In early 2020, the Chairman of STK Heavy Industrial asked Niklas Ruud if he could become their interim CEO and improve management, productivity and sales of the company. As an executive who is result oriented and who enjoys building a strong team, Niklas accepted the offer. He capitalized his extensive experience as an executive to quickly turn the company around. As an executive, my main focus has always been to improve quality, cost saving, efficiency, productivity and generate more revenue,” says Niklas. And that’s what he is doing at STK. “It’s challenging but fun,” he shares.
During the first 6-8 months of Niklas as CEO, STK built a stronger management team, and the product quality and order intake of the company were also significantly improved. By implementing a rigorous process control and setup of 8D and A3 reporting in the factory, STK saw a lowered quality defect by 80% from main customers resulting in reduced COPQ (cost of poor quality) by 200K€. As a result of improved quality of the key market products, order intake from the biggest customer was increased by 25% (2M€) which expanded the overall growth of the company by 15% as compared to 2019. All these were achieved despite COVID-19.
However, this is not the first time Niklas has made a significant difference. He has held other C-level roles for companies within the manufacturing industry. In all those he has displayed strategic business management and planning, relationship development, organizational development, process improvement and financial management. With a leadership approach of complete trust in the team and total service commitment to customers, Niklas has consistently proven himself as an effective leader with strong business acumen.
His international career began when he arrived in China in 2009. He managed to finish his industrial theses at his first company in China, Sapa Heat Transfer, while holding various leadership roles within the company for about four years. He then moved on to take higher-level positions including GM, COO, CEO, in other mid to large-sized international companies. Today he is a well-respected executive with a solid track record of delivering significant results in all the companies he has led.
One of the significant moments in Niklas’ career was during his time as CEO of Konecranes. He recalls it as “a very challenging but rewarding experience.” As CEO, he oversaw and managed two big M&A integrations for the company. In 2017, Konecranes acquired Terex Corporation Material Handling & Port Solution (MHPS) for 1.3BUSD. Although it was a complex and challenging task integrating the people, processes, and products, Niklas was successful in combining the two companies into the industrial equipment division of Konecranes. But beyond the successful integration, for Niklas, it was great learning experience in terms of strategy creation, working with a diverse group of people, restructuring organisation structure, integrating multiple distribution channels and different company segments. He went on to lead the post M&A for Lift Trucks Division and later for the industrial equipment business areas of Konecranes.
Today, as interim CEO of STK, Niklas is proud to lead a company that offers high quality products while keeping customer satisfaction at the core. STK is a Shanghai-based heavy industrial company that involved in designing, manufacturing, marketing and distribution of steel structures and components for international clients in Port Industry, General Manufacturing, Material Handling, Wind Power, and Mining. By adhering to the business philosophy of “quality-oriented, honest and pragmatic, innovative development” and the service policy of “efficient, high-quality, continuous improvement, and customer satisfaction,” STK has established its reputation as one of the best heavy industrial steel structure supplier in China. As always, Niklas is dedicated to helping STK to the best of his ability during his time in the company.
What he has accomplished as a young executive begs the question of what makes him an effective leader. More than a born talent, it has much to do with the mindset and work ethics he has cultivated over the years and the knowledge he gained through systematic learning and field experience.
Every executive knows that dealing with limited information and new domains is part of their role. Decision making in such situations are always challenging, especially when the decision affects the entire team. The job of an executive is complex and involves a high stake decision making. Niklas’ approach to this is to have a set of principles that guide him. Communicating properly and effectively with the concerned team and individuals, producing quality work regardless of the circumstance, and prioritizing goals and tasks are some principles, he shares, which have helped him navigate his complex role. “Whether I’m planning my day, choosing between conflicting priorities, or setting a new goal, I always revert to my principles. By having well thought out principles, you can always be comfortable knowing that you’ve made the right decision,” says Niklas.
C-level executives have a lot on their shoulder. Making major corporate decisions, managing the overall operations and resources of a company, acting as the main point of communication are complex and strenuous. For this, Niklas has always valued the importance of setting clear priority in his job. “As an executive, it is important to prioritize that which is real, current, and high impact, and de-prioritize that which is conceived, aspirational, and low impact,” says Niklas.
Being goal-oriented is something Niklas deeply values as a key trait of a great executive. He shares: “As an executive, it is important to ensure that there is progress each day towards the goal, at the same time to evaluate the goal often, making certain adjustment along the way.” He further adds, “And make sure you finish what you stated by giving your best shot before starting something new.”
In all the roles and projects he has handled, Niklas has never take learning out of the equation. He believes in continuing learning and takes every new role and project as a learning experience. His encouragement to fellow executives and upcoming leaders is to always be learning through a systematic course to improve skills and character, and to be aware of the lesson one can learn in every project.
Ultimately, the final test of a great executive all comes down to the kind of result they deliver, both short term and long term. For Niklas, the series of positive results which he has delivered in all the companies has led has been the testament that his approach to business leadership and his strategies to business execution are working.
We asked a question on his version of success. As an ardent business leader, one would think that leading the biggest corporation might be his version of success. However, he simple says, “work life balance.” Despite the busy schedule from the corporate world, he makes time for his family and strives to maintain a good balance of the two worlds. “I deeply enjoy seeing my daughter growing up. I love helping her with homework in the evenings, but in the daytime, I am committed to my company,” shares Niklas.
While he may have accomplished a lot, he is even more excited today than ever. Niklas looks forward to building and developing even greater teams and companies in the future.