When Maria Khorsand joined Careium as Interim CEO, she had just retired from her role as CEO of SOS Alarm. After just six months, Maria, together with her team, managed to drastically turn the company’s numbers around. Q4 2022 exceeded expectations and the stock soared, rising by over 50%.
“Careium’s journey is essentially the same as the one I made at SOS Alarm, but now everything happened at a much faster pace for Careium, and with that pace, it’s important to keep up and know which direction to go”, says Maria.
Turning around a company’s sensitive financial numbers usually involves introducing an intelligent cost-saving package while simultaneously growing the business in a delicate situation, which requires strong leadership and a cohesive team.
“It’s important that everyone is on board and understands that together we create change and stability and that all individuals are important. The management team worked out a cost-saving package that we implemented immediately while we grew our business significantly. I had many one-to-one conversations to drive us forward with collective power, where we are headed. It’s impossible to succeed with a major change if you don’t communicate transparently, clearly, and regularly. Since Careium is listed on the stock exchange, I couldn’t tell everything, but it was important that everyone felt safe and proud”, says Maria.
Today, Careium has almost 1,000 employees, sales of over 700,000 SEK, and operations in, among others, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. Their business idea is that care should increasingly be managed at home with smart technology (such as watches, necklaces, and several other products, as well as highly skilled employees and well-functioning alarm centres). The company is currently the market leader in Europe in welfare technology with approximately 400,000 users and 25,000 emergency calls every day. The largest customer group in the Nordic region is municipalities, but also within B2B and B2C – but the end-user is always people who need a safe everyday life. To save costs, they had to lay off staff, reduce and focus the management team from eleven to eight people, cut costs for products and IT, and renegotiate contracts. At the same time, they increased sales by about 20% for both products and services.
“We developed the budget for 2023, and in November, I felt that we were going to make it. In December, the turnaround came, and Q4 was really good given the circumstances. In February, we presented the report and told how everyone had been so good, and that together we had managed to turn the company around. We landed higher than we had promised the board and our bank”, Maria says proudly.
In the business world, Maria Khorsand is no newcomer. She began her career in California, USA, followed by several years at Ericsson and continued leading roles in technology-heavy companies such as President of Financial Market at OMX, CEO at RISE and CEO at Dell, as well as several board roles.
“This was actually my first interim assignment and in this case, the board chose to bring in an interim CEO because it was a sensitive situation and they couldn’t wait for a permanent CEO with a recruitment process that could take six months or more. It was important to quickly create stability. In situations like this, it’s a very good idea to bring in an interim, when the business both needs to function and also take a step forward. This way, you get a competence that you don’t have internally and that sees things in a new way. With my new experiences, I think that as an interim CEO, you should not think short-term but take a long-term responsibility for the business, so that when you leave, the business can continue to function,” says Maria.
Maria finds balance in life with her family. She met her husband Daniel at work, where they both worked at the same company in the USA. Together they have a daughter and spend a lot of time in the archipelago and enjoy travelling often.
“We like to travel, especially in Asia and Africa. I was born in Iran but raised and educated in the USA, and I think diversity is very important because, among other things, it provides new perspectives and different experiences and knowledge – it makes you stronger in both heart and mind. Travelling and experiencing new cultures is incredibly important to me, a privilege in life, I see myself as a global person,” says Maria.
In her last role at Ericsson, Maria was CEO of their Bluetooth company (Ericsson Technology Licensing), which was the first in the world to develop Bluetooth technology for wirelessly connecting different digital devices. Together with one of their customers, a computer manufacturer, the new technology was to be marketed. Maria had previously given a book to the customer, namely “The Long Ships” by Frans G Bengtsson. In the book, there is a character named Harald Bluetooth – which inspired the technology we now call Bluetooth.
Client: Lennart Jacobsen, former chairman of Careium.
For the past 7 years, Lennart Jacobsen has worked in boards and with his own investments, as well as a senior advisor. He has many years of experience in banking and IT industries. Today, Lennart holds 6 board positions with a wide range, some public and some private, large and small. Lennart is happy to contribute his expertise and chose to sit on Careium’s board to do good for society – simply put, a higher purpose! The importance of helping seniors to live a secure life, and to feel secure, with various types of alarms felt relevant and personally important to Lennart. During the journey, the company changed its name from Dor to Doro Care and now Careium.
When the former CEO was leaving, the board needed to find a new CEO quickly. There was no one internally with the right qualifications for the job. But hiring a new CEO is an important decision – choosing an interim CEO creates calm and reduces the risk of making mistakes in the recruitment process.
Evaluation of Nordic Interim
”We were immediately presented with a top candidate, Maria Khorsand. She definitely met our expectations and, as the former CEO of SOS Alarm, she came in with exactly the expertise we were looking for. She was able to “hit the ground running,” so to speak. A real stroke of luck for us.”