Founding Year: Operating under the mother company Stora Enso since 2016, officially founded in 2021
Office Locations: Finland, Sweden, UK, Belgium, Spain, France, Czech Republic
CEOs are the ultimate decision-makers when setting and realizing a company’s vision. They do that by taking into account the strengths of their company, an understanding of their ability to deliver value, the expectations of their board and employees as well as their personal ethics and values.
The Chief’s Digest is proud to cover the story of one such business leader, who leads Selfly Store with the aim to create exceptional customer experiences with a complete, easy-to-set-up solution for running one’s unmanned self-service micro-store.
Leading an organization toward growth and success is definitely not an easy feat. In what circumstances did you find your leadership spirit?
I assumed my first leadership roles and positions when I noticed that other team members didn’t have a strong belief in reaching “impossible” targets or going through turbulent times. When there was disbelief and mistrust, people turned to me to ask for advice. I figured out that I love to work in an environment, where nothing is certain, and the future seems to be unclear. The same principles apply to high-growth targets, which people don’t believe are reachable. Due to my martial arts background, I tend to have the approach of finding a way to fight the odds. I am used to working hard and adjusting the plan quickly. This approach builds confidence in the team as well. Leadership isn’t only about showing or telling, I believe it is more about building confidence and trust and helping team members surpass their own perceived potential.
What are your responsibilities as the CEO of your organization? Could you please walk us through what a regular day at work looks like?
There are two focus areas for a CEO – the company and the team. I always prioritize the team first. I have 5 direct reports with whom I have one scheduled meeting each week. On top of that, I am available at any time and proactively drop them a note or two during the day. I try to give continuous encouragement and feedback.
Moreover, I believe in providing my team members with a direction and vision, but then empowering them to figure out their own way of reaching that vision. I am always there in the background to help and support them the best I can. My nickname is ‘Assu’, so I consider myself to be an ‘assustant’, so helping in whatever is needed.
Also, I tend to be involved with customer meetings and do my own sales as well. Similarly, I focus on marketing and am active on LinkedIn by posting something daily and taking part in conversations. I believe that the leader of the company can and should be visible. This is part of marketing and brings in new sales opportunities as well.
I follow industry news and other media to pick up relevant news items to share with the whole team. I feel communication and easy access to the CEO are crucial. Due to having team members in 7 countries, I rarely meet people face-to-face. But video calls, weekly all-employee calls, events, kick-offs, and others, are all important in keeping up the closeness with all team members.
How do you maintain a balance in your personal and professional life?
A good balance in life is crucial. I wouldn’t call it work-life balance, since balance is more comprehensive and includes other aspects as well. I am an active user of the calendar and all my events, meetings, bookings, etc. go into it, regardless of if they are related to work or leisure time. For instance, I mark my daughters’ training schedule as the basis of my weekly agenda. I will not book any business meetings to overlap those, which allow me to take them to their training, watch them train, and train by myself at the same time. This eases up the need for my personal time and at the same time helps my wife to have a short break for herself as well. So, scheduling and including all the important items in my calendar equally helps me to keep the balance and ensures that everything is under control.
What do you do when you come across new or unpopular ideas that could be beneficial for the organization?
I think all ideas are always welcome. I used to say that “the best argument wins”, meaning that we should always be willing to discuss ideas and after hearing the main points, agree on which had better arguments in favor of the idea. I still believe that we need to talk and look at ideas from different angles, but the winning idea is not decided by debate skills dependent on the person bringing it up, but it should always also include understanding and help from those, who didn’t come up with the idea. Not all of us are good at expressing our ideas and having the best arguments available. Sometimes, a hunch is better than any given argument. Moreover, I have no trouble changing my mind or decision if something new comes up or I notice that the decision was not the best.
Could you describe the values and work culture that drives your organization?
Transparency, communication, voicing out concerns, and trusting each team member are all crucial parts of Selfly Store’s work culture. We are not afraid to disagree or bring bad news to each other. We openly talk about our concerns and opportunities, to keep everyone in the loop and also be able to allow everyone to contribute. It is not always easy, and I know that speaking up in an all-employee call with 10+ nationalities attending is not even possible. But it is more important to have a chance and hear the discussion than optimize the conversation at one meeting. Everyone can then discuss and bring new opinions and approaches in team meetings or 1-1s with their leader. I am then expecting to get information from these discussions and bring them up to the whole company, when applicable.
This year, we wanted to take our Customer Experience to another level. Our Customer Success Director led the process and we, as a team, worked a lot on our CX values. We included the whole team in discussions and worked together to find the words which described us very well. In the end, we adopted these values to be our brand and core values for the whole company. This made a lot of sense since the whole team was passionately giving input and finding the process motivating. After all, we all do this for our customers, thus making a lot of sense of having the same values for everything. This was a new approach for me, but I really liked the outcome of it.
From the CEO’s desk: Knowing the man behind Selfly Store
Aslak started to train in martial arts when he was 12 years old. He competed in about 100 full-contract fights and won the world championship gold medal in the USA in 2000. Aslak coached in 4 different countries but due to injuries, he had to stop fighting. He focused on finishing his studies at Graduate Business School at Gothenburg University, Sweden and received the best thesis award of his class.
Aslak’s second career started in customer service and sales positions, and he has been leading teams and companies for almost 15 years now. Prior to joining Selfly Store, he was the CEO of Nordic Business Forum, an event with customers from 50+ countries and featuring speakers such as Barack Obama, George Clooney, Steve Wozniak, and many more. Prior to that, he was the CRO for Naava, heading an international sales and marketing team in Scandinavia and USA.
In the end of 2022, Aslak was accepted in the Forbes Business Council. Admission was based on the depth and diversity of his experience, including a track record of successfully impacting business growth metrics, as well as personal and professional achievements and honors.
“You cannot lead without people. Treat them well and fairly, and you will succeed together.”