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30 Best Leaders To Watch 2019

An Interview with Samu Hällfors, Framery Founder and CEO: ‘We’re Driven by a Purpose – to Create Happiness. And We Take it Seriously’

thesiliconreview-samu-h%C3%A4llfors-ceo-framery-19“Every detail of every product is carefully considered and perfected to ensure it contributes to our customer’s happiness, from usability and acoustics to aesthetics and sustainability.”

Studies show that most of us work for over 30 years of our lives. That’s more than the time you spend with your partner, eating, travelling, exercising or watching movies – combined. However, research shows that most of us won’t go to work happily. Find out how Framery increases happiness at work and the tools it’s using to achieve that.

Framery, an industry pioneer, is the first global company that manufactures and develops soundproof private spaces and pods – that enable and reinforce happiness in workplaces.

There are overall 240 proud Framerians to build this success story worldwide. They truly are the experts and pioneers of changing the way people work in open-plan or activity based offices!

Out of the total of $72 million in sales last year, Framery’s US unit accounted for more than $20 million. It has nearly 30 employees deployed in the country.

The company has established an alliance partnership with Herman Miller, an American office furniture, equipment and home furnishings company.

Framey’s major clients include: Microsoft, Puma, Vodafone and Nvidia etc. Over 40 percent of Forbes 100 listed companies trust Framery and use its products.

Samu Hällfors, Framery Founder/CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful business/IT leader?

  • Choosing the right people is by far the most important skill you need – people that share the same values, are extremely talented and scalable.
  • To fully utilize the strengths and to develop the weaknesses – nobody is perfect and cannot be. Not understanding your limits will most likely lead in a situation where you are the biggest limiting factor for your company’s growth.
  • Using data, facts, analysis and paranoid optimism as a guideline – accept the current and plain truth, determine what we want to achieve and then act upon those.

Can you brief us about the history of your company?

We founded the company in 2010. Being 22 years old then, we had basically nothing but $5K of loaned money and the idea of producing the best office phone booths in the world. We were the first company to pursue this product category, which meant we were laughed for at almost four years. “Building phone booths, what a stupid idea!” I can’t count how many times I heard that statement during the initial years. We were lucky enough to find the right people for our board who helped us raise first $30K as a seed round. We struggled to survive the first four years growing from zero to about $1.4 million in revenue in 2014. We had learnt how to build the perfect phone booth but we didn’t have the resources to finalize the R&D project. At that time, we had 11 different product families but only sold some 240 booths in a year.

With that track record, we were able to raise $1.7 million in funding from angel investor and Finnish government. The first thing we did was that we killed all of our products and put all our efforts into building a new scalable product. That product was launched in October 2014 and the production started in January 2015. Turned out that it was a killer and we grew immediately to $6 million in 2015, $20 million in 2016, $47 million in 2017, and $72 million in 2018. This year we are aiming for nearly $100 million in revenue.

What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?

Initially, nobody really understood the concept: “What do you need these booths for?” – was kind of usual reaction from our potential clients. It took years for facility managers and HR professionals to understand that this product is essential for getting modern open plan office work properly. It turns out we were right on that one. Being able to concentrate, reach one’s highest potential and proper self-actualization during your workday drive the happiness of employees. And that happiness drives efficiency, productivity and profits. In that sense, we are enabling happiness.

There is nothing more important for a successful small business than a well-defined mission and vision statements. Can you explain your M&V statements in brief?

Vision: Our aim is to make three million people happier by the year 2022 because they can use our products. We will also offer hundreds of people the best place to work in Finland.

Through these actions, we are creating a world that is a little bit better than it would be without Framery.

Mission: Our mission is to create products that bring happiness to our customers, ourselves and to the surrounding world. Once the world is a happier place, it’s also a better place for all of us.

What are your future focus areas?

We will focus on staying ahead of the competition. Everything starts from our own people – strengthening our world-class culture, providing individuals with leadership thought, and providing them with enough challenges – will keep us successful.

What do you think is the most memorable moment in your career?

Winning ‘The EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2018’ in Finland was one of the defining moments in my career.

What other leaders do you look up to, and why?

I look up many inspiring and influential leaders. The ones that stand out the most are Ben Horowitz, Ray Dalio and Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen. Ben Horowitz’ book ‘The hard thing about hard things’ basically touched my soul by perfectly describing the entrepreneurial struggle that I have gone through as well. Ray Dalio’s radical truth-radical transparency and leading with principles have greatly influenced the way we work at Framery – we have even developed our own meritocratic decision making app inspired by Bridgewater’s Point collector. Last but not least, Ilkka Paananen leads one of the world’s largest mobile game companies with such value-based long term vision that it blows my mind.

What do you hope to accomplish in the long run?

We are fighting to remain a global leader in our niche market even though the competition gets tougher and tougher. I am building an institution; company that will last and remain forerunner for modern workplaces for years and years to come.

“Open-floor plans are a reality in today’s modern office world. Unfortunately, they also have one major negative. The noise! We want to work closely with architects and designers ­– and together we can make every day of office life happier.”