Michael Sjöberg has more than 30 years of experience in driving major changes and growth journeys in various industries. He was about to become a military and choose between the Swedish Defense University and KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
He chose KTH, and after his master thesis at the HVAC company Uponor in Virsbo, he stayed as a technician, engineer, and later as plant manager. After about 25 years in various international business-to-business companies, he was recruited as CEO to a start-up in Italy – the cleantech company Andion, which designs, builds, and operates biogas plants.
“There were many shortcomings in structures and routines, and we had to build up new ones from the beginning. I did an analysis, developed a strategy with 18 actions that we implemented. It went very well,” Michael says.
After three years he moved back to Sweden and continued to work for Andion Nordics, but as an in-house advisor.
Last year Michael was recruited as interim CEO of C-Green, a company that converts wet waste into usable products. His experience from cleantech, customers, marketing, and building companies was a perfect fit. The company was an entrepreneurial start-up with many technologies, and it was time to take it to the next level. Structures, working methods, and routines needed to be set.
“Coming in as an external CEO is good when it is time to grow the company. It requires a different skill and experience. The former CEO remains the principal owner and chairman of the board, and his knowledge of our innovation is invaluable. I started by interviewing everyone on the board and all the employees. I also talked to important customers and suppliers. It is important to listen to analyze where we are and where we are going. We developed an activity plan with 20 change measures that were broken down into smaller activities. After six months, we have now completed about 80% of these. To drive change, you must be clear about where you stand and where you are going. Being transparent with what is required is important, and you need to communicate in many ways and in different channels, both via intranet and at the coffee machine.” says Michael.
In December, he was appointed permanent CEO, something that the board wanted from the beginning. “It was a perfect probationary period!”
What is the benefit of coming in as an interim CEO in a growth company like C-Green?
“Bringing in an interim is a good deal for the owners as a permanent recruitment process takes six to eight months. With an interim, you have a new CEO in place within four weeks. My experience in the industry and in building companies enables us to drive development quickly and safely forward. This experience together with the expertise available internally is a success factor. It is important to take advantage of everyone’s ideas and prioritize them.”
What is happening in C-Green now?
“Now we are building full-scale facilities. Our technology is a combination of well-known industrially proven technologies but in a new and unique way. Sludge from, for example, wastewater treatment plants and paper mills emit methane gas during digestion which is harmful to the environment and climate. We put an end to it by taking care of the sludge and turning it into useful biochar that can be used for heating or soil improvement. There is a large market for our facilities in Europe and the US and we are now building reference facilities to demonstrate the technology to customers. We also recruit to scale up, in finance, HR, sales, and process. Today we have about 30 people in the company and the goal is to be about 150 within a few years.”
Michael’s 3 advice for building businesses:
- Do things in the right order
- A start-up is financed by owners who invest capital, make sure to accelerate and brake in the right way to provide a good return
- Manage and eliminate the problems as soon as they occur so that the same thing does not happen again