How do companies best increase the performance of their business? We spoke to Håkan Nilsson, CEO of Zinnovate International, about their unique and disruptive digital and globalising IT and performance management consultancy. 

Maximising the performance of your business matters to any serious company. But how do you go about it? Zinnovate International is a Swedish IT Consultancy led by CEO Håkan Nilsson. It has grown quickly in revenue and reach, if not in size, with its employees making an average of one million Euros a year and taking advantage of a network spanning 15 countries.

We talked to Håkan about his company and what essential lessons businesses could learn to improve how they do business.

What’s the business of Zinnovate, and what’s unique about it?

At Zinnovate International, we are experts in helping freight and logistics companies optimise their businesses on a global scale.

It’s about getting the best systems in place. It’s about realising the full value of the IT portfolio. It’s about optimising processes. It’s about moving from local to global. It’s about establishing and nurturing a high-performance organisation. It’s about making the whole more than the sum of the parts. It’s about taking a holistic approach to systems, processes and people.

What makes us at Zinnovate so unique is that we both have the strategic insight to set the optimal direction and the execution expertise to turn plans into reality. It takes both to succeed.

Most consultancy firms are unfortunately lacking one of the two, and hence incapable of helping their customers do the right things and then do things right.

You’ve said that Zinnovate is a disruptive business? How?

There is nothing terrible about one-dimensional change. Just improving systems or just optimising processes or just developing people will make you better but it will never make you great.

Only if you manage to orchestrate change across all these key areas do you stand a chance of maximising synergies and realising your full potential.

Simply by harnessing the dual powers of visionary thinking and make-it-happen expertise Zinnovate has been able to help our clients reach unprecedented performance levels.

We have also innovated a form of partnership working to enhance our expertise and reach – for example, we use Xware for integration product development, WiseTech Global for productivity and Greencarrier for their expertise in freight.

What makes these partnerships unique are a) the starting point is value synergies for the customer not revenue synergies for the partners, and b) they are built using the strongest glue on the planet – mutual trust and personal chemistry.

That is what makes us disruptive. We believe that what we do will change the nature of the business.

Who are your clients, and what’s the most common problem they experience that you can help them with?

Our clients are freight forwarding and logistics companies.

All forward-looking companies in our industry are exploring how to dramatically improve their businesses by going global and going digital.

This scaling up and digitalisation is where we can make a difference, because we have a combination of cutting-edge technology and an impeccable track record of making it happen.

In our portfolio, we have the best systems, services and consultancy experts in three crucially essential areas ERP, BI and Integration.

As I alluded to previously, our guiding light is to not only bring the best expertise, products and services to the table but to also make the very most of these building blocks. Our mantra is making the whole more than the sum of the parts in a world where this approach is actually very rare.

You’ve argued that straight talking and honesty matter in business. How do these qualities make a difference?

Global transformation projects have glorious upsides and horrible downsides. When someone stands to win or lose depending on the outcome of a complex undertaking, trust becomes the single most important factor when choosing who to support you on your journey.

We know that we have a unique service offering and we are very pleased with the impeccable reputation we have built in the industry.

We understand that reputation and trust is something you can only build by your actions and always striving to act with the customers best interest in mind. Once you put other priorities above integrity, you will soon find out that your value on the market is destined for a downward turn.

Straight talk and honesty is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also the best business strategy when building for long-term success.  If you are aiming to reach the top, trusting in your fellow climbers is a matter of life and death, as any professional mountain climber will tell you. The same holds true when climbing business mountains of success!

How has your own professional experience shaped the mission and role of Zinnovate?

I have spent 23 years buying IT products and services for the global freight forwarding industry. I did this in an enormously fast-paced change environment with mergers and acquisitions across the globe, so I probably accumulated five years’ experience in every single year.

I often joke that I have the equivalent of 100 plus years of personal experience in buying the type of services I now sell.

I like to believe that I put the very best of these experiences into play now I have a different role.

I knew what I wanted when I was on the buying side, and now I deliver those services and new ones that, at the time, no one was capable of providing.

I set up Zinnovate partly because I was unhappy with a market incapable of delivering at a level I wished for, and I took on the challenge of proving that it could be done.

Thanks to my fantastic team I do believe we are proving that to be true!

How has your thinking about management influenced working relationships within Zinnovate?

It can all be summarised in one single focal area – Return On Competence (ROC).

All that we do, we do with an intent that our team should achieve Return on Competence in these three ways:

  • Value to customer
  • Personal development
  • Joy and Passion

You don’t need to have long lists of visionary statements, values, goals, plans and KPI’s to get there. If you truly embrace an ‘upgraded version’ of the golden rule, and strive to do to others not what you want them to do to you but ‘what they want you to do to them,’ then you have set the path for a high performing organisation that will grow. And, moreover, where you will enjoy seeing others grow along with you.

What’s coming up over the next five years for Zinnovate?

When you have found something of immense value you, have the choice of either keeping it for yourself or trying to use that knowledge to help as many people as possible.

I think the concept of ROC is one that multiplies with use. We intend to help as many organisations as we can to reach new heights through transformational change which maximises Return on Competence. We already have clear evidence of an unbeaten track record, and accelerated value growth is the path we are passionate about.

So put simply, we aim to reach out and expand the knowledge base of companies and organisations. We can make a difference.