Thor Maugesten was a Norwegian radio and television technician when he met a Swedish girl, fell in love, started working in his father-in-law’s cargo company in Gothenburg – and stayed for 30 years. Over the years, he developed Ro-Ro International’s products, and the company is today a world leader in cargo securing for shipping, with some of the world’s leading car manufacturers on the client list.
In 2002, Ro-Ro International joined Axel Johnson International, transforming Thor from an owner to an employee. Although selling a company and remaining as a managing director can be a sticky situation, Thor did not have to think about it very long. It was quite simply a good deal.
“My joy in life has been to be asked to solve problems and be able to solve them. I’m a practical man, so it’s perfect for me to be a manager,” says Thor, the Managing Director of Ro-Ro International, with one of his characteristic smiles.
Thor sees many advantages to joining a group, compared to being an independent player in a small, niche industry. Ships and cargo are extremely valuable and having a financially strong owner reassures customers. The fact that customers also negotiate with an employee instead of an owner can further smooth the customer relationship, says Thor, since no money is going into someone’s own pocket.
On a personal level, something as basic just getting a regular salary every month can be a benefit, since an owner often has to prioritise the company’s cash flow before his or her own salary. Former competitors’ becoming colleagues, providing opportunities for co-operation, is another benefit of joining the Axel Johnson International family, as is the freedom to continue developing in the same direction as before.
“I know that Axel Johnson International is taking care of what I’ve built and that we are maintaining our corporate culture” Thor says. “They focus on smaller companies and want us to continue working the way we want to, within our niche. If someone like me has a vision of staying on and continuing to run the company, it is a perfect situation for everyone,” says Thor, who never felt his position challenged.
In fact, customers wanted Thor to remain after the change of ownership and he promised to stay for a few years. It’s now been over 17 years.
“I do not really think it would have gone as well if they had replaced me and lost my knowledge and network,” he says. “Since I also have great staff who deliver what we promise, enjoy their work, and work hard in an industry that never takes a weekend, we can keep our customers’ loyalty. And making sure customers stay with us crucial in a tightly knit, conservative industry like ours – crucial both for us and for our owners.”
Now, however, a new era is dawning. Thor is turning 68 and has promised himself and his family that he will retire as managing director in 2019. After all, it is time to make room for new things in life. Like being chairman of Ro-Ro International, for example.