To Lars, five years is a long time. Especially when those five years have been spent looking up at the same sky. The thing is, Lars has a fondness for travelling and living abroad. A trait he believes he has inherited from his parents.
“Both my parents are very curious and openminded. When my mother was young, she travelled to the high north beyond the arctic circle to work as a nurse in the town of Hammerfest, the world’s most northern town. My father toured the roads of southern Europe in the early fifties with his friends. They have always loved adventure,” smiles Lars.
So, when Lars was offered the position to become Managing Director of Falck Germany in early 2017, the stars had aligned perfectly.
“I had been working in Denmark for the past five years. I longed to go abroad, and so did my wife. Even our three boys thought it sounded fun. The job was challenging. And I was attracted by the fact that I would substitute logistics and shipping for saving and improving lives. It was not only an easy choice, it was the perfect opportunity,” says Lars.
Numbers and action
But before Lars could settle in with Falck in Hamburg, Germany, he had to leave the small town of Thisted in northern Denmark, where he grew up. And his ticket out was numbers.
“I’ve always been good with numbers. Perhaps it stems from me growing up in Northern Jutland. It’s a very disciplined culture. And it takes hard work and discipline to work with numbers,” says Lars.
Being good with numbers – and his father a state-authorized public accountant running his own auditing firm – Lars naturally considered pursuing a career within finance and auditing.
“But my father grabbed me by the collar and said: ‘Son, you can do anything you want. But you’ve got to promise me one thing – don’t ever become an accountant!’ He knew me. It was too boring. I needed more action,” laughs Lars.
So, Lars took a year abroad as a high school student in the US. It was a very different culture. Competitiveness was present everywhere. And not something that was frowned upon.
“I enjoyed the American way of cherishing competitiveness. It was not reserved for sports like I was used from back home. It was everywhere. In academics, sports, arts and crafts. And it was probably then that I really discovered my competitive nature,” says Lars.
Coaching and shipping
In the US, Lars joined the track and wrestling teams at his high school. It had a profound effect on him – especially his two coaches.
“It was the first time I met somebody who could really motivate people. It was amazing. Mr. McFadden and Coach Jaeger could make you super enthusiastic about what you were doing and use that enthusiasm to push yourself even further. Their style of leadership still inspires me today: Be honest. Be direct. Create enthusiasm about what you’re trying to achieve – and use that enthusiasm to become better,” says Lars.
Returning from the US, Lars skipped accounting and decided to join the Danish shipping giant Maersk.
“It was a super attractive employer with some very exciting trainee programs. And I met the same competitive culture as I had met in the US,” says Lars.
In his time with Maersk, Lars was posted in six different countries, living and working in countries as culturally different as Sweden and Brazil.
“I basically got my education in Maersk” laughs Lars. “I even met my wife while with them. And she’s Italian.”
From shipping to saving lives
When Lars joined Falck, he was tasked with the job of making a turn-around of Falck’s business in Germany. Not an easy job. But the kind of challenge Lars enjoys.
“To me, it was an exciting opportunity. It’s something I’ve done before and enjoy. To gain an understanding of the company, make sure the strategy is right, get the right people on board in the right positions and execute on the strategy.”
During Lars’ tenure, Falck Germany managed to trim down the product portfolio and yet grow the top line by fifty percent by focusing on the core business. Something that got the attention of the executive leadership in Falck, who decided to send Lars to Slovakia for a ramp down.
In Slovakia, Falck had decided to decline to bid for a contract, which meant Falck was closing shop and had to terminate lease contracts for more than 100 Falck stations and lay off 1500 employees.
“It was a major project. Very complex. But we were successful. We even managed to negotiate a Transfer of Rights and Obligations for our employees, which meant we were able to secure them the same contractual conditions with the new ambulance operator as they had enjoyed with us. It was the first time such an agreement was made in Slovakia,” says Lars.
Making a difference
Today, Lars is Senior Vice President and head of Falck’s European Ambulance and Fire business. A job that is more about the overall strategy and less about the day-to-day running of the business. But that doesn’t mean Lars feels distanced from the core purpose of Falck.
“If we don’t do our job properly at Falck, people can die. If we do our job well, we can save and improve lives. That goes for me too,” says Lars. “And I like it when you have the opportunity to make a difference. I like environments that create those opportunities”.