The door opener

There was a story about Tom Cruise in the Norwegian media a while back because he spent several months on the west side of Norway while filming his new Mission Impossible film.

The story was about this couple who got to meet him while he was there, because the guy collects vintage cars and the woman paints portraits on the hood of cars. The paintings are beautiful, and because she had painted a picture of Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis from Top Gun on the hood of her car, she set out to try to show it to Tom Cruise while he was in Norway. The story ends well: the couple drives across half of Norway to meet Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise takes his helicopter to meet them, and the amazing 0.05% chance they had of meeting him actually happened!

But how could such a meeting really come together? How is this even possible? It would seem like a total mission impossible. Well, it turns out that someone knew someone who knew Tom Cruise’s assistant. The assistant was contacted via these several levels of people and as it so happens, while making no promises, she agreed to try to make this meeting happen.

Yes, that is right, someone actually took the time to do more than her job, more than they needed to do to make some random strangers dream come true. Someone opened a door for someone else, even though they certainly did not have to.

The “door opener” is someone we hardly ever hear of. We always hear about the big story. How someone gets to meet their hero or get the dream job or sign the big contract.
A lot of this happens because of someone important: the door opener. That someone who knows someone who works in the office of the customer you are trying to get the contract with, or someone who knows someone in the company where you want to work or like in this case; someone who knows someone who knows Tom Cruise’s assistant. These amazing people are never mentioned, but without them (almost) nothing would have (most likely) never happened. The door opener does not make it to the big story but will always be remembered by the people whose life they changed.  

In my case, much like Steve Balmer’s security guard, who in 2008 kindly made me wait a little longer outside the conference room, so I could take a picture with Steve Balmer and Kevin Turner after winning an award. If he had not made me wait, I would not have been able to get that picture.

Or my former colleague who put me in touch with her husband who worked at Company so I could ask them if they by any chance needed a part-time resource – and would consider hiring me while I was studying.
The door openers are the ones who take that extra moment, the extra minute, or the extra hour to help others along the way.

Have you ever taken a moment to think about the door openers in your life? Did you remember to thank them? And have you thought about whether you could or should be a door opener for others?

As a leader, it is part of our job to see the potential in others and open the door for them. Raise them to new positions, praise them above the company management and just be the one who says, yes, you may even meet Tom Cruise.

If you can open the door for someone, you should.

Now is the time to build for the future.

These last few weeks have been like scenes from a disaster movie. Most of us have never experienced anything like what we are experiencing right now.

In these extraordinary times, we really get to see what a company culture is all about. What leadership is all about. What people management is all about. Hopefully, the company culture is strong and inclusive, and leadership is build on trust – because now we are really going to need it.

Keeping employees safe, keeping the company afloat, keeping employees and customers updated and taken care of, really puts the company leadership to the test. A lot of company leaders are visible in media these days, giving good advice to others and sharing what they are doing. It’s good to share – because we don’t need to figure out everything on our own or invent everything for ourselves. Let’s keep sharing good practices and new ways of doing things.

At FotoWare we are finding new ways to communicate with each other. We continue building our pipeline, updating our web and above all; keep making great software. There will come a day when we are allowed to return to our normal life, and then we will be ready!

We need to be prepared for when this situation is over, and in order to do so we must do everything in our power to avoid furloughing employees.

This is a perfect time to check in with customers and hear how they are doing, without necessarily talking about sales. This is the perfect time to show that you care.

We are all affected by these extraordinary times. The most important thing to remember now is that this will be over at some point, and in the meantime, we must keep building momentum.

This is the perfect time to look ahead, to think long term and to build for the future.



Long live strategy

As a CEO of a company, it is important to be agile and to be on top (or ahead) of the changing times.
You should also be able to think outside the box, have a growth mindset, and be able to change your leadership style every so often – especially in order to fit the expectations of the new generations: millennials, generation X and generation Z.

Not only that, you must also think about new ways of reaching out to your target audience, building a brand that people love, and be present in all relevant media platforms.

Even the internal processes have been changed. It’s no longer enough to have a budget and try to keep to that; you should have a rolling forecast that’s adjusted each month and quarter.
And what about the company strategy? Is strategy also changing? Is strategy as we know it dead? I don’t think so.

The word strategy originates from Greek and the context of war. A strategy is the art of planning and directing overall military operations and movements in a war or battle that eventually leads to success. Putting it into a business context, a strategy is a high-level plan to achieve one or more goals and how to get there. The plan might be to grow and keep going in a good direction, or to turn around a company that is losing money and make it profitable again.

In other words, a company without a strategy is a company without a plan. Everybody needs a plan, or else you are just drifting along, being reactive about what comes your way, as things happen by accident and without intent. Every organization or company should have a plan and be able to answer the following; where do we want to go? How are we going to get there? What initiatives do we need to get there? and How much is it going to cost (or not cost)?
An organization needs a strategy in order to have everybody pulling in the same direction. It helps employees to know that their contributions matter and that they matter. The plan should be grounded in the culture, the values, and the vision of the company. This is why we are here; this is what we want to achieve, and this is the plan to do it.

You can drop off all your employees in the forest and say ‘meet you at the cabin’, and eventually people will find the cabin. But if you say ‘meet you at the cabin’ and ‘it is in this direction’ – everybody will find it much faster, and most likely they will also end up going there together.

Some experts say strategy is dead – I say long live strategy.

Diversity and the Greatest men

In a world where we become more and more globalized, the need for diversity becomes increasingly important. We need to make decisions based on backgrounds and perspectives different from our own, and we need to be able to think about what the future brings in a more rapid way than ever before. The digital transformation is forcing its way through every country and every organization. It’s not driven by the tech companies or the software vendors, but by user needs and user experiences.

The IT industry has long been a male dominated environment, but more companies have seen the need for an increasingly gender balanced (and age- and culture balanced) workforce, not only in leadership positions, but in technology architect and programming roles as well. This is because users are both men and women, so the software and products in general need to reflect that. Even though all crash test dummies are still male only, and most phones are made to fit perfectly into a man’s hand, the world is slowly shifting towards a more gender-neutral design.

To fit this urge in digital transformation, the focus on gender balance in the IT-industry has increased intensely, and many companies are leading the way in attracting, hiring and promoting more women.

It’s a good thing then, that most men understand why gender balance is so important and are a big and important part of the process. Increasing women’s share in the leadership team or in the IT-industry does not mean that we don’t want or still need men – it just means we need a more equal number of men and women.

Having a good gender balance in a company make a difference; in daily social interactions, productivity, ideas, and creativity, which in turn influence sales, results, and performance. This is what most companies ultimately want.
When I worked for H&M in Oslo in the mid-nineties, we were all women at our location. Until one day we got one male colleague. That changed the atmosphere so much that we sought to get another man, and when he came aboard the dynamic shifted. Together, we came up with things we never thought about before, contributed to a better workplace, and made our store increase its revenue by 50% in two years. Coincidence? I think not.

That is why we need more men in female dominated industries, and we need more women in male dominated industries. We balance each other out – and we make each other better. I happen to work in a male dominated industry, so naturally I am now focusing to employ more women.
Fortunately, I am surrounded by the greatest men – men who see that our work culture thrives with diversity, who embrace the gender balance and support our search for more women in every part of the organization. My friends, my family, my former colleagues, all the amazing men that I meet in all industries, and most of all my current FotoWare colleagues.

Thank You for being great contributors to this exciting journey.

Diversity rocks.

Kundeopplevelsen – Hvordan tiltrekke nye, og beholde eksisterende kunder.

I dagens marked kan det være overveldende for kunder og konsumenter å vite hvem som er den beste tilbyderen av de varer og tjenester de er på jakt etter. Er det de som selger mest, er det de som konstant er utsolgt eller er det de som har flest kundereferanser på sine websider?

Da jeg vokste opp i Østfold på 70-tallet handlet vi på EPA i Sarpsborg – ikke for de hadde best utvalg og best service, men fordi de var de eneste som hadde åpent på lørdager. Vi hadde rett og slett ikke noe valg.

Men i dagens marked er det mange valg – noen ganger altfor mange valg. Kunden er mer opplyst og informert enn noen gang – noe som betyr at når de kontakter deg har de allerede langt på vei bestemt seg. 90% av B2B kjøpere sier at de ikke vil bli kontaktet, men at de ønsker å kontakte leverandøren når de er klare.
Det alle konsumenter ønsker å få vite er hvem som er den beste leverandøren for sine behov, og hvem kommer de til å bli fornøyd med og kan stole på. Snudd på hodet; hvordan skal vi som tilbydere av varer og tjenester nå frem til våre potensielle kunder i virvaret av reklame, betalt search, betalt SoMe ads og fake news?

Det er derfor research på leverandører er så viktig før man kjøper. Den moderne kjøper ønsker ikke lenger å snakke med mennesker – de foretrekker å forholde seg til systemer alene, og gjøre sine undersøkelser basert på sine egne kriterier. Ifølge Oracle anser Millenials menneskelig interaksjon som friksjon, og at i løpet av 2020 vil 85% av all kundeinteraksjon være automatisert. For oss som leverandør, handler det om fire viktige hovedområder vi må ivareta: synlighet, tilgjengelighet, skalerbarhet og verdi/tillit til at man kan gi verdi.

Derfor har vi i FotoWare endret vår organisasjon slik at vi er tilpasset dagens behov for informasjon, og trygghet rundt at informasjonen er ekte. Istedet for satsing på salgsprosesser hvor man søker ut etter nye kunder, har vi i stedet satset på inbound marketing og en markedsavdeling som formidler verdien om våre produkter, og hva det kan gjøre for våre kunder.
Vi gjør det enkelt for kunden å finne oss, å finne ut hva vi tilbyr, hva våre produkter og tjenester koster, og hvilken verdi vårt produkt gir. Deretter handler det om å ta så godt vare på kunden at de aldri skal ha behov for å gå noe annet sted.
Vi har jobbet etter denne metoden siden starten av 2018.
Høsten 2018 satte Hubspot ord på denne metodikken: Flywheel. Kunden og kundens behov er alltid i sentrum og rundt kunden finner vi stegene Attract, Engage og Delight. Kunden skal aldri ønske å hoppe ut av Flywheel, fordi alt skal være tilrettelagt kundens nåværende og fremtidige behov. Det betyr igjen at man er nødt til å ha metoder og prosesser som ivaretar kunden reise hele veien, og å fjerne friksjon som kan stoppe prosessen. I tillegg til den nevnte omorganiseringen internt krever dette også en arbeidsendring for hver enkelt ansatt. Vi kan ikke lenger jobbe i the Funnel eller etter trakt prinsippet, hvor leads legges inn øverst i en trakt, og blir kunde nederst i trakten – hele organisasjonen må reflektere the Flywheel. Alle ansatte og alle prosesser må jobbe etter Attract, Engage og Delight metoden, med kunden og mer-enn-forventet kundeservice og support i midten.

For at kunden i tillegg skal bli din ambassadør, må du levere tillit. For at du skal få tillit, må du bevise for kunden at du leverer det du lover. I følge Salesforce oppgir 74% av bedriftskunder at de er villige til å betale mer for en ekstraordinær kundeopplevelse som i tillegg er «frictionless».

Kanskje det skal være slik at vi som leverandører av varer og tjenester må ha resultatene fra våre kundeundersøkelser åpent og synlig for alle? For det er kun kundens ærlige mening som egentlig teller. Ingenting annet betyr noe.

FotoWare didn’t win the ODA Award, but we won anyway.

We spend most of our time at work, and our days are filled with tasks, thoughts, strategies, urgencies, and much more. What position or title you have does not always reflect the work quality you do, but your work environment does.

According to State of the Global Work Place analysis, 85% of people are not engaged at work, most people are actually actively disengaged.
The work environment is more important than we might reflect upon in our daily lives, but it effects both the company and the people who work there. For those people who are coming to work feeling disengaged or just not engaged, what kind of work are they getting done? And what will it take to have an actively engaged workforce?

I think most of us want to be part of a positive, inclusive and purpose-filled work environment. And since our colleagues are the people that we spend more time with than even our own chosen friends, and sometimes family, we owe it to ourselves to have colleagues that make us feel good. Getting actively engaged employees means that leadership needs to be engaging, and that everybody must be able to understand their purpose in the company. Diversity plays a big role in this.

Every year the ODA organization give the ODA award to a company that work to improve and preserve gender balance in the IT industry, and that is a role model to other companies to increase their gender balance too.
FotoWare was one of three finalists this year for our work in increasing gender balance and cultural balance. Within the company we increased our numbers with more than net 20% in the last 15 months. The reason we can achieve such numbers in such short time, is that our employees are actively engaged in the topic – not just HR, not just the women, not just the leaders, but everybody. We all want to come to work every day and make a difference in the lives of our customers, and to be able to continue to innovate and to do what we think will give our customers an advantage when they are using our products. To do that we need the best people, that can do their best work, ask the most challenging questions, challenge the status quo, break with tradition and most of all: make their fellow colleagues great along the way. In FotoWare we have exactly those people.

We didn’t win the ODA award; DNB deservedly won for their work on increased gender balance initiatives, and also for setting requirements to their own vendors and partners to get better gender balance in their organizations.
But we won anyway because our company consist of smart, caring, responsible, hardworking, passionate, accountable, innovative, unique women and men who make a difference at work every day. People that support each other, cheer for each other and want to succeed together.

I have the privilege to work in an environment like FotoWare – we have already won.

Mentoring can change the pace of digital transformation

We mostly talk about mentoring as something for a senior to a junior, or how a new employee can learn from those more experienced. But in this fast-changing landscape of new technology and digital innovation, is this still what we need? Don’t we need to think outside the box on mentoring in the future?
Maybe this is a perfect time for the senior to learn from the junior.

The younger generations have technology at their fingertips, as most of them now are born after the smartphone was launched. They are not afraid of using or trying new technology – and they are not afraid of failing in the process. Meanwhile, I know plenty of people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s that are afraid of change and have a pretty fixed mindset. They cling on to the old, and hope that the world will not change so fast that they cannot keep up. This is a very restrictive mindset, that is holding us back.

We need to be acting to the needs of the users, the consumers, in order to be relevant for future buyers.

We need mentoring relationships where the new teaches the old, and that forces the digital transformation into a much higher speed. What better way to do that, than through a well-known and trusted way like in a mentor-mentee relationship. Then both parties learn – and in addition, companies move at a faster speed in adopting new technology.

When companies are slow movers, it puts a much higher risk on digital innovation than what we would like. The need for change is urgent, and we cannot let the transformation be slowed down because CEO’s and leaders are more comfortable hanging on to the old ways of doing business and keep doing things the “safe” old way.

Let’s take Cloud for instance: it’s not “high” risk move anymore – it has become a commodity. People want to buy products as a service, having the flexibility to buy as much as they need, when they need it. But companies and leaders everywhere still think “old” is better, and don’t understand that they are losing business every day, because they keep offering products in the same “old” ways.

I have been fortunate to have great mentors in my working life. Each has taught me things about their profession and their expertise so that I can benefit from their knowledge. In return, I am a mentor for several young leaders, each unique in their need for my input. What I get in return from them is a new understanding of their thinking, their values, and on what foundations they make their choices; whether it’s choice of workplace, career, consumption or information.
I learn equally from my mentees as I do from my mentors. And, I feel blessed to be forced to keep up with their fast-paced environment and thinking.

Every company should prioritize mentor relationships. If we can use the expertise and thinking of young people to drive the digital innovation and transformation at a faster speed – there is only upside.

In my opinion, it is essential that experience and knowledge is shared, and that we are being challenged on our thoughts and beliefs, and that we learn new ways. That way we can move much faster forward in this world of technology, innovation, and leadership.

Finding Inspiration and Influence Outside Your Closest Circle

According to Shawn Achor, author of “The happiness advantage”, the happiest people are those that are part of something bigger than themselves and that contribute to the greater good. I believe in that.
Last week, I spent three days together with leaders from various industries in Norway, people whom I had never met before, and that I mostly had nothing in common with, until then. From this, I gained inspiration and personal growth way beyond what I signed up for.

The whole thing started with a crazy idea, was followed up by someone who believed in this crazy idea, and then came full circle when a group of people who wanted to make a difference spent their free time getting the most fantastic conference on the road. All because they wanted to achieve more, and to make a difference. And when people come together . . . magic happen.

What I learned on this trip was that, first of all, we all need continued learning to grow. Not only as individuals, but as leaders. No one is fully trained or educated – we can always learn more (growth mindset, they call it). It was great to hear from experts in important topics like leadership, diversity and inclusion. Second, it was good to hear from the “technology nerds” that they take responsibility for ethics, environment and safety when they innovate, and that more and more of new innovation is about making the world a better place. Having improvements made on education, learning and increasing the value of people’s lives, is of huge importance for the future. Third, learning about new technology is always both inspiring and fun. There is so much innovation going on, and hearing firsthand about Cloud, AI, Robotics, Cyber security, Design thinking, Machine learning and new technology was motivational and inspirational.

In addition, having the pleasure of listening to amazing women-founders! These women are founders and leaders of companies that they have built from the ground up based on ideas that they have had about issues that they really care about. These topics ranged from healthcare, to education, to feeling good about your hair.

Equally important was the time I got to spend with female leaders from industries other than my own. I am mostly used to meeting fellow tech company employees, and spending most of my time and focus in the IT-industry. It reminded me about how important it is to look outside your immediate circle to find inspiration and influence. I got to speak to many smart, fun and accomplished women – and I got inspired. From women that are like myself and that think the way I do, to women who are completely unlike myself and that have thoughts and ideas that are completely different to mine. I gained new perspectives on that trip thanks to the women I met & shared this experience with. 

One of the most significant thinks I learnt from this trip is that leadership is the most important thing in business and in life, and if you don’t take leadership of your own world, nobody will. Most people come to work every day wanting to do their very best, and it is our responsibility as leaders to make their work environment safe and secure and to get rid of the work-bias. To make every voice count, even if it is completely opposing than yours. That you need someone else to learn from, and if that person is unlike you in many areas, you can choose to learn a whole lot of new things that you might not have even thought about.

And lastly; no one can make success on their own. There is always a team behind you or with you. Even if they are not visible. We must take care of alle the people who make us better, that make us grow, and that make us shine.

Thank you for organizing this inspiring journey Benja Stig Fagerland, Camilla Bakjord, Inga Kleppe, Kimberly Lein-Mathisen, Kristine Hofer Næss and Siri Børsum. And thank you for a great time during the stay EVERYBODY – SHEconomy Summit 2018.


A leader’s need for learning is a never-ending journey.

I just spent the last 2,5 days in Silicon Valley together with 35 business executives from various industries in Norway. The aim of the trip was to visit some of the pioneers in technology, including large corporations like Microsoft, Google and Facebook, smaller startups, and Stanford University, to learn from what they are thinking about the future, especially the digital transformation that we are now a part of and see how it would apply to our businesses back home.

I have learned a lot on this trip, in terms of technology, leadership, business, knowledge transfer, diversity, and design thinking. But my most important lesson is how important it is for leaders to continue to learn and to have a growth mindset. If you think that because you have been a leader for many years, been part of prior transformations, have extensive experience, you know it all – you are outdated already. The yearn to explore new thing and listen to others, be humble to what other companies do and think, and open for possibilities of change, is the very essence of being a responsible leader. Being so arrogant that you think that you are finished learning, will put you out of business. Maybe not today or next month, but sooner than you think.

One of our speakers this week said it is important to let go of the tradition, because that might be the only thing that is holding you back from succeeding with the future. Letting go of the safe, what you know, your core –  to explore the future, is key to getting to the future in the first place. Because potential new customers don’t care about your tradition, they only care about finding the right solution for their problem. Now.

Taking the time out to learn new things should be on every leader’s agenda. Saying that you are so busy that you don’t have time to attend a training, a seminar or a conference, is like saying you don’t have time to stop to fill gas, because you have to get to your destination on time. Eventually you will run out of gas, and then you never made it to your destination anyway.

If you prioritize to learn – from others, from those who believe in other things than you do, from your competition, from those that are outside your industry, from those that have different experiences than you – will give you an advantage. The advantage of seeing the world from a new angle.

You don’t have to travel half way around the world to learn of course – taking a small timeout during the day is sometimes more than enough.

The point is: when you learn, you grow. And you have to continue to grow, for your own sake, and for the sake of your company.

What does a CEO look like?

I had lunch with a friend the other day, and he was questioning why there were so few young leaders in top positions – he was tired of seeing mostly 50+ men in executive positions. He wanted more young people. I guess he was saying that because he is relatively young himself. I on the other hand, am questioning the fact that there are, still, so few women in top leadership positions. Is it because we are used to a certain stereotype? Is it because we are lacking role models, or is it because we are just following the same old pattern, not even thinking about how it could be different? Maybe we are so used to looking to what it used to be in the past, that we are not even considering a different path for the future.

Gro Harlem Brundtland was elected as the first female prime minister in Norway in 1981. She was one of the first female prime ministers in the world, and although the Norwegian people were proud to have elected a competent candidate for the job, they were still skeptical. People were interviewed on the street, and many did not really believe that a woman could do this job. As a man so eloquently put it; men have much better experience being prime minister, because this job has always been done by a man. . . So then – if everybody is always looking to the past, how can we break this pattern, and set a new future?

Somebody has to be the first – someone has to be the change, no matter what it is. If not, we will always be looking to, and repeating the patterns of the past.

Fear of the future and new thinking has always been a challenge for most people. We prefer to stay safe in our comfort zone, as change is something that our brains instinctively do not like. This is why it is so hard for people to change a pattern like smoking or dieting, (these are not small things for most people, these are big) – we have a hard time breaking the old routine.

Back to leadership: to change the way we look at top executive positions, we have to be open to looking to the future. We can no longer ask ourselves how these roles have traditionally been filled, but instead, how can they be in the future; what skills do we need, what experience do we need and what personality traits do we need?

I believe companies, searching for an executive, are not getting the right help at most executive search organizations either. A friend of mine told me that their company was looking for a CEO in their company and had been very specific with the search agency about what they were looking for; they wanted somebody younger than forty and preferably a woman. The agency came back with a list of 21 men, all over 55. When asked why, they simply replied; this list of people were the only ones in the market that were qualified enough for the job. No women or young people “out there” could do the job. This shows that even companies that are paid to find qualified executives have a limited view, and network, of candidates outside the traditional box. Are we really still at a point where we think about leaders as men? If we continue having the same type of leaders, how are companies going to make a difference in this changing world, and be able to stand out? How are we going to break the norms if we only follow the same old stereotypes?

To break the cycle, we need more visible role models; we need to not look to the past, but to the future. If your dream is to become a CEO, don’t let the stereo type guide you, or scare you off – think about being the one that breaks the cycle and sets a new standard. Be the role model yourself, and you might inspire a new generation of leaders.

Be yourself, and be what you believe in. Be the future.