Approximately Right: Aligning your numbers with your business

In the Spotlight

16 Aug 2016, Rebecca Martin

Approximately Right: Aligning your numbers with your business

When Håkan Winberg was little, money was always rather tight. His father had gone bankrupt about the time Håkan was born. The family didn’t have much choice than to save where they could. This has had a major impact on Winberg’s life and set him on a career path in finance spanning from auditor at PwC, EVP and CFO at security services giant Securitas to EVP and CFO at leading healthcare company Capio.

Today, Winberg is self-employed, with proprietary interests in, amongst other things, the Indian company SIS Security and Intelligence Services. He is also one of the most well–respected and well-liked people in the Anglo Swedish Business community. His new book Approximately Right: Aligning your numbers with your business, which will be published this autumn, summarises some of what he has learned over the course of his career.

“What I try to get across in my book is that, whatever your business, strong value based foundations have to come first. Not numbers and financial wizardry,“ Winberg tells The LINK.

According to Winberg, thinking that you can run a company just by focusing on and analysing numbers is a bit like trying to drive a car by looking in the rear-view mirror from the passenger seat: it doesn’t work. Of course numbers are important for any business, but they are not the only factor. Instead, one must get one’s business and one’s numbers to align. To do this, one has to lay strong-valued foundations and make sure everyone is on board.

The book is built around four thoughts – letting core values show the way, focus in order to drive development, building a flat – not fat organisation and keeping finance simple enough for everyone to understand.

“Remember that keeping it simple is not so simple. And what’s simple must be based on substance and details – or it becomes just words.”

One important concept in the book is the toolbox, something that he has witnessed as instrumental to Securitas growth and success. It is a wooden box full of tools used as a platform for Securitas management training.

“It helped to build a culture based on core values, a flat and clear organisation and to keep finance simple. We wanted the culture to be focused on providing services based on values first – and when we did that – make profit. The toolbox was our training kit. In Securitas, managers trained managers and in the end of every training the participants got a pin with an inscription in Latin that read: “we don´t talk bullshit – we stand in it,“ says Winberg.

“In the year 2000 – one year after buying Pinkerton in the USA, we had a management conference in Barcelona. We decided to give everyone a toolbox. It was a spectacle watching more than 1000 managers each carrying 6 kilograms of wooden tools in a wooden box through the airport security”.

Winberg believes that culture starts at the top. Leaders, he writes, must “walk the talk”. What that means is very clear to him.

“To get things done. That in the end reality matters, not fancy talk and perceptions. To keep finance simple in a flat organisation is a very good way to stick to reality with accountability. And the need for leadership and management is sometimes underestimated”

The book is first and foremost aimed at university students and young people starting out in business, but will also cater for businesses that wish to evaluate their organisation.

“My idea is that any business, not only students, could spend a day or two see how their business and numbers measure up to my thoughts. And maybe also in these turbulent times a few politicians, a certain football organisation leader and some charities might have a thing or two to learn about building culture and nurturing values before talking about finance.”

Winberg always wanted to write a book. Recently, new links to his old University in Lund and the fact that he think service businesses needs more attention in society were important reasons that it happened now.

“When I first started my career as an auditor with PwC in 1981, I always wanted to write an article in Balans, the audit magazine in Sweden. The article never materialised. But the book did,“ says Winberg.

A driving force in his career has always been his roots and what he picked up at home during his childhood.

“Money was a big topic at home. I learned early that if you are too much in debt you are not free. My father went to church regularly and developed a very strong faith in a deep way over time. But I remember my mother saying that ‘better to be at home thinking about church than in church thinking about being home’. So she stayed home and took care of my two brothers and me. And she had a very big heart. So I grew up worrying about money but with a strong foundation based on values and love. In some ways I had a little fist in my pocket with a strong desire to prove I could make it myself.”

The title of the book says a lot about Winberg’s view of success; that getting it approximately right, is more effective than the effort of trying to be perfect.

“If you wait for everything to be perfect you get nothing done. Better move step by step in the right direction. In some ways it is a recipe for making decisions – instead of making you wait for decisions.”

3 quick questions with Håkan Winberg

What professional achievements are you most proud of?
Having been part of a team that was able to grow and develop Securitas from a Swedish company to a world leader in its field and keep my job and position throughout that journey.

What are your favourite moments in your career so far?
Being able to take part in a second journey, in the security industry, in India. It is like being given a new life with endless opportunities. Of course the fact that Securitas established itself in the USA in 2000 and doubled its size to more than 60 BSEK in sales was a very proud moment. This could not have been made without a strong corporate culture and a set of core values.

What does the future hold for you?
Right now I am involved in the listing of SIS on the Indian Stock market. And I am also involved in a few small start-ups in the UK, Sweden and India. And I will of course continue to support the Swedish Chamber in the UK.

Approximately Right is published by Ekerlids Publishing House and is available for purchase on www.adlibris.com.

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