing the press, market and employees that my dad, the CEO and majority owner, died yesterday. I honestly think that most of our competitors were convinced that Novus would die as well.
But I think my knowledge of the craft of market research and a true understanding of the digitalization is a unique talent for a CEO in a market research company. Add to that the fact that I really felt I had nothing to lose. I have thought about this a lot and I think that ingredient was quite vital to our success at that time. The digitalization was a true disruption in our industry at that time, and you needed to take that head-on. Something that is not at all typically Swedish.
What initially was the first major challenge when you became CEO and how did overcome it?
I think I touched that in the previous question, but the biggest challenge was that I inherited the role in the worst possible way. I had to prove everything. I had to become an authority externally and at the same time gain the trust of all my colleagues. I had to do most things right. But I think the most notable thing was writing articles. The first 3 years I got more than 30 articles published in the major Swedish newspapers, describing the research industry and explaining the political landscape. That laid the foundation that I later could use to become the spokesperson for the knowledge company that Novus is.
What is the speciality of Novus?
Our greatest asset is our brains. That is not just the success of humanity but that is also true for Novus. We describe and explain the situation to our customers. We are not just providing numbers and charts. Sure, we use them, but we use them as tools to explain and describe the thing our customer needs help with. That may not sound very unique, but most of the industry misinterpreted the digitalization as an industrialization. That is not the case. If it is anything it is an individualization. But mainly it makes everything move much faster. Here we can provide understanding and answers to what, why and how. And in this fast-paced world, you cannot afford to guess. You also need help understanding what information is relevant and what is useless in understanding your customer and your market. That is what we do, mainly by using our knowledge about the collective human behaviour. And we never forget that the customer is still a human with human emotions. I really think a lot of business models are forgetting that.
What is the focus for the next two years for Novus and what side of the business are you looking to develop and where?
Actually, we will keep doing good research. Describing and explaining to our customers about their markets. The challenge is to be focused on this issue, gain the trust of our work and give true value to our customers.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities for Novus and you as a CEO?
The fact that you can shape your future is something many seem to forget. And if you understand which buttons to press and in what direction you want, you can shape the future and the world around you to be the one you want. We are doing that for the market research industry in Sweden. And I think we are alone in doing that. That is probably the answer to why I am getting prices like this.